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Salsa: Basic Steps

Salsa: Basic Steps
Concepts & Definition
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Using The Video Clips
Back Basic
Turning Basic
Latin Basic
Cross Basic
Single Right Turn (SRT)
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Fault: Big Steps
The clip demonstrates the complications of taking oversized steps in the Back Basic. There isn't enough time to put the whole foot down, so the heel stays off the floor. Only part of the Dan's weight is transferred onto the backstep, and at an angle to the floor because of the raised heel.

Often results in:
slipping at higher tempo because of poor floor contact and angled transfer of weight; difficulty in keeping time because the duration of weight transfer varies from beat to beat; trouble keeping track of which foot to use because of incomplete weight transfer; lack of hip action over the back step since the hip cannot settle over the raised heel.


Frequently Asked Questions

The instructions tell me to move my weight onto a particular leg but it's already there!
Remember that a step is a foot placement AND a weight transfer. Just make sure that you've transferred your weight properly after the foot placement in the previous step.

I start in time but seem to fall out of time. How do I fix it?
You may need to pay attention to the fourth beat; you should dance on three beats and WAIT on the fourth. Many people rush and end up dancing on the null beat, throwing their timing off.

I can dance faster if I keep my heels off the floor on the backward steps, but I end up with sore calf muscles…
Keeping your heels off the floor is a bit of a cheat, you should practise your back steps with your heels down. You might dance slower at first, but it will eventually help you develop power in your legs. Lowering your heels gives your calf muscle a chance to relax and eases tension on your Achilles tendon.

My feet keep slipping whenever I take a back step.
It's probably a combination of two things: you're not lowering your heel to the floor and it's causing you to transfer only part of your weight at a shallow angle into the floor. First lower your heel to the ground; full contact with the floor gives you more friction and therefore more grip. Then transfer your weight completely over the foot by ensuring that your hip is moved directly over it. This process is slow until your legs develop more power but it gives you more control, especially on slippery floors.

I have trouble keeping up with fast music.
You might need to relax a little. People tend to move slower if there is tension in their bodies. Another possibility is that your step size might be too big. Try dancing "on the spot" to check if you can dance in time. If so, then you should dance with smaller steps, at least until you build up enough power.

How much should I turn in the turning basic?
In the tutorial it's taught as ninety-degree turns. Dancing in real life requires you to be able to adapt to whatever conditions, so you can practice it at whatever increment from no turn whatsoever (the back basic) through to a full turn.

I don't feel confident or safe dancing in heeled shoes.
The answer to your dreams is the toe lead. That's when you take every step landing first with the front of the foot instead of the heel. Learn the basics with toe leads in flat shoes first, then move on to heeled shoes.

Some salsa instructors teach the Latin basic with the right foot forward and left foot back. Which one is right?
Generally speaking you should be able to do both. The convention is left foot forward because of the ballroom hold, where the partners' hips are offset half a hip-width to the left of each other so that their knees don't collide together. It's therefore easier to go forward with the left leg, as opposed to the right leg which would always encounter your partner's left knee.

I want more speed and control during my turns and spins!
Turning quickly requires a strong push off and less contact with the floor during the spin. The energy needed for a quick turn is provided by a strong transfer of weight from the set-up step into the turning step. During the turn, the weight is held over the front part (ball) of the turning foot with the heel slightly raised off the floor.

How do I get more control of my turns?
Keep your head up and your weight over the front half of your feet; dropping you head will cause your butt to jut out, and your weight to move over your heels, introducing a wobble during your turns. To stop the turn, lower the heel of your turning foot and your other foot to the floor. This increases your contact with the floor, effectively applying the brakes.


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