One of the biggest hurdles that new Salsa dancers have to overcome is learning how to actually fit their steps to the music, and it’s no surprise that many find this difficult and get stuck with their dancing as a result.
Salsa music is complex. It’s busy, frenetic and fast-paced…all the things that make it so addictive and make you want to move your body to it are exactly the things that make it difficult to dance to if you’re not used to listening to it.
But I know how you feel…it’s overwhelming!
All those layers of different percussion rhythms – how do you find your way in, and what should you be listening for? What should your ear latch on to in order for you to know exactly when to move each foot?
It takes a while for your ear to tune in to all the different sounds, believe me, this process takes time. But if you want to speed things up, here are three things that will help:
1. Listen to as much Salsa music as you can. In the car, in the gym, at home, on your ipod…even if you’re not consciously aware, your brain will be connecting with it on a subconscious level.
2. There is a great app called Salsa Rhythm which I recommend and often use when teaching my private students. It allows you to add and remove the individual instruments and vocals so you can hear exactly what they sound like. It also counts the beats for you, and it can be speeded up or slowed down making it ideal for practice.
3. When you do listen to music, count out loud or clap. One of the things that dancers find hardest is recognising the “one” – the first beat of the bar. There are actually subtle clues which will help: these are found in the phrasing of the vocals, emphasis within the percussion, volume and sustained notes within the brass section. If you learn to find this elusive first beat reliably it will immediately set you apart from other novice dancers.
When you can hear the music and recognise how your steps fit with it, you are ready to start “feeling” it – the next step towards becoming a good social dancer 🙂