Salsa Dancing – How long does it take to learn?

One of the most common questions we get from new students attending our Salsa dancing lessons is “How long will it take for me to learn to dance? We’ve answered this question in a previous Salsa dancing blog post however, I’d like to address it again to those of you who have absolutely no dance experience.

It’s unpredictable until you get started!

In all honesty, is practically impossible to predict how long it will take you to learn to dance Salsa because everyone’s idea of “knowing how to dance” varies. We’ve had students come for 4 or 5 lessons and make a conscious decision to not come back because they felt they had “learned” to dance. Really? We have other students who have been taking lessons with us for over 10 years who are “still learning”. So that begs the question…

What constitutes “knowing” how to dance?

Here is our take: For leaders (gentlemen), it is your ability to communicate to your partner each step with clarity (leading), while dancing to the music (on beat). The amount of steps you can lead your partner into is almost irrelevant as it relates to knowing how to dance. Many leaders (male dancers) fall into the trap of thinking that executing more steps on the dance floor is better. It’s NOT! Ladies prefer to dance with a partner who can lead fewer steps with confidence rather than someone who tries to lead them into many halfway executed steps. NOTE: When you belong to Salsa club, group or class, it is expected that you practice your new steps. This is the only way you become a better dancer. However, do yourself a favor and practice the steps with a partner who also took the class with you until you are confident with it. You’ll have much more success then when you dance with a complete stranger – or someone who did not take that class with you. Remember, you should always practice these steps with someone your level or above!

In a nutshell, gentlemen “know” how to dance when:

  • They don’t forget their footwork when leading a step
  • They don’t think about where and when the feet and hands should be located during a step
  • They feel how his partner reacts to his commands
  • They dance to their partners level or their own, whichever is lowest

On the flip side, ladies who can follow the basic steps well don’t really know how to dance yet. The difference between following the basic steps well and knowing how to dance is not that great. The key to reaching that next level is learning to follow with confidence. And what that means is, having the confidence to relax and let your partner tell you what the next step is. It’s very common for ladies learning to dance to try to anticipate the next step. Don’t do it! Dancing is not about guessing what the next step is, but about allowing your partner to tell you when and where to step next.

In a nutshell, ladies “know” how to dance when:

  • They wait for the lead
  • They follow the direction of the hands
  • They follow through with their core, not the arms
  • They cross in a straight line unless lead otherwise

If you are just getting started…

For everyone just getting started it’s important that you listen to the music regularly. Dance as often as you can, even if it’s just in front of a mirror. Just do it and have fun with it. It takes time. In the beginning, it’s okay to have fun and fake it. After 14 years of dancing together, Lori and I are still learning how to lead and follow new steps all the time. One day, someone will dance with you and he or she will be so impressed with your ability that he/she will compliment you on how well you dance. Then you’ll know you’re on the right track. See you on the dance floor, Luis N Lori post-how-long-does-it-take

Author: Luis N Lori

We teach various social dances common in Salsa nightclub scene including Salsa, Cumbia, Cha-cha, Bachata and Casino Rueda and you can find us on the dance floor at Palm Desert Country Club Assn.

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