Salsa: From Steps to Sequences

A couple of weeks ago, G asked me what was my favor thing in salsa and I said, spins or turns! For me, dancing salsa is about different ways to spin. For G, it’s about how to lead and his arm movements, how to direct and spin a follower.

For eight classes, G and I had fun learning about basic salsa steps. We had to remember eight beats of steps one at a time. Our routine had been learning the new steps in class which was an hour and after class practicing for about half an hour on our own to make sure we were keeping up. That worked until this week when we moved to the next level of salsa and the instructor Franklin introduced us to sequenced sets of steps.

Franklin instructed, “Start with a Switch-Switch then transition into a Copa.” As I rotated and danced with different dance partners, there were more of “I am sorry,” “Oops!” “Oh no!” I almost stepped on someone when we should have turned in the same direction to start the Copa. My left hand and arm should have been relaxed but I held it high which made it harder for my parter to give me the momentum to turn left. My turning steps were too big that my partner might have to run after me as I turned. Once in a while, I remembered to spot when I turned which caused me to finish my step one beat behind. There were so many things going on all at once in 16 beats! But I have to say, the sequenced moves were challenging and fun for me. I wanted to get them right!

Thank goodness that Franklin and Liliana didn’t get tired of taking the class through each move step by step. Our mistakes were also met with humor. “You don’t want to strangle your partner with your arm!” “Don’t look down. We don’t know what you are looking at!” “This is above the hip! Not lower. Not higher.”

G commented during our own practice that it was amazing that “someone” had thought of these steps before us and passed them down through generations. I am sure we are just scratching the surface of salsa. I am excited about dancing to longer sequences but also fearful that my small brain wouldn’t remember all the move combinations!

G and I also ventured out to a couple of salsa social outside of classes. “Oh man!” We said to ourselves, “People are such good dancers!” Knowing the steps is one thing. Being able to dance it is another. Experienced dancers transition from move to move effortlessly. They rely on their muscle memory and seem spontaneous.  At this point, G and I need to concentrate all the time to direct our bodies to do the right thing! In some ways, G needs to do more thinking than I do since he has to lead. He had to decide what we were going to dance. Every eight beats is a decision for him!

It takes time to learn anything substantial and be good at it. At the Rumba y Timbal dance studio, there are people dancing there for years. Learning salsa is like meeting a new friend. It takes time to notice everything and there is something new with every dance. After practice after practice, I might feel more acquainted with salsa until more new steps were introduced. Regardless how much we fumbled, G and I agree that we are happy to use a different part of our brain and for now we are brave enough to keep going!

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