Salsa Ladies Styling

Body Movement, Technique and Self Expression For Followers

Many female social dancers, and even teachers buy into the myth that styling is something that you learn seperately, when you get “more advanced”.

That it’s something which is beyond the moves, an add-on. 

And this is why styling is only covered in many group classes as an afterthought, an optional extra, or only when needed to make the move work.

But have you ever wondered why some women just look good and move better than others on the dance floor, even with next to no “training” and without appearing to actually do any styling?

I did…and it took a while to come up with the answers.

Here is what I discovered:


Technique Gives You Automatic Style

Yes…without having to learn fancy steps or arm movements, just by improving your execution of the moves you know already, you will gain more control and better movement quality.

This technique comes more naturally and easily to some dancers. It can depend on many factors, some physical such as flexibility, current or previous injuries, and core strength.

It can be boiled down to 5 key fundamentals – Balance, Footwork, Body Motion, Energy and Connection.

Some women just have that elegance and grace which draws attention, and they don’t seem to have to work at it. They aren’t necessarily the best followers either, but they rarely struggle to get dances.


It’s Not All About Prior Dance Training

Once upon a time I thought this was the main reason I struggled to look “right” on the dance floor. This viewpoint was backed up by my teachers so I never really questioned it.

For sure there are incredible advantages to having a few years of formal dance training behind you.

The balance, the posture, the control…the ability to learn and memorise choreographed material at warp speed.

The girls with the ballet or ballroom background just know how to hold themselves with the presence and movement clarity which automatically projects to anyone watching.

But then I realised that although these more formal, performance based dance disciplines gave a fantastic technical foundation for Salsa, there were some disadvantages.

It was hard for them to let themselves go and improvise.

Whereas a lack of technique could easily look too wild and ragged on the dance floor, there was the other end of the spectrum where these dancers were sometimes TOO polished, placed and restrained for the social floor. 

Personally I have learned a lot from taking ballet class and it has been the only thing that has worked for the deeply embedded postural issues that I have struggled with, but I know plenty of amazing dancers who had never stood next to a ballet barre in their life.

So I figured there was more to it than just that.



It’s Not About Body Size Or Shape

It really isn’t.

As someone who has never been entirely happy with their figure, I can honestly vouch for this.

Foy years I longed to to lose the few pounds of belly fat which stubbornly clung to my abdomen, even when I was lean and toned everywhere else

It would have been easy to cling to the story that “I’m just not slim enough” and blame that for those many nights I went home with tons of energy to spare , but I knew there were plenty of girls out there on the floor having a great time, who didn’t have perfect figures.

I watched those other women like a hawk, wanting to know what their secret was.


It’s Not About Age, Looks Or Clothing Either

I’ve had those nights where I wore the low cut tops and extra short dresses.

And guess what…yes on balance I probably got more dances. But those were the nights I was feeling great about myself anyway.

Get these things right, and wear what suits you with confidence, and it’s never going to detract from your dance floor experience.

But get it wrong – and by that I mean wearing what you don’t feel 100% comfortable in, or clothing which cause you to fiddle with it, or fidget, then you’ll look uncomfortable and will not be able to move freely.

So the key is not to dress to impress everyone else – it’s to dress in a way that makes you feel your best.


So What Is The Secret Ingredient For Salsa Style?

One of the most magnetic qualities on the dance floor is confidence.

This isn’t the fake “look at me” egotistical, narcissistic type of confidence which is desperate for attention.


The confidence I’m talking about is self-assurance, composure

A confidence which lets your personality shine through and expresses connection to the music.

This confidence is an inner project.


How To Get More Confidence On The Dance Floor

It’s one thing to learn shines and styling.

Having the technique to do them well, and the confidence to actually use them is quite another.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is learning how to occupy more space, use your presence and let your personality shine through.

This is when the self doubt and fear of not doing it “right” or standing out for the wrong reasosns often kicks in.

There’s a disconnect as people fear being “too much” yet “not enough” all at the same time.



Why Style At All?

Some styling is mostly functional such as clearing an arm as the lead comes in towards you. 

Other styling is a choice we make based on our aesthetic preferences and connection to the music.

It’s more decorative and reflects both our style and the style of the dance. It’s an outward expression of what we are hearing and feeling in the moment.

Styling Is Not Just About Arms

There are two things that need to be understood before starting work on your arm styling:

  1. Arm movements are an extension of body motion which in turn is a product of foot pressure and weight transfer. Without these pre-requisites, arm styling will look flat and disconnected from the rest of your dancing.
  2. The transitions between arm positions are as important as the positions themselves. Knowing how to move your arms with elegance and flow is a skill which will set you apart.