Cuban Hip Motion in Salsa

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The salsa rhythm may be counted as quick quick slow.
In salsa the feet usually come together on a slow.
When the feet first come together, the leg that is “collecting” (coming together with other leg) should be bent and the ball of the foot should start to press into the floor. The heel of the stepping foot should then gradually come down and touch the flor. At the completion of the slow, the leg should be straight. This straightening of the leg allow the hip to go out.

Cuban Hip Motion

Straight Leg Gets the Hip

Arthur Murray, a famous ballroom dance instructor of yesteryear, discovered the secret to Cuban Hip motion in the 1950′s. He was so excited he demonstrated the move while waiting in line at a restaurant. “It all comes from the bending and straightening of the legs. Look at this,” he explained to his friend.

Keep this in mind: the hip of the straight leg should always be extended out to the side. The hip of the straight leg will be higher than the hip of the bent leg.

You can see how this works in the following video. Natalia demonstrates what the hips would be doing on the SLOW. She is not dancing the other part of the salsa basic — that is the quick, quick part.

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Salsa Basic Steps

Here’s a detailed description of Salsa Steps. If you would like to take private salsa lessons by the author, Phil Seyer, you can reach him at 925-eight-eight-4392.  Phil teaches private dance lessons in the Roseville, Sacramento, East Bay, San Francisco areas.

In this article, I’ll describe these salsa basic dance moves:

  • Forward and Back Basic
  • Side Basic
  • 5th Position Basic
  • Follower’s right turn (sometimes called “Ladies Right Turn”)

In teaching salsa I like to count beats of music in this way:

1. (Quick)
& (Quick)
2  (Slow)
3.  (Quick)
&. (Quick)
4. (slow)

Notice how I use & for the second step rather than the number 2.
Many teachers use 8 counts to describe the same quicks and slows such that each count is a quick. They don’t use &.

Note that in my way of counting Even beats are always slow. I like my way of counting because it enables students to remember larger patterns with fewer counts, it is also more musical and inline with the way musicians would count the music.  In videos you see keep in mind that the count most teachers use is different from mine.

Forward and Back Salsa Basic. (from leader’s perspective)

1. Left foot forward (quick)&. Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
2. Bring left foot together with right foot. (slow)
3. Right foot back. (quick)
&  Replace weight to left foot. (quick)
4. Bring right foot together with left foot (slow) It’s helpful for beginners to always bring their feet together on 2 and 4. This helps them remember to “hold” when their feet come together and make the step a slow step.

Here’s a good video on the forward and backward basic, but note that the instructor uses an 8 count to teach the basic, not a 4 count the way I do.

Note that a complete salsa basic is accomplished with just 4 counts — the way I teach not 8.

It’s nice to repeat the forward and back basic this time counting it as 5& 6  7& — like this:

5. Left foot forward (quick)
&. Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
6.  Bring left foot together with right foot. (slow)
7.  Right foot back. (quick)
&  Replace weight to left foot. (quick)
8.  Bring right foot together with left foot (slow)
After doing forward an back basic for eight beats of music, a fun and easy step for beginners is to do side basic.

Side Salsa Basic
1. Left foot to the side. (quick)
& Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
2. Bring Left foot together with right. (slow)
3.  Right foot to the side (quick)
4. Bring right foot together with left. (slow)

Here’s a good video showing the Side Salsa Basic.

This can be repeated with the count going to 8.
5. Left foot to the side. (quick)
& Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
6. Bring Left foot together with right. (slow)
7.  Right foot to the side (quick)
&. Bring Right foot together with left foot (quick)
8.  Bring right foot together with left. (slow)

A good routine for beginners is to do forward and back basic for 8 counts.Then side basic for 8 counts. Then return to forward and back basic for 8 counts.
Another Move is called 5th position breaks and its fun for beginners to do that step after the repeat of the foward and back basic

5th Position Breaks in Salsa
Note: Fifth Position is a toe to heel position.  This position is often used in various dance moves.
1. Left foot back (in 5th position), left toe to right heel. (quick)
&. Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
2.  Left foot to side left. (slow)
3.  Right foot back (in 5th position), right toe to left heel. (quick)
&  Replace weight to left foot. (quick)
4  Right foot to side right. (slow)

Here’s a video showing the footwork for the 5th position break. The instructors call it a “Cumbia Step” — some refer to it as “Cuban Basic.”

In the video they are doing some hand switching, but that isn’t required.
You could just keep the basic hand positions.
(Again note that the instructors use the 8-count basic, not the 4-count that I use.)

Again, this pattern can be repeated by counting it as 5& 6  7&  8.

5. Left foot back (in 5th position), left toe to right heel. (quick)
&. Replace weight to right foot. (quick)
6.  Left foot to side left. (slow)
7.  Right foot back (in 5th position), right toe to left heel. (quick)
&  Replace weight to left foot. (quick)
8.  Right foot to side right. (slow)

Instead of just repeating the above the leader can easily transition to a follower’s right turn by lifting his left hand up and extending it slightly to the left on beat #6. This provides a arch for the follower to through as she does her turn.  Below is a detailed description of what the follower does starting with beat 6 (previous steps for the follower are as described above — but the natural opposite of the leader’s)

Salsa Followers right turn.
Here’s I’m describing the follower’s footwork beginning with beat 6.

6. Follower points her right foot to the right as she steps side right. (Leader is lifting his left hand — her right hand.)  (Slow)

7.  Left foot crosses right. (quick)
& Replace weight back to right foot and pivot on balls of booth feet to right. (quick)
8.  Complete pivot back to face leader, landing with weight on left foot.

A really sexy follower will keep her eyes focused on the leader on this step as long as she can until the turn breaks her eye contact.  (slow) Note: when the follower steps to the right on his right foot she should remember not to move it. She pivots on this foot, but does not move it from the spot until after the pattern is completed! A common mistake of many beginning salsa followers is to move the right foot off the spot.

During this time — when the follower is doing her turning steps — the leader continues to do his 5th position break footwork.

Important points for the leader: Get your hand up and to the left by count 6; this means you start moving it slightly before count 6.  Some leaders like to drop their hand slightly on 5 and then start to move it up on the & of 5 getting it up by 6.

You may guide the follower to start the turn by nudging the follower on her left shoulder blade.  Leaders!  Don’t yank the follower around to do the turn with your left hand; simply lift your left hand to guide the follower and nudge her with your right hand. The nudge lead should per perceptible only by the follower.

Right turn from Forward and Back Basic. Above I explained how to do a right turn from the 5th position basic. You can also do the right turn from the forward and back basic. In this style, the follower steps straight forward with her left instead of crossing left over right. Here’s a video that shows this approach to the right turn:

Some other nice Salsa steps include:

  • Follower’s Hair Brush
  • Cross Over Breaks
  • Cross Body Lead
  • Follower’s Hammer lock and Faceloop
  • Walk Around
  • Salsa Butterfly or Mariposa

I’ll be describing those and other steps in future posts.  Thanks for your interesting in . . .

Salsa Basic Steps

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Swivels in cha-cha & swing

Note: I give private dance lessons. (Bay Area, Sacramento, Roseville) Please contact me for details.  You can call me at 925-eight-eight-eight-4392. — Phil Seyer

A swivel is a sexy move that can add a lot of spice to your dancing. Swivels can be used in most dance styles, but they are especially effective in cha-cha-, swing, salsa, nightclub two step — often called “rhythm dances.”

To do a swivel step, you step on the ball of your foot and then pivot on the ball of your foot turning your body to the right or left.

Below is a very good video that shows how to do pivots in cha-cha. (Another move called the cross over break is also demonstrated.

Before I show you a video, let’s discuss the basic swivel action.

Notice there are really only two cha’s  in cha-cha — that’s why dance teachers call it cha-cha, not cha-cha-cha.

Follower’s swivels
After the cross-over break, the follower does two cha-cha- steps and then starts the swivels. For the first swivel  she steps to the right onto the ball of her right foot
on beat 1 of the music:

Above you see the follower with her toe pointed to the
right as she steps onto the ball of her right foot on beat 1.
Leader’s left hand is extend to help make this happen.
What is not shown here is that she then immediately pivot
to the left on the ball of her right foot for the rest of the beat 1.

By the start of beat 2, follower has completed the pivot and
she is stepping on the ball of her left foot as you can see below:

Beat 2: Stepping on ball of foot, toes pointed to left (at first)

Leader extends right hand to bring follower
into beat 2. She then swivels to her right as leader
extends his left hand.

The start of beat 3 will looks similar to beat 1 as follower has completed
her swivel to the right.

Start of Beat 3  (photo above)

This makes 3 slow sexy swivels. Next comes 2 quick swivels on the cha-cha beats. The follower finishes the swivels by stepping onto the left foot (with no swivel) in preparation for a repeat of the cross over break.

In review, here’s what the follower does. Numbers shown are beat of music.
1. Step on ball of right foot, swivel to left. (slow)
2. Step on ball of left foot, swivel to right. (slow)
3. Step on ball of right foot, swivel to the right. (slow)

4. Step on ball of left foot, swivel to the right (quick)
&. Step on ball of right foot, swivel to the left (quick)

1. Step on left foot — do not swivel. (slow)
2. Cross over break — into underarm turn or other pattern.

Cha-cha Video. Here is the video so you can see how it all fits together:

This is just one way of integrating swivels into cha-cha. There are many other options.
Notice that the leader does not need to move his feet when the follower is swiveling: all attention will be on her — for obvious reasons — she is the star of the show. The leader plants his feet and uses his arms and upper torso rotation to lead the swivels.

Progress Check

What’s the purpose of the leader?

- – -
To bring happiness to the follower. The leader’s purpose is the follower’s pleasure.
If the leader leads well he doesn’t need to show off his own fancy steps.

Note: I offer private dance lessons in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in the Sacramento, Roseville, Auburn area. Please give me a call if you would like to set up some private lessons. You can reach me at 925-eight-eight-eight-4392. — Phil Seyer

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Swing Basics: Rock Step

One of the basic steps used in swing and almost all other dances is the rock step.
Many beginners have trouble with this step because they don’t “change weight”
properly when trying to do it.

In swing the leader usually rocks back with his left foot and the follower rocks away from the leader with her right foot.

On beat 1 the leader steps back onto his left foot.
On beat 2, the leader replaces his weight back to his right foot.

The follower executes the mirror image of the leader.

Below is a video that does a good job of explaining the rock step:

Progress check.

On beat 1, does the leader’s heel touch the floor? (yes/no)
On beat 1, should the leader be able to pick up his right foot?

- – -
On beat 1, the leader’s heel ideally does not touch the floor because then he would not be able to spring back and put weight on his right foot. The left heel, however, could “kiss” the floor briefly.

On beat 1, the leader should be able to pick up his right foot; this proves that the leader has properly transferred his weight to his left foot. This is just a test, normally the leader does not pick up his right foot during a rock step, except ever so slightly.

Note that the rock step may be done directly away from the follower or left toe to right heel (called 5th position). In the video they call his part of the basic rock.

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Boogie-woogie Swing

This article on swing dancing is by dance teacher and musician Phil Seyer. If you would like to take private dance lessons from him, give Phil a call at 925-888-4392 or visit his private dance lesson web page. Phil Seyer offers lessons in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in the Sacramento/Roseville/Auburn area.

Sometimes is fun to break from the traditional swing dance patterns.
A cool step that is sure to make a follower happy is the Boogie-woogie swing.

To get into this step, the leader needs to do a “throw out” move to get to 2 hand open position. Once in the open position the leader may do a basic and then starts the Boogie Woogie move after a rock step.

Beats 1 -2 -3 – (Freeze)

After a rock step from an opening position , the leader drops the follower’s hands freezes for 4 beats of music as he extends his right hand upward diagonally in the air to the right while pointing his left hand down. IN the diagram notice how the leader’s body is angling to the left.  For good posture the leader should stretch his right side when doing this.

Swing Boogie Freeze (rear view of leader)

While holding this pose for 4 beats, the leader smiles and
waves his hands dramatically counting out the beats.

Counts: 5, 6
After holding the above pose for four quick counts,
the leader jumps back land with both feet on beat five. He holds this position into beat six.  Leader may snap his fingers as he jumps backwards.

Counts 7, 8.
Leader again jumps back (snapping his fingers)
landing again on both feet. Both feet hit the floor on beat 7.
Leader holds position into beat 8.

The follower mirrors the leader. For example, for beats 1-2-3-4,
she stretches her left side side and raises her left hand at an angle.
Her right hand will be angling down. She waives her hands dramatically
on each beat of the music as if counting the beats.

Follower jumps backwards away from the leader on beats 5/6 and
also on beats 7/8.

Since both partners are jumping backward away from each other,
the leaders needs to make sure there is plenty of room. This step is not designed for a
crowded dance floor!

To helps to make the jumping steps really tiny to avoid trouble. Small steps
in swing always look better and there is usually no time due to the fast
tempo for big steps.  Note that one of the biggest mistakes beginners make
is taking steps that are just too big!

1 -2 – 3 – 4
After the jumping backwards moves, leader and follower are separated,
but now its time for them to reunite.

Leader takes 4 quick swiveling steps forward toward the follower while
the follower take 4 quick swiveling steps forward toward the leader.
Both partners draw a moon while doing so.  Both hands go straight up
and then draw a circle.

At the end of the 4th step leader extends his left hand and does a
“sweet  bowling” move to connect with follower’s shoulder blade.
Alternatively, the couple make take a two hand extended position.

After these 4 quick steps, the leader steps side into a basic step, which
may be in single or triple-rhythm.

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Cha-cha Cross Body Lead

The cross body lead is an important basic step in cha-cha. It lets you change positions with your partner as you lead her across your body — hence the name. Take a look at the video below to get a general idea of the step and then I’ll discuss it in more detail:

Here’s a break down of the leaders steps by count (notice that we start on beat 2 of the music).
Imagine you are standing on a big clock.

1. (do nothing or move hip to right in preparation for first step)
2 Step forward with left foot –to 12 o’clock position. (slow)
3. Step back to 4:30 position with right foot in preparation for making a quarter turn to the left. (slow).
4. Step side to 6 o’clock with left foot. Extend your left hand and lower it slightly to keep the follower from turning since she should make a small step directly forward. Note that by stepping side to 6 o’clock you are “opening the door” for the follower. (quick)
5. Step in place or slightly back on your right foot and pivot on it turning to the left. (quick)
6. Step forward left foot toward 6 o’clock — toward follower. slow.

If you’d like private dance lessons in cha-cha, salsa, merenge, or other partner dances like Foxtrot, Waltz, Wedding Dances and so on and you live in Northern Californa (Bay Area, Sacramento, Roseville, Auburn), give me a call at 925-eight-eight-eight-4392 or see my private dance lesson page.

Thanks for your interest in the cha-cha- cross body lead.

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Cha-cha (cha-cha-cha) Basic Step

Review of the basic step in cha-cha (cha-cha-cha).

The basic rhythm in cha-cha is usually:

Two Three Four& One

That’s right, ideally, the leader steps forward on the second beat of the music. In any case, it should always be a strong beat. In Latin music, often the second beat of the music is strong.

So to start dancing, the leader steps forward on beat two of the music and then rocks back on beat three.
Next comes the cha-cha steps, which may be side-together-side. (These are two quick steps.)

Here’s a very good video demonstration of the cha-cha. Notice how the leader brings out a beautiful smile in the follower and how tiny the cha-cha steps are. In this video below, the instructors dance the cha-cha in place but the cha-cha could be done to the side or backward or forward.

Note: some teach that the leader should step side left on beat one of the music and then back with his right foot on beat two. Others teach that the leader should step to the side with his right foot and then rock forward on beat two. These approaches also work. The important thing is to rock forward (or back) on a strong beat.

I’ve used “cha-cha-cha” in paretheses because I’ve heard that many Latins prefer the original term cha-cha-cha, which was changed to cha-cha by Arthur Murray in the 1950′s to stress the point that there are two (not three quick steps). However, if you say “cha-cha-CHA” — stressing the last CHA — you can still get the feeling of two quick steps followed by a third slower step.

After you learn the basic cha-cha step you may want to try something a little fancier, like the cross body lead in cha-cha.

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Cuddle (sweetheart) in East Coast Swing

In this article I describe the East Coast Cuddle step sometimes called the “sweetheart.”
It can be done in either the City Swing rhythm (slow, slow, quick quick) or the Triple rhythm:

(slow) (slow) quick – quick
triple step, triple step, rock step.

NOTE: if you live in the Sacramento, Roseville, or Bay Area and would like private dance lessons, give me a call at 925-eight-eight–4392 or visit my private dance lessons page.

This pattern starts in open position, but often, you will first be in what is sometimes call “dance position.” In “dance position,” the follower has her left hand on the leaders right upper arm and the leader has his right hand on the follower’s left shoulder blade. (See photo below.)

swing dance position

After a rock step, the leader can lead the follower to step out on her right foot away from the leader and pivot to the left by applying pressure on the follower’s shoulder blade. This should not be a strong push, but a gentle lead.

If the slow slow quick quick rhythm is used, the leader and follower should be in a two-hand (open position) by the second slow.

After rock the step, the follower is led to step forward on her right foot and starts to pivot to her left. The leader lifts his left hand and draws it across the follower’s face in leading her into the cuddle on he first slow (or first “triple-step” if the triple step rhythm is used). See photo below.

By the second slow (or second triple-step), the follower is in the cuddle position.

Below is a video that goes into some detail about how to do the cuddle.
They start from dance position, move to open position and then execute the cuddle from there. They demonstrate the triple rhythm and refer to the triple step as “one a two” and also refer to it as “side together side.” Notice that the side together steps are not divided evenly in time — the side step is held longer than the “together” step. This fits the triplet swing rhythm used in the music.

Cuddle with Hip Bump

A fun variation not shown in the video is to do a hip bump in place of the rock step. The leader holds the follower close so she dos not try to do the rock step and gently moves his right hip to the side twice in quick quick rhythm as he changes weight to his right foot in place. The follower will soon catch on, smile, and reciprocate by changing weight to her left foot twice while extending her left hip to the left.

Remember, leaders, the follower’s love these little cute variations especially when they involve a romantic connection — even if ever so brief. Be sure to make the hip bumps gentle, and sweet.

Keep in mind that these two hip bumps replace the rock step. After the hip bumps the leader lifts his left hand and leads the follower to step out into open position.

When leading the follower to step out, the leader may apply light pressure with his right arm, using the principle that the lead should come from the lower hand and the hand lifted higher should provide guidance, but not the lead.

Thanks for your interest in:

East Coast Swing Cuddle

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East Coast Swing Basic Step

Here I describe the basic step for the East Coast Swing and also present a video from the Tropical Balloom. You will notice there are two versions I present here. One version has been dubbed “City Swing” the other is often called Triple Step Swing. Both styles are useful depending on the music and how much energy you have.

By the way, if you live in the Bay Area or in Sacramento or near Roseville, I offer private dance lessons in swing as well as many other partner dances like: salsa, cha-cha, (cha-cha-cha) merenge, waltz, Foxtrot, bolero, nightclub two step, hustle, wedding first dances, and more. For more info, call me at 925-eight-eight-eight-4392 or see my dance lessons web page.

The easiest way to dance swing is in what is called open position. You hold hands with your partner and take a slow step to the side in one direction and then another slow step back to where you came. The leader steps side, left on the first slow and then side right on the second slow. The follower steps to the right on her right foot and then back to the left on her left foot.

The leader can pretend he is holding two beer cans. The follower can put her hands into the the imaginary beer cans. — like two puppy dog paws reaching into the leader’s hand Both partners should have good muscle tone and push gently against each other. As the leader steps to the left, it is helpful if he gently rotates his hands counterclockwise and to the left as he step left, then clockwise to the right as he steps right. This movement of the hands should be subtle and not exaggerated. Not all leaders do this but it is really helpful to the follower and makes it easier for her to feel the lead.

After the two slow steps, there are two quick steps. The leader rocks back on his left foot on the first quick and then immediately replaces his weight back on his right foot on the second quick. This is an easy step once mastered, but it is often difficult for beginners who often do not change weight on the rock step.

Here’s a video that does a pretty good job of showing the City Swing style of East Coast Swing as well as the triple step style. Note that after demonstrating the SLOW SLOW QUICK QUICK, rhythm, the dancers in the video show the triple step style (where side-together-side replaces the slow step to the side).

If you want to learn more swing steps, I would be glad to help you with private dance lessons. I’ve teaching partner dance since 1995 and have complete a course in teacher training from Diane Jarmalow of the Dance Teachers College. For more info, give me a call. 925-eight-eight-eight-4392 or see dance lessons in Northern California, Sacramento, Roveville, Auburn, Bay Area, Emeryville, San Francisco.

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East Coast Swing: Throw Out Swivels

A cute step in East Coast swing is called the “Throw Out Swivels.” This pattern is a definite departure from the usual swing steps, but once mastered it can be a lot of fun. It is sure to bring a smile to a follower’s face, which is the main goal of the leader.

For private dance lessons in the Sacramento, Roseville, and San Francisco Bay Area, call Phil at 925-eight-eight-4392. See also Private Dance Lessons

In this discussion I am assuming that the rhythm for the basic step is:


This rhythm is sometimes called “City Swing” and is used when the music is especially fast or when you want to dance swing but you don’t have the energy for a triple-step.

This swing step, called Throw Out Swivels, is an advanced step which will vary the basic SLOW, SLOW, QUICK, QUICK swing rhythm.

This basic rhythm will be varied after a quick quick rock this step to:



Four slows and then four quicks.

First Slow. From the promenade position, after the rock step on the quick,quick, the leader guides the follower by applying extra pressure on her shoulder blade to step out away from him with her right foot. [Here I assume the follower is a female, but this is not always the case, especially in San Francisco.] The leader steps forward with the follower on the first slow on his left foot.

So on the first slow, the follower steps on her right foot and pivots to the left.

Second Slow. On the second slow, because the leader is rotating his wrist wrist gently clockwise, the follower continues to turn to the left on the second slow such that her back is to the leader. This makes for an interesting pose as the leader steps in place on his right foot. [The leader may pivot to the right and look over his right shoulder, which makes an even more interesting pose with both partners turning away from each other.]

Third Slow. Instead of continuing with a quick, quick, the leader, leads the follower to turn back to face him with a third slow step. As he leads this slow, the leader rotates his wrist counterclockwise and moves his hand slightly to the left. The follower turns back to face the leader and steps in place on her right foot and swivels on it to the right. She raises her left hand and waives it dramatically to the music. The leader may step in place on his left foot and raise his right hand.

Fourth Slow. On the fourth slow, the leader rotates his wrist clockwise to the right and leads the follower to step forward toward him on her left foot, swiveling to the left. Leader steps on his right foot in place or slightly backward.

Next the leader moves his hand left, right, left, right on each quick beat as the follower swivels toward him. Four quick steps are taken. Leader takes small steps backward (or steps in place) so that follower catches up to him.

The couple then moves back to dance position on the first slow of a basic step. Dance position, here, means that the couple is connected. Leader has his right hand back on follower’s shoulder blade. Follower has her left hand slightly below leader’s big deltoid muscle.

Phil Seyer, author of this article, offers private dance lessons in Roseville, Sacramento,, and the Bay Area. Call Phil at 925-eight-eight-4392 or visit Private Dance Lessons

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