Salsa > total beginner: easy moves that work (on anyone)

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by matty, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. matty

    matty New Member


    im a man, have been learning for about 2 or 3 month now,

    but it seems that despite how much i love the music, i am still not able to dance seemlessly on the floor for a full song.. my teacher shows us some moves that are amazing but alas.. they are not proving to much use on the floor when i try them on unexpecting strangers. this probably makes you say im not a good lead, and you coud be right, but i think i can be a good lead IF i know some moves and am sure about them.

    i feel i am missing some of the basic "grammar" of salsa

    trying to run before i can walk!:doh:

    just yesterday i taught myself the move "setenta" from youtube, and thaught .. this is the kind of stuff i need because i can use it on most dance partners regardless of their level.

    so im just wondering if anyone else would have some helpful suggestions of other "bread & butter" or should i say "pan y mantequilla" moves to fill up the gaps and get me out there dancing seemlessly. (youtube examples welcome)

    also any nice suggestions of how to change hand positions. for example. one friend showed me a nice way to switch hands leading into a sombrero, whereby i do a simple clockwise turn the grab the ladys right hand with my right and turn her.. then im set up for the sombrero!

    i suppose the "dile que no" (or is it called "cross body lead?") is a good one for going from the standard "one hand on shoulder" dancing position into a holding both hands position. but what about the other way around?

    as i said, i know a few combinations that have no names:confused:

    but my repertoir of basic moves with names is this:

    the simple turn!
    dile que no

    and to be honest thats about it...:(
  2. soplo

    soplo New Member

    Bread and butter move: you both are separated (after a free spin or whatever), place your hand on her back on the shoulder blade, cross body her with that arm and then at the end of the cross body keep the right arm where it is and have your left hand out so she grabs it. Tada! You're in close position again. CBL variations are usually the way I get back in and out of standard dance position.
  3. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Cumbia tropicale (side/side triple step), mambo(fwd/bk triple in place), cumbia de salsa (triple step danced in a 5e position break manner), dile que no (cross lead or change of direction), and adios/enchufla (basic turns)... in that order. You will be revered.
  4. matty

    matty New Member

    thankyou for the tips

    i also found a youtube channel called "salsajunkies" which shows some short and simple rueda moves that i can incorporate into my dancing. my teacher does LA style so i dont know if this mix is going to look crazy, is it?... but nonetheless, it give me someting to play around with in the nightclub that my peers are not doing.

    i suppose its really a matter of getting simple moves , doing them well, and from the classes, just picking the parts that i feel will work for the moment. if a turn is asking too much of the lady who might not know it, (or asking too much of me as a lead) then i can do another turn that might work better..and thus forming my own individual moves....:raisebro:
  5. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Hmm, interesting... you are taking LA style classes but your repertoire consists entirely of Cuban style moves? Where/how did you learn these moves if not in the classes you are taking?

    As a beginner you will probably benefit from sticking to just one style for now. What style do the majority of people dance at the venues you go for social dancing? Learning that style will help you get better more quickly.

    Possible reasons why this is happening:

    1) You are not leading the moves correctly. This could be due to anything - bad timing, ambiguous lead, lack of tension. Or you may just need to practise more. Can you practise those moves either with the teacher or a classmate and get some feedback?

    2) You are using the moves on the wrong followers. When you are dancing with girls who only know the Cuban style, your LA style moves often don't work because followers move differently in these styles. The same also happens when using Cuban style moves on LA style followers.
  6. James Martin

    James Martin New Member


    Here is my suggestion for you.

    Stay focused on what is being taught. Write down the move or sequence. Give your self time at the end of the class to write down what you have learnt. Repeat the same sequence again and again. Salsa is a very sociable dance experience; its part of what makes it so enjoyable. This will help you progress your salsa dancing.
  7. matty

    matty New Member

    hmm... ok i did 6 lessons with a woman who prides herself in cuban style, she was the first to teach me dile que no , enchufla and setenta. but when she went to cuba for a few months i started with another teacher. (and forgot setenta until last week);)

    the second teacher taught me sombrero and also does a version of enchufla

    i noticed a different look to his moves though and this is most clearly noted in the move i believe is called "Guapea"

    my cuban teachers guapea involves the two partners facing one another but stepping back for the 123 and forward hand-to-hand on the 5.

    the second teachers guapea involves both partners side by side facing the same direction and closing hand-to-hand on the 5. it seems to me that this version would be better for a stage performance for example. where the partners may want to be facing the audience rather than facing eachother.

    similarly his enchufla is what i would describe as more linear. man and woman almost doing the same identical move, only that woman turns facing outward with her back to the man on 4 and he is facing towards her on 4 then on 8 both partners are facing eachother but have switched place.

    cuban teachers enchufla, i would describe as a diamond motion whereby the woman has completed her turn by the 4th beat and (the man has merely stepped to the left) both partners are facing eachother again. they have not changed place, but rather just moved clockwise by 90 degrees.

    i pointed this out to the more advanced students and they said to me that its LA style . which is how i have some to believe that my second teacher does LA..

    what do you think ?
    dont they do those moves in LA style salsa??

    i will be sure to ask him in the next class to see what he says.
  8. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Find what is amiable to you. Do it well led, and smoothly danced, and forget what style label everyone else wants to put on it. If danced well, followers from all 'styles' will enjoy your dancing.
  9. I would suggest that if you come across a move that does not feel good, do not do it! There are so many other moves, don't bother with moves that are not right for you...
  10. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Very true. As a follower, I would rather dance with a leader who knows only three patterns but executes them well and within the music than with a leader who has a vast repertoire of moves but leads them sloppily, rushed, or unclearly. And also remember that if you feel good when you are dancing, your partner will feel that energy and feed off of it. If you feel uncomfortable, your partner will feel that as well.
  11. wreck

    wreck New Member

    I'm in a very similar position having taken mostly LA classes but also some rueda (for about 7 months). It was nice to notice at some point that you can incorporate the rueda moves into regular pair-dancing, since my 'arsenal' was and is still quite limited, this was a welcome addition. My experience is that most people do not mind if you mix up LA and cuban, although there have been a couple of women suggesting that I stick to one style. My current plan is to ignore them for now :)

    Same for me. I'm glad if I can get just one move that I can really lead from a 2h lesson. What I believe helps a lot is if you can record the pattern after the lesson, one place I go to has the 2 more advanced levels do a demo performance to the other levels after the class so this is a very good opportunity to ask someone to record it. I've also tried writing things down but that's a bit more unreliable as sometimes you forget to do it and the notes could be hard to decipher later.

    One other thing which I've found helpful is changing the order you execute the patterns taught in a class. That may not be possible everywhere, especially if the tempo is fast and you switch partners often, or always have to dance in sync with the teacher. But if it's a more free form of class where you are given time to practice individually, then it pays to 'cheat' the ladies so they can't just automatically execute their patterns and actually have to follow. Of course this is better done with people you know, otherwise they could just think you suck and cannot do anything right :). But sooner or later they should realize that this also helps them to be better followers.

    If possible, get someone to practice the moves that you've learned in class but can't lead yet. I wish I had this option.

    I will have to pass on the easy moves since the countless videos around the internet surely explain things better than I could, and I haven't actually learned any moves myself from the videos (I feel it's not very practical alone, at least at my level).
  12. azzey

    azzey Member

    OK, I've been dancing LA and Cuban style seperately for almost 8 years now, so I'll see if I can help with the confusion.

    Yes, both LA style and Cuban style have versions of these moves although they may be taught slightly differently in terms of movement (swapping positions or not) and timing.

    The back basic step is the same for both styles. Turns are similar but orientation to your partner (where you face) between styles will vary.

    Has nothing to do with stage performance but a lot to do with natural motion in Cuban style dancing.

    Actually both are correct versions of a Cuban Guapea (as far I can tell from your description). The one where you face your partner is usually taught first in Cuban classes and then later the more complicated Guapea step where you open-up (step back and face away from your partner) is taught later. Opening-up is fundamental to Cuban style dancing and you need to do it at the end of a lot of moves for the next one to work and look right.


    First Guapea at 00:15s and second Guapea with open-up at 00:58s.

    Yes something like that. Although she already has her back to you usually somewhere between 2 and 3 and will continue turning through 4 into 5 if you lead it, before she steps back again on 5.

    No, the bits I put in bold are incorrect for Cuban style or any style (see ** video below and note for explanation). The basic step is the same for both styles and involves 3 steps (not just stepping to the left) in both styles, we swap positions after an enchufe/left turn but orientation may be 90 degrees different in Cuban style instead of 180 degree in LA style.

    Although it is possible to lead it exactly the same in both styles. It depends on the leaders choice, quality of his (and her) basic steps, lead ability and follower expectations. It is probably useful to think of things in 90 degree increments in orientation in Cuban style though in the beginning, particularly for basic moves. More advanced moves may require a 180 degree change of orientation.

    Later (in a year, two or more) when you improve your basics you may find that there's not so much difference in the basic steps between the styles as you thought but you'll probably find a lot of other things to differ over instead. e.g. the moves and combinations (patterns) themselves, lead-follow technique, follower expectations for the style, music etc.

    ** See 6:38s on the video above for the move Deshecho (enchufe). Note: the position on the floor where the follower starts is where the guy ends up at 6:40s.

    Here's another example (Starts with Setenta ; which is composed of a clockwise turn, then at 00:41s there's an enchufe, followed by his own ending up to 00:47s):

    Here an LA style example (at 00:07s a left-turn equivalent to enchufe):

    You can learn a lot by learning from more than one teacher and more than one style in terms of alternative technique, leading/following, timing, the music etc. You'll probably get confused in the early stages though and it's much harder to train good muscle memory habits if you're continually switching styles/alternative ways of doing things.

    It really depends which one you dance the most.
  13. azzey

    azzey Member

    Yup! Probably issues with leading, connection with your partner and timing (very important for improving your leading) if unsuspecting followers aren't, erm.. following. The basics are basic for a reason i.e. they should work (in some way) with everybody than can also do the basics. However, note most dancers aren't good at the basics!

    In class your partners know the move/pattern you are both doing and so they are probably walking through it automatically (i.e. compensating for you). On the dance floor your partner doesn't know what you are going to lead next.

    Top tip: If you want to be able to do the more complicated moves get really good at the basics and then you'll find your ability to do more complex stuff just grows.

    The complex moves for any style are usually made up of combinations of the basics, so try to think of moves in 4 beat (3 step) sections that you can glue together.

    OK, this video looks complicated but it's really made up of lots of basic moves:

    Here's a blow by blow..

    00:12-00:14s CBL (yes, it's also done in Cuban style. Not always using Dile Que No).
    00:14-00:16s Dile Que No
    00:16-00:18s Guapea
    00:18-00:21s Hecho (right turn)
    00:21-00:24s Paseala Por Atras (Dile Que No + switch hands behind back)
    00:24-00:26s Paseala Por Atras (Dile Que No + switch hands behind back)
    00:26-00:28s Dile Que No

    00:28-00:31s Setenta with arm fake (as if going into Setenta complicado)
    00:31-00:33s Enchufe out of Setenta into Dile Que Si
    00:33-00:35s Dile Que Si into arm switching over head
    00:35-00:37s two handed into Setenta
    00:38-00:40s no fake this time, it's really Setenta complicado (turn her behind you)
    00:40-00:42s back into Dile Que Si
    00:42-00:45s Dile Que No
    00:45-00:47s Enchufe with some arm styling
    00:47-00:50s walk around a bit (and lead her to walk around)
    00:50-00:52s Enchufe with hook turn (switching hands behind back)
    00:53-00:55s Lead the girl to walk around but duck under the girls arm
    00:55-00:57s Lead girl to walk around but you duck under the arm like enchufe
    00:57-00:59s Enchufe but swap hands at the beginning
    00:59-01:02s Dile Que No with your right hand to her right hand and swap hands afterwards

    [starts repeating again here]
    01:02-01:05s Setenta with arm fake
    01:05-01:07 Enchufe out of Setenta into Dile Que Si

    Here's another video with basic moves:

    00:56-00:58s Exhibela
    00:58-01:00s Dile Que No + switch hands
    01:00-01:03s Exhibela but end with the arm over head
    01:03-01:05s hook turn (sometimes called Ronde in miami style) and duck under the arm

    01:29-01:34s walking forwards 123 123 and walking backwards 123 123
    01:34-01:38s walking around

    ..and another..

    00:53-00:55s Clockwise turn (one handed) - same lead as sombrero or setenta
    00:55-00:57s Enchufe with right-right hand-hold into hook-turn while moving arm over the head
    00:57-01:00s Enchufe and switch hands behind back
    01:00-01:02s Enchufe, hook-turn and duck under arm
    01:02-01:05s continue turning and swap hands
    01:05-01:07s Enchufe
    01:07-01:09s Exhibela
    01:09-01:11s Dile Que No
    01:11-01:17s Setenta with two fakes
    01:17-01:19s Enchufe with hook turn
    01:19-01:21s Enchufe
    01:21-01:23s Dile Que No
    01:23-01:26s Vacilense (literally 'check her out' when you turn her and then 'she checks you out' when you turn, same as Vacilala but you turn as well)
    01:26-01:28s Dile Que No
    etc etc

    These are professional dancers and you can see they are using so many basic moves over and over again.
  14. azzey

    azzey Member

  15. matty

    matty New Member

    just want to say thanks

    im definitly noticing a gradual improvement now that i have started to add small moves one by one. the main thing is that its improving my confidence and my mood. like having a few jokes you can crack at a dinner party.

    also i like the idea of learning a move myself and testing it on some of my dancing friends and seeing if i can lead them through it.. i suppose its the way to know if you can lead or not right?
    anyway the feedback seems to have improved a bit.

    it will take me some time to study the moves above, but im looking forward to it.

    poco a poco !:)
  16. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Glad that you are getting better. As some have already said concentrate on leading well what you know and don't rush to add moves to your repertoire. IN my experiences as beginner through to being somewhat ok that is one truism that has held.
  17. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    I know I'm coming to this thread late and this has probably already been said, but I thought I'd weight in with my $0.02:

    Unfortunately loving the music has very little in the beginning stages of dancing to do with dancing seamlessly--if it did, I would have been awesome immediately because I have always loved the music! What does make you a good dancer is good training, focused practice, and experience over time.

    Probably most 'moves' will look amazing to you now, because you have very little exposure so far to what is out there. Even a pretty mediocre dancer will probably look pretty good to you at this point. As you improve, if you choose to do so, you will raise your standard of what you call "amazing."

    There are various degrees of "good," but to the majority of lady dancers out there, you are not likely to be defined as having a "good" lead, because it takes time my man! Again, training coupled with practice and real time floor experience is what you need. Understanding how to communicate what you want the lady to do is very difficult, so don't feel bad that it doesn't feel right yet. Keep having fun with it, and don't be disappointed when it doesn't work. For most people it will take at least a couple of years before things really make sense. Enjoy the journey!
  18. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    I like the Left-Right-Left Turn (aka the "Figure 8"). You lead the lady to turn to her left, then to the right, and then left. Hence the name. It's not too complicated, but looks good...
  19. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    I meant you lead the lady to your left (outside turn), then right (inside turn), and then left (another inside turn)...
  20. matty

    matty New Member

    hi ray

    just trying to picture that move,

    i found this under figure 8 in youtube

    yes its a really good casual move , i saw a lot of people doing that kind of thing in cuba, and had picked it up myself. didnt know it had a name.

    thanks :)

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