Styles of Salsa?
January 10, 2017 9:04 AM   Subscribe

This year, I want to learn how to dance Salsa. To that end, I enrolled myself in two beginner classes simultaneously. I figured that they'd be teaching the same dance, I'd get two different perspectives on what was most important, double the in-class practice and at the end, I'd likely choose one teacher and keep going with him/her. But...the Basic Step for the two classes is reversed. Teacher #1's first step (for the men) is left foot forward. Teacher #2 has left foot back. Do different styles of salsa have completely different (i.e., opposite) footwork?

Teacher #2 explicitly stated that he teaches "New York Salsa", if that's useful info...

Bonus question:

My main goal is to get really good at salsa, as rapidly as possible (I have 6 months till I get married and would like to know what I'm doing at that point). Any suggestions on best route forward? The group classes allow you to interact with a wide range of people and have very structured curricula, but they're once a week and there are like 12-18 months worth of group classes to reach advanced levels. I imagine private lessons are faster but they're missing the group stuff.
posted by sirion to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia seems to agree that "New York" and other Salsas have different steps:
posted by richb at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2017

Yes there are many kinds of salsa and I've tried a bunch. Some definitely have opposing footwork so it might be best for you to start with just one class and then move forward.

To get good fast, assuming you have some natural talent, privates are the way to go, supplemented with group lessons so you can learn to dance with multiple partners (I.e. Truly learn lead/follow) instead of just memorizing patterns.
posted by FireFountain at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Think of salsa as a general category if that helps. You know how swing dancing encompasses east coast swing, west coast swing, jitterbug, etc etc? Salsa is the same and has so many iterations. Memail if I can help further. I'm not an instructor but I'm fairly decent at some salsa types and have been doing it for years.
posted by FireFountain at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2017

I have been dancing salsa for over 20 years. I ALWAYS start with my left foot forward, lady's right foot back. This is basic street salsa and it is the most common. The basic step is really just controlled walking.
The most common is "on 1" which is the above. A more less common is "on 2". It isn't near as well known or popular.
Easiest way to learn is to go back on your right on the 1 beat. (step step, hold, step step, hold.)

And congrats on the wedding.
posted by jtexman1 at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

What style does your partner know? Whether you dance LA Style Salsa (salsa on 1; footwork starts on the first beat) or New York style salsa (salsa on 2; footwork starts on the second beat) probably depends on who you'll be dancing with most of the time. I personally think New York style (where the lead steps back first) is more complicated to learn since you are having to pay attention to the music in a different way.
posted by megancita at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Concurring with the above comments. The lead's left foot forward (on 1) is a great place to start. Right foot back (on 2) is probably a bit harder to get the "feel" of for a new dancer and less common, although you'll also see it listed as mambo.

(And I see megancita just made the same point I was going to make).

I recommend you stick with the On 1 group lessons but also plan to do a few private classes after about a month or two. It takes a few lessons to get the basic hang of it, and the private classes will give you a lot more when you are trying to refine rather than just process how the basic steps feel.

The number one rule: Smile at your partner! And, have a great time at your wedding.
posted by meinvt at 9:46 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, I should add that you should ask at the classes about socials, clubs and events where you can go out dancing. Even if all you can do is a basic step, go out and dance. The best way to learn is to do it after all, and this sort of learning is a lot of fun!
posted by meinvt at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2017

It's not really 'opposite basic steps' so much as a time shift of five beats.

The "New York Salsa" class is likely "on 2". I would advise you figure out which style is more popular in your area, and quit the other class. It is slightly alarming that your studio allowed you to sign up for both at the same time, since this is precisely the confusion that arises.

Then, it is critical that you dance socially, outside of class, with people who did not also just learn the steps you just learned -- otherwise it's like taking piano lessons and not practicing outside of the time you have with your teacher.

You can somewhat do this with your partner, but then you run the risk of being able to tell them what moves you're working on verbally instead of having to communicate through the lead.

It sucks, as a lead, to be a beginner, but know that as long as you are on time, lead with your body and not your arms, and smile, follows will be happy to dance with you.

Alternatively, if you just want a first dance for your wedding, many studios will teach you and your partner a showy routine for this express purpose.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2017

Sorry, I assumed you were the lead because you mentioned the man's step in dance.

If you're the follow, make sure you know how to protect your right shoulder (against overzealous turning), work on your shoulder flexibility so you can have pretty arms (sounds minor, but was motivating for me -- in a downward dog, can you get your upper arms by your ears?), force yourself to receive the lead instead of trying to predict it, and get out there!
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:56 AM on January 10, 2017

Hi, Salsa dancer, instructor, and dance school owner here.

First of all, everyone above is spot on about the differences in the 2 kinds of salsa you've experienced.

As an experienced instructor, I would say:

- Stick with Salsa on 1 (the kind where the guy steps forward with his left foot on 1) - if you want to get good quickly to dance at a public event. Majority of beginners find Salsa on1 (also known as LA style sals) to be easiest, since it adheres to a beat structure that is easy to listen and dance to.

- If you want to get good quickly, in the 6 months I would recommend 2 group classes a week at a minimum, plus 1 social event. You may want to do a private lesson every 2-3 weeks to consolidate what you're learning.

- If the dance is for you and your partner, I would suggest getting some specific wedding dance lessons. The wedding planning lead up and day itself is often not conducive to whipping out your brand new, on-the-fly dance style.

- If the dance is for dancing just generally at the wedding, and you expect many salsa dancers there, it's probably pertinent to find out the style of salsa every one else dances. For example, if you were marrying a person whose culture has salsa dancing in it, and you want to fit in - neither of these styles would be helpful.

I hope this helps!
posted by shazzam! at 3:55 AM on January 11, 2017

there is "on one" and "on two"...NY salsa I believe is "on two" and considered a little bit more difficult. When I was dancing the practice generally was for newbies to learn on one first and then master on two so I would find classes that teach on one... best way to get reallllly good is one on one instruction and having a partner with to practice as often as possible.
posted by SanSebastien at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2017

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