I was a REALLY slow learner. I had no PE background, no sports, no phisical interaction except wrestling with my brothers as a kid. I was physically uncoordinated and socially awkward. It took me a few years to feel comfortable enough, and then another couple before I “got it”.
1. I learned a couple things along the way that I pass on to help people get it quicker; take it with a grain of salt as I am not a pro or anything.Focus on leading/following- The styles change with every teacher and club. By focusing on lead/follow, you grow the connection with your dance partner. Don’t worry about NY style or LA style or Domenican… whatever. For leading, find the smallest movements you can make to communicate you desires to your partner. For follows, focus on good dance posture so you can be more discerning to the leads.
2. Worry less about getting it- Having fun is the point of dancing. by focusing on the technique, you lose your composure and your connection. That’s no fun.
3. Accept mistakes- Dancing is a form of communication. Making a mistake in Salsa is literally a miscommunication. For the most part, you wouldn’t beat yourself up about a misspeaking, so don’t worry about misleading or misfollowing a step.
4. Try every new step in Merengue (or Bachata)- Salsa is a ton of fun, but it can be intimidating to try to learn the footwork and the styling and to move. By practicing in Merengue, you remoe the footwork portion, allowing you to practice your connection more and perfecting your partner communication.
5. Dance with as many people as possible- Again, dance is a social experience, so dancing with as many people as possible allows you to refine your abilities to communicate with your partner. So go play and have fun! Safely. Cuz COVID…
You are probably close. When I started i couldn’t even hear the rythem. It wasn’t long after a year (1.5 years probably) that it started to click and I could lead well. People wanted me to be their lead at that point. Another year and a half forward and I was not only leading but actually leading to the music and the follows level. Really fun.
Things that help.
Becoming familiar with songs. Listen to the music at home get good at the count until you don’t have to count to stay on rythem (I still need to count on occasions). You can totally botch a move, but if your feet keep the rythem it won’t matter just smile and laugh.
If you lead, practice following, if you follow, try leading. Set aside any gender stereotypes. I have had guys lead for me in salsa and I still am madly in love with my wife… go figure. Switching helps you understand how to make your signals clear. I am sure leading as a follow help as well. Of you try this, don’t just do a full routine you both have memerised.
Dance with people that are better than you. If they aren’t cool with dancing below their level, they aren’t the people you want to dance with (caveat, it’s ok for people to say no, but saying no because someone isn’t as experienced as you is a little lame IMO). As a lead I would often felt down when a follow didn’t understand what I was trying to do. Sometimes it is actually the follow and the lead is doing fine. If you don’t dance with people more advanced, you may never know where the issue resides. Once again, I am sure the reverse is true for follows. As a lead, this helped me get to a point where I can often lead someone through a move they have never seen because my signals have been honed. When dancing with a new person you learn how to test their level so the dance is fun for everyone. I have so much fun dancing with people that have less experience than me especially if they keep their feet on the beat.
I am going to say somthing again because it is the most important. Keep your feet moving to the rythem and smile and laugh when you make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t forget you’re there to have fun.
Hope that helps.
I went in completely ignorant to dancing. Didn’t know anything. Started with salsa but learned bachata instead pretty quickly. It took about 1.5 to 2 years for salsa to finally click for me. Keep at it, it might come sooner for you.
One thing I heard (actually comes from the pickup community lol) is that it takes 3 months of practice to not look like a complete fool, 6 months to be passable and a full year of consistent practice to be good at something. I think that reflects my experience with salsa dancing (and other things like playing a sport or a musical instrument). Are you going to actual socials or are you just taking classes? Classes are just for learning a new move, socials is where you actually practice dancing and learn to apply the moves in the moment. You should probably be spending as much time if not more actually dancing at socials as compared to time spent in classes. That being said I think there is always more to learn, there is pretty much infinite number of moves and combinations to learn.
I’ve never been to a social, watching videos of how they dance gives me anxiety because I can’t move like that. I’ve never seen a pair just doing basic, cross body & simple turns. It’s always move after move after move.
I wouldn’t feel bad as they usually feature expert dancers in those kinds of videos (I assume you are watching social dance TV). That’s kinda like watching the NBA and then feeling bad you aren’t draining threes. You don’t have to be anywhere near that good to have fun at a social. Maybe try watching the people in the background to get a more realistic sense of what it’s like. They’re usually plenty of beginners at these things that you can pair up with.
Triple those times if you’re in a big city, just because you’ll be comparing yourself to tough competition
I see a conflict of interest here:
You have stated:
1.You’ve taken classes for a year. Partnerwork doesn’t click yet.
2. You haven’t been to a social after a year of taking classes!
Most people who get comfortable with dancing in partnerwork practice at least on a 1:1 basis of classes vs dancing socially. Regular dancers are more like 1:3.
Classes teach you the moves. Social dancing reinforces the moves.
So until you start going out, don’t expect things to just ‘click’.
Sorry for being blunt, but that’s the reality of social dancing in most cases.
If you have social anxiety going out, that’s different. But if you’re looking to get over that dance anxiety, then social dancing will force you to do that.
Also, stop comparing yourself to what you see on Youtube. Those videos are painting a very unrealistic example of what social dances is really like since they only show the top 1% of dancers.
Many people are dancing using only basic moves in socials. Your idea that everyone is only dancing using complex moves is simply wrong. Go out to a social and see for yourself. Yes, you’ll be intimidated at first, but over time it gets better.
All great tips. My 2 cents:
– When you do go out and start partner dancing in clubs let the follower know your level. You can quickly let them know you’re a beginner and that way the pressure is off.
– Keeping the rhythm is super important and a dead giveaway that a dancer is less experienced. We all mess up or get bumped and screw up the beat, but knowing you’re off the beat and stopping to correct it is important. Listen to music and dance around your house until clubs open again. Feel it in your core.
– I really agree with other responses about simplicity. If a leader has good form (frame, posture, hand positions, tension, etc) and executes clean moves it doesn’t matter that the moves aren’t complicated. Learn how to lead a handful of moves and do them well.
– I do think knowing which style you’re going to concentrate on matters. If you’re watching videos of different styles of salsa it will be very confusing, but as a beginner you don’t know it yet. The same is true for in person classes. Find the style you like or is most popular in your area and learn it. Where I live Cuban style is popular so if someone comes to a party trying to lead LA style it’s strange – like oil and water. Related to style and music – it’s good to listen to music that focuses on the style you’re learning.
– Connect with people in your classes and go to parties together. You will have a group of people you feel very comfortable dancing with. It’s intimidating going to parties alone as a beginner.
I wish Cuban style was available where I live. My in-laws are Cuban and at parties the family dances a more Rueda style, so I can’t really dance with them because I learn On2. They don’t know how to teach it either, they just learned it along the while…just like speaking Spanish lol.
Very common question, and a good one at that. Everything you need to know is in this podcast episode right here: https://salsakings.com/the-click/
You’ll notice when things are clicking when you try to go backwards on your learning hill. Go to a beginners class after a year (when covid ends) and you’ll see how much progress you made!
Social dancing speeds it up a lot. Classes are nice to establish proper technique but in terms of improving, social dancing is 1000x more effective. It just comes naturally as you do it more and more. And yes I know it’s a terrible time for that right now, but if possible- meet up with your partner once a week (or more if you want/can) and just play music and go at it. It’s sort of like learning to ride a bike. You can watch youtube videos, take tips from your dad on how to hold the handlebars, etc.. but at the end of the day you only learn by peddling and peddling till you get it. I have seen a lot of people struggle because they only take classes but almost never or rarely dance socially.
I’m a follower but I started at the same time as a bunch of leaders. They were very dedicated, going to socials most weeks and class at least 5 hours a week. A few joined dance teams as well. They became good leaders after 1.5 years, but all of them were quite athletic to start. They still have a long way to go before they move beyond intermediate technique towards style and ‘flow’. (at least that’s what I guess- im not there yet myself that’s for sure). But also the variability is surprising. One of the guys was a total beginner and became an outstanding leader after only 1.5 years.
To me, “clicking” is just another way of saying “confidence in what you know.”
I’d suggest practicing a few basic patterns until they become muscle memory. Think of these as your core moves. Dance those with a partner. Add simple variations (ex. Handshake hold, two hand holds, etc.).
Most importantly; Don’t stress. Think marathon, not sprint.
Hey dude, might be a bit late.
I was on and off for about 2 years before I immersed myself. I went 3 times a week for about 3 months straight, watching videos and practicing by myself. Dropped down to 2 from work and finally 1, but it finally clicked after about 4-6 months of solid practice.
Having a regular partner certainly helps, but keep up the good work. Would be so much harder in this climate