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Salsa dancing: The Basics You Need to Know

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Have you recently seen all that hype for latin music and Latin Dancing?

Well, it is everywhere, and don’t get us wrong: We LOVE IT TOO!

Salsa dancing the basics you need to know

Seeing people dancing salsa in the clubs, on the streets, listening latin music in the radio, or hearing your friend taking some dance classes?

Well, there is a reason for it: Latin Dancing is extremely FUN and a amazing way to exercise while meeting other people. It has been growing exponentially and is here to stay! So why don’t you join the train and learn more about Salsa and Latin Dancing?

Salsa is a lively Latin dance, fast-paced and full of energy. Perfect for warming up or getting your heart racing. In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to the basics of salsa dancing, from what type of salsa to learn to how to dance it properly. We’ll also provide some tips on how to make the most of your salsa dancing experience, so you can take your dancing to the next level!

What is salsa dancing?

Salsa dancing is a partner dance that originated from Latin America and involves complicated pattern, skills as leaders and 


followers as well as a lot of body movement. It’s great to burn calories, as well as toning your muscles and joints. If you’re ready to give it a try, let’s start diving into what is Salsa!

What is Salsa?

First of all, Salsa is a partner dance.

You have one leader and one follower. Usually one boy and one girl, but it can also be two boys or two girls.

However the roles need to be defined. Two leaders dancing together would bring chaos on the dance floor !

You can also dance salsa alone, doing your steps by yourself. This is called Salsa Suelta or Salsa Shines.

Type of salsa

There is 3 main type of Salsa:

  • Cuban Salsa also called Casino
  • L.a. Salsa, Puerto Rican salsa, Salsa On 1 or Salsa on 2
  • Colombian salsa or Cali Salsa

The composition of the music sound similar but there is different types of instruments that are favoured depending on which country they play the song. We will get into this detail later on!

Here is our recommendation for a dance sneaker that would be great for salsa lessons

Cuban Salsa / Casino

Cuban salsa, also called Casino, is a partner dance which takes its origins from Son Cubano and Afro-caribbean Rumba. Cuban salsa is a circular dance characterised by movements where the dancers travel around the dance floor. It is first and foremost an happy and jovial dance. Cuban Salsa has now become a dance present in every latin parties.

Cuban salsa is a street dance. It is characterised by a lot of body movements, complicated pattern, and a lot of travel (circular dance).

Cuban Salsa can be dance with one partner, or more. It will depends on his skills and abilities!

Often, you will see one leader dancing with two followers. It starts getting tricky with 3 followers!

Cuban salsa History Fact: Dance and music has always been a way to express your view on society, emotions, feeling or even political views sometimes. Cuban salsa has been going through the same. For a while, before the revolution, salsa dance and music was forbidden in Cuba. It was only after the revolution led by Fidel Castro that people were allowed to dance in a public place again.

Rueda De Casino

Have you ever seen a group of dancers dancing in a circle, repeating the same move together? They are dancing Casino (Cuban Salsa) in a Circle, and we call that a Rueda de Casino. Rueda means wheel in English. And Rueda de Casino straight translation would be the wheel of Salsa.

Rueda de Casino appears in the 1950’s, once Cubans were free to dance in the street again and express they political views. Cubans would meet in front of the Casino and dance. That’s why they later on called that Casino and rueda de Casino.

Rueda de Casino is to me the most social way to dance and have fun!

If you are on the Gold Coast, we teach Cuban Salsa every day by appointment during our private dance lessons!

Book now and join the fun at Dance Classes Gold Coast.

L.A. Salsa / Salsa on one / Salsa on Two

Another Type of salsa is called Linear Salsa.

You have two main styles:

LA salsa dance on 1, also called salsa on 1 , danced and start on beat 1

Puerto rican salsa, portion salsa or salsa on 2, dance and starts on beat 2.

tango dancing lessons

This dance is a linear dance, marked by a lot of fast spins for the girls, less body movements but more shines.

LA Salsa is a much more ballroom dances looking than Cuban Salsa. Dancers are a lot more straight and involve a lot less body movement. LA Salsa is considered part of the Ballroom dances. Puerto Rican salsa was very popular in New York and New York City (United States). Before it starts spreading to all Europe and be incorporated into European dances.

LA Salsa Fun Facts:

Salsa on 1 and salsa on 2 are just defined by what beats you start dancing on. Out of the full 8 counts in a sentence, if you start on one, and you dance linear salsa, then you dance salsa on one. If you start on the second beat, then you dance Salsa on 2!

However, steps are the same ! Only the timing change!

Colombian salsa / Cali Salsa

Colombian salsa, also called cumbia is one of the fastest dance footwork that exist. Compare to Colombian salsa, Cuban and LA salsa are relaxing! In Colombian salsa, you can expect a loft of lifts, tricks, complicated pattern and extremely fast footwork! After one dance, you will definitely be out of breath! So like everything else, start learning your basics salsa steps before getting into more lifts and tricks! It can take years of experience to master couple of lift and tricks, but done properly they look effortless and it can be tricky for a beginner to learn!

What are the steps to salsa dancing?

There is not one single basic salsa step that can apply to the three dances.

However, you do have a basic step for each styles – which is proper to each dance style.

Here is some quick videos of basics steps we have in stock!

Cali Salsa – Paso basico

Salsa Shines

Interesting Fact: In Cuban Salsa, L.A Salsa you start on 1 forward with your left foot as a guy.

In Cali Salsa, you start on 1 with your left foot backward as a guy!

Salsa can be danced solo or partnered with a partner. The timing of each step is essential for a successful performance. So, practice first, and get ready to dance like a pro in no time !

What does salsa dancing involve?

Salsa dancing involves you having fun and meeting a ton of new people!

You do not need anything to start. No partner are needed. If you are learning, join a group class or take a private dance lesson. There is usually many people there, and during the class the teacher will make all the dancers rotate. You will be able to meet and dance with various dancers!

If you are going into social dancing, make sure to wear a proper dancewear and go invites some girls to dance.

Salsa Fun Fact: It is a norm for men to invite the girls. But usually, if the guy is a good dancer, girls will rush to invite him and get a dance with him!

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try incorporating more complex moves into your practice routine. Who knows? With a little bit of effort, salsa dancing might just become your new favorite social activity and you will be joining the list of the most advance latin dancers in your area!

can dance shoes be worn outside

How to start salsa dancing lessons?

Salsa dancing is a fun, dance-filled activity that can be enjoyed by anyone. If you’re interested in starting salsa dancing lessons, the first step is to find a class. There are many options available online or in your local area, and it’s best to choose one that’s appropriate for your skill level and expectations.

  • Start by selecting which style of Salsa you want to learn. Is it Cuban Salsa, LA Salsa or Colombian Salsa?
  • Then make sure to look at videos of your teachers. Do you like their style?
  • Also check the online review to have an idea from other students how good the teachers and the community is!
  • Make sure to buy dance shoes This will help you improve your overall performance while reducing risks of injuries.

Overall, we would always recommend to start. The first step is always the scariest one. So we encourage you to start now!

Send an email to your local dance school and get as much info as you can!

What should you wear to salsa dance class?

Before you start dancing, there are a few things you need to know.

  • Firstly, you don’t need to wear anything fancy – just comfortable clothing that feels like dancewear.
  • Secondly, a pair of good dance shoes will help you avoid injuries. Check our Ultimate guide of dancewear.
  • Thirdly, make sure to bring a water bottle and a towel! It can get very hot in there!
  • Finally, we are all here to have fun. This is not a competition. So take it easy and learn your basics steps. Don’t try to learn too fast! Its normal to be willing to look like all the advance dancers. However, it took them years. This is not a race but a hobby and most likely a future passion of yours ! So don’t forget to breathe in and have fun!

Video of a Class for you to see how everyone is dressed. Please note that this is bachata dance!

Shop Salsa Shoes

4 Things You Should Practice Without a Salsa Partner

Ok, you have been to dance classes even maybe took some private classes. And you now want to improve your dancing at home too! Good news, there is a lot that you can do in order to improve your social dance!

And it i all about the basics steps!

#1 Developing Timing & Awareness of Music

When it comes to salsa dancing, timing and footwork are huge factors that will ensure you look and sound smooth on the dance floor. To improve your skills in these areas, listen to salsa music everywhere you go. In a car, at home while cooking, or before going to bed. The more you listen to salsa music, the more your hear will get use to this complexed rhythm and it will hence be easier for you to catch the beat!

Leave salsa music in the background. and try to actively and passively listen to it!

This will help you develop awareness of the rhythm, dynamics, phrasing and chord changes. Next up is practicing your moves while listening to different songs and rhythm. And if you practice it with a partner, good news: you can make sure to focus on helping each other sync your moves perfectly!

#2 Mastering Your Basic Steps

Mastering your basic steps

I think this is a very underrated message. It is not about how many complicated pattern you learn, but how good you master your basics and fundamentals! To give you an example, it doesn’t matter how complex is the pattern you learned, if you can not dance it on time, or you squash your partner hands.

Learn how to relax and feel confident with your basics steps. Then step by step increase the difficulty!

Also, make sure that all of your movements are fluid – this is key for getting those latin rhythms down pat! Practice the basics in different sequences and speeds so that you can find what works best for you.

Last but not least, always smile – this will put people at ease and encourage them to join in the fun!

#3 Shines

Shines or Salsa Suelta are the steps you dance by yourself. That makes them the perfect exercise for you at home, by yourself!

Learn them and practice on different speed. Try not to look at your feet. Instead look up and practice your dance moves. That will improve your dance vocabulary and bring your dance to higher levels!

#4 Body Movement

Finally, body movement. Get in front of a mirror and start moving your hips, shoulders, head! Start doing it in a slow motion before putting the music and practicing faster and faster!

More about salsa dancing

In this article, we just looked at what is Salsa and the general tips to start and improve your salsa dancing. We wrote a deeper article about salsa origins, development and added some salsa dance tutorials here. There is also many other Latin Dances. Bellow, we will describe some of them, and add up a video to illustrate from our group classes!

Other Type of Latin Dance


If you love Latin dance and want to experience something new and exciting, then you should definitely try out Merengue. This seductive type of dance requires a lot of energy and coordination, making it one of the most physically demanding dances. However, as long as you put your heart into every performance – there’s no telling how good you can be! And in terms of looks, meringue is all about sultry sex appeal: your outfit should reflect this. Make sure everything from your hair down to your shoes are on point for an amazing show!


Bachata is a slow dance that originated in Dominican Republic. It is characterised by lot of hips movement and footwork. It later on evolves into a sensual dance with intricate salsa moves. It is called sensual bachata. If you’re looking for something new and exciting to add to your dancing repertoire, bachata might be the perfect choice! You don’t need any special skills or training – just be comfortable and have fun! In fact, bachata is great for couples who want to spice up their dancing routine and make it more interesting. Plus, it’s an excellent way of building communication skills as dancers are required share each other’s movements closely during the dance.

Dominican Bachata:

Sensual Bachata

Sensual Bachata Group Classes


Kizomba is a dance that originated from Angola. It is a sensual and rhythmic dance, with lots of body contact. It is perfect for those who want to learn more about Latin dance styles and improve their skills as leaders and followers!

Urban Kiz



Afro Dance

This is a solo dance on afro beats music. It is fun and jovial!

Sexy Heels

This has been growing up exponentially as well in term of popularity! Girls get together on high heels and start executing some sexy moves on the dancefloor! Perfect way to reconnect with your own body and feminine side!


Dancehall has been growing exponentially. It is a solo dance from Jamaica, with high vibe and high energy!


This is another dance that is extremely popular in Cuba and South America! Have you ever heard Daddy Yankee? One of the most famous and recognised reggaeton artist in the world?

We set. up a quick reggaeton tutorial for you! Hopefully you like it !

Cha Cha

Cha cha is a dance that’s sure to get your heart racing. This sensual dance is great for exercising and socializing – making it the perfect partner dance for any occasion. Beginners won’t have any trouble finding beginner-friendly lessons, as salsa dancing doesn’t require a lot of skill or experience. In fact, it can be an excellent way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health at the same time! Cha cha also helps you develop strong social skills – something that’s always beneficial. So go ahead and give this sexy Latin dance a try – you might just enjoy it!


Looking for a dance that will take your relationship to the next level? Look no further than rumba! This sensual dance features a lot of hip movements that are sure to get you moving. It is perfect for couples and can be danced in any room, including the bedroom. To get started with this dance, make sure you download our free guide! In it, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about rumba – from how to move your feet properly, through basic steps and moves. So start dancing today and let rumba bring excitement back into your Relationship!


If you’re looking for a dance that is both fun and danceable, samba is the perfect choice. Originating from Brazil, this is another happy song and fast rhythm! Getting the girls ready to shake their hips and execute a lot of sensual movements! To get started with samba dancing, start by studying the basics. This will make learning more advanced steps much easier – you’ll be able to understand them better and take them on with greater grace.

Other dance styles that we haven’t talked about yet include but is not limited to: Mambo, Argentine tango, Bomba, Plena, Waltz, Zouk, American dances, and more!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the salsa dance?

The salsa dance is a popular Latin dance that was originally danced to the music of Cuban son and guaracha. It has been adapted into salsa dancing by adding new steps, rhythms and moves to the original Cuban son. The basic principle behind salsa is that it’s all about improvisation – dancers use their partner’s movements as inspiration for their own dance. There are many different styles of salsa ranging from social to swing to quickstep, so find one that you would enjoy practicing!

How do I start salsa dancing?

The best way to start salsa dancing is to take a class. However, if you don’t have time or want to learn on your own, there are many reputable and safe online tutorials that can help. Make sure to read up on the tutorial’s features and reviews before choosing one so that you’re confident in your decision.


What kind of music should I listen to while practicing salsa dancing?

When it comes to salsa dancing, making sure the music you’re listening to is upbeat and appropriate for a dance class is key. Salsa dancers love to groove and dance to rhythms that keep them moving. So, if you’re looking for a mix that will get your groove on during your practice sessions, then you can either choose a commercial salsa mix or make your own playlist using songs from the 1960s and 1970s. Make sure that the music you’re playing is loud enough so people can hear what their partner is saying, and be careful not to play music that’s too loud for the dance studio – it could disturb other students and ruin the mood of the class.

Can I learn more complicated dances like cha-cha-cha and rumba if I’m just starting out?

If you’re just starting out, then the best way to learn more complex dances is by attending a salsa dance class. There are many different styles of salsa, so it’s important to find one that fits your own dancing style and level of expertise. Alternatively, you can also look for online tutorials or videos specifically made for beginners when it comes to learning the basics of salsa dancing.

I am shy, Can I take private lessons?

Yes, you can take private lessons to start dancing salsa. There are many different styles and levels of class that would be perfect for you, depending on your personal dance style and level of experience. In addition, finding an instructor who is patient and understands that not everyone is social by nature can be a great help.

What Are the best salsa shoes for dancing?

Shoes matter ! And Lucky for you, this is our speciality!

We highly recommend you to start with a 7cm Flared heel, or a cuban heel. Before going towards our straight stiletto heels!

Any new hobby can be challenging to learn. However, rest assured that it is definitely doable! Everyone can learn at all ages! Look for a local dance school and take the first step in your dance journey!

Celia Cruz, Los van van,  Hector Lavoe, Marc Anthony, Willie Colon, Tito Puente, and so many more !

Dance Teacher at Latin Dance Shoes Australia | Website | + posts

Dance teacher, music passionate and Latin dancers aficionado!
Founder of Latin Dance Shoes Australia