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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