BASIC SALSA STEPS FOR PARTNERSHIP DANCING

by Dance Instructors Barbara Bernstein and Michele Kearney


     Below is a description of some basic Salsa steps for partnership dancing. Remember that you always step in the "quick, quick, slow" rhythm (where a quick gets one beat and a slow gets two beats). 


Tom and Wendy dance salsa

A useful hint for dance practice is to lift your foot slightly off the ground as you step onto the other foot.  What you want to avoid is putting your foot down to take a step without actually shifting your weight to that foot.

     It is a great help for dancers to take very small steps. Any imperfection in your rhythm or how your weight is centered, etc. tends to be minimized if the steps are very small.

BASIC STEP IN DETAIL:

Starting position: stand straight, knees slightly bent, feet parallel and close together. When the man is stepping forward on his left, the lady is stepping back on the right since they are facing each other. 

Beat 1:  step forward with your left foot
Beat 2:  replace your right foot where it was
Beat 3:  bring your left foot next to your right foot
Beat 4   continue moving through the step you took on beat 3, so the movement never stops
Beat 5: step back on your right foot
Beat 6: replace your left foot where it was
Beat 7: bring your right foot next to your left foot
Beat 8  keep moving through the step you took on beat 7, slowly so the movement is fluid and never stops
Repeat

Below is an easy to read summary:

Basic Step Summary:  

The man's footwork is:
 
Step forward on left   (Quick)
Step in place on right   (Quick)
Close left foot to right foot   (Slow)
Step back on right   (Quick)
Step in place on left   (Quick)
Close right foot to left   (Slow)

The woman's footwork is:
 
Step back on right   (Quick)
Step in place on left   (Quick)
Close right foot to left foot   (Slow)
Step forward on left   (Quick)
Step in place on right   (Quick)
Close left foot to right foot   (Slow)


Outside Underarm Turn
 

a. The man's footwork is identical to the basic step. However, as he steps "slow" on the left foot, he raises his left arm to prepare his partner to turn. He turns her on the next quick-quick-slow sequence (when he is stepping back).
The woman does her backrock on the first 4 beats and then turns on beats 5,6,7.

b. Note that there is another approach to doing the underarm turn.  The leader can do another back rock instead of the forward rock as he "preps" the lady for her turn.  In other words, he rocks back on beats 5, 6, and 7 as usual to complete the basic pattern. But then he rocks back again--this time on beats 1, 2, and 3.  He pushes the lady back so she does her usual back rock on the first 3 beats of the pattern.  The rest of the turn is the same as described above.

Note:  An "outside turn" just means that the lady's arm goes to the outside of her body rather than crossing the middle of her body.  And "inside turn" requires that the arm the lady is led with  crosses the center of her body.

"She He She" Turns

The outside turn described above can be done three times in a row, first by the lady, and then by the man, and finally by the lady again.  The man's footwork is exactly the same as the lady's when he turns.  He simply turns himself since he is the leader.  Then precisely 8 beats after the lady first turned, she turns again.  That completes the third turn in the sequence.  Note that when the ladies turn, they step forward on beat 5 and turn on beats 6 and 7.  When the men turn, they step forward on beat 1 and turn on beats 2 and 3. 

Cross Body Lead (with and without a turn)

a. The Cross Body Lead (without a turn) is done by the man stepping forward on beat 1 on his left foot.  On beats 2 and 3, he makes a quarter of a turn to his left. 

He then leads the lady to walk in front of him across his body (on beats 5, 6, and 7).  To do this, he steps back slightly with his right foot to "get out of her way."  Then on his next steps, (left foot on beat 6 and then right foot on beat 7), he turns toward her and follows her. She starts walking in front of him with her left foot on beat 5.  Then she steps onto her right foot on beat 6 and onto her left on beat 7. 

b. The Cross Body Lead With a Turn is exactly the same as the above cross body lead, except that the lady is turned on beats 6 and 7 to her left as she comes across the man's body to his other side. 



Side Rocks
 

The man's footwork is as follows:
 
Step left with the left foot   (Quick)
Step in place with the right foot   (Quick)
Close left foot to right   (Slow)
Step right with the right foot   (Quick)
Step in place with the left foot   (Quick)
Close the right foot to the left foot   (Slow)

The woman's footwork is this:
 
Step right with the right foot   (Quick)
Step in place with the left foot   (Quick)
Close right foot to left foot   (Slow)
Step left with the left foot   (Quick)
Step in place with the right foot   (Quick)
Close left foot to right foot   (Slow)
 

Copyright Barbara Bernstein of DanceInTime.com, 2005