The KISS Dance Principle


“You have to believe dance is something other than technique. We forget where movements come from. They are born from life.”
– Pina Bausch

There is a place for learning a framework within which to operate, particularly when you are dancing with someone else, as in partner dance, but often in learning we forget the important things.  This is just a quick reminder not to forget our dance source: life.


Salsa Almost From Scratch – The 1 hour Beginner Lesson with Breaking On 1

Let me know what you think. I also have seen some really unique lessons, such as teaching the son timing and then the salsa on1 timing using the clave as a tool. So if you have something unique that has worked well, or do things a bit differently and are willing to share I would be interested. It is great to do things in different ways and learn from each other.

So, back to my lesson outline. You get a bunch of people who have sort of done a little salsa, but really haven’t. For example, they may have taken a few classes some time ago, or have taken a survival dance lesson before a Latin night event, moved a bit to the music and got some help from friends… You get the idea, hopefully.  Basically, salsa  almost from scratch!


First – Salsa Aerobics / Salsa Suelta 1

Note – Emphasize small steps throughout.  Show exaggerated and then get people to take smaller steps.  Looking at each other is another important point.

Basic – Forward half, first doing the first two steps and showing how you lift your feet.  Step 1 step forward on your left foot while lifting your right, then on step two you place back your right foot.  (This is important as a  common mistake/problem for beginners is that second step of stepping in place). Then, add the third step to complete the first half.
         – Add back  half, saying it is the same, as first, but you step back instead.
Dance to music, adding side to side, forward/back breaks, front/back crosses, rotating clockwise and anti-clockwise while in place.

Partner Work 1 – Get people in couples.  Show basic frame with leader’s right hand on follower’s shoulder blade, and followers left hand resting on leader.  Couple’s other hands should be halfway between them.  Point out that followers now start going back as leaders will be starting forward, but it is the same basic step. Count and start them going.   Go around helping them for one song.

Refining 1 – Ask how followers can tell what a leader wants to do.  Demonstrate the collection that a leader does, for example when switching from front/back basic to side-to-side and back.  In open hand hold the leader can slightly raise his hands at the end of a 8 count, just before switching movement.  This indicates to a follower that something is going to happen.  In closed position the leader uses his/her connection with the follower’s shoulder blade.

Dance to another song.


Salsa Suelta 2 – Add right hand turn to repertoire

Partner Work 2 –  Show how right hand turn is done as couples, and break it down.  Hand goes up on 3, indicating that the follower can turn.

Dance to another song.

Leader’s right turn – Tell leaders that they can do a right hand turn as well, showing, and then letting them dance another song.

Refining 2 – How can one tell if it is leader or follower who is to turn?  If Leader’s hand is close to him/her he/she will be turning, and if follower hand is close to him/her she can turn as there is space to do so.


Partner Work 3 – Cross Body Lead
Show the cross body lead and separate to show leaders and followers their footwork.  If teaching solo do the leader’s footwork and tell followers to just do the basic stepping and follow.  Often, followers at this stage of their dancing put way too much into their footwork/styling and destroy this move in my experience. They are not ready.

Leaders step forward, in place and to the side, then side, in place and forward in the other direction.  You do two quarter turns.  Then show what hands need to do. Remember small steps. 

Dance to a song.


Partner Work 4 – Adding Pizazz

Right hand turn?  Show how one can do the right hand turn in multiple ways for both leader and follower..  Left-right, handshake i.e. right to right, both hands.  This makes the dance look a lot more than it is.

Show veils: Make a window, as if you are a waiter and are holding a tray of dishes when in a left-right, right-left normal open hand hold.

Refining 3 –  How can a person tell what is happening?  Remember, that hand close to leader means he/she is going to do something.  Hand close to follower means that he/she is going to have something happen.
Now with veils….For veils hands are in front of nose, in middle, so followers don’t do anything.  If a hand is to the left or right means something is going to happen. 

It is natural that if you do a right hand turn to want to turn the other way.  I personally prefer not to teach that for a first lesson.  I am open to showing it, but for most people it isn’t as easy to learn and from observation it really isn’t done much on the dance floor.  In fact I make a point of doing it with a couple people as they got excited when I did it and said they love doing it and that people just don’t do it. 

What is your opinion?  Do you think the left hand turn should be included?  If you think it should be taught how would you modify the lesson plan as what I have described takes about an hour.  Do you teach the lesson differently?



Progress on the Cuban enchufla in rueda

And so today was the weekly pre-performance rueda class composed of people interested in joining the Ithakeros rueda de casino performance group, and again we made great progress. It is exciting for me to figure out how to translate something that comes naturally, break it down and then see other people getting it.

Today I took the leaders and Nan (Nancy A.) took the followers and we worked on using the “Cuban enchufla” for the first half of the basic in al centro position. Then we came together and applied it using con las manos: first holding hands and me calling dame with basics in between, and then con las manos proper. Finally, this was applied to dame while doing rueda.

Next step? Do it with the Ithakeros performance group during our practice tomorrow – Monday night.