Tightening Up Those Travelling Salsa Turns


Usually within the first couple of visits to a Salsa club, some over enthusiastic guy will try and launch a brand new beginner lady into a travelling turn of some description.

When she panics because she doesn’t understand what’s required, and doesn’t know the footwork, this IMMEDIATELY triggers a response in her brain which will neurologically link the lead for that move to fear and failure for some time to come, and could lead her to take much longer to master these turns than she would have done otherwise.

Her instinctive reaction will be to stiffen up her arms, resist the lead, or grip and cling on to the guy.


And it’s not just me saying this – it’s the science of how the brain and nervous system work.


This is the reason that people who aren’t teachers shouldn’t try and teach on the dance floor (or even off it)

Many guys underestimate the difficulty of these turn for new ladies – probably because they lead them so frequently with ladies who appear to execute them with ease.

However from experience when I dance socially in either role, and when I watch from the edge of the dance floor, what becomes apparent is that only a small percentage of dancers really understand the mechanics of these turns.

Many followers launch themselves into them not fully understanding the footwork or technique.

Many leads don’t fully understand the timing and therefore the prep and lead delivery often make the turn harder – not easier.


I tend not to refer to “inside” or “outside” when referring to the direction of the turn like most teachers…

This is for a couple of reasons:

The mechanics of the travelling turns change slightly depending on the direction.
The terms “inside” and “outside” refer to the followers direction with respect to the lead,

This means that if he leads that same “inside turn” footwork from the other side of the lady, the it becomes an outside turn and vice versa, but the mechanics for her remain the same,

So using Right and Left as terms of differentiation in my opinion offer more clarity and consistency when teaching turn patterns and technique.

So here is my technical breakdown – and the video to accompany:


1 ½ rotations
Initiates on 5
Spread over three counts
Count 5 – ¼ turn
Count 6 – ½ turn
Count 7 – ¾ turn

What you’ll see is that the rotation is spread over 3 counts which makes the turn feel easier and smoother.



1 ½ rotations
Initiates on 6
Spread over two counts
Count 6 – ¼ turn
Count 7 – 1 ¼ turn

In this case, the turn is squeezed into less counts – only two – making the turn feel faster and a little trickier.

Therefore the lady often has to generate a little more speed to finish on time, and that extra speed can create more challenges with balance if the technique is not refined enough.

This is fundamental knowledge for improver/intermediate ladies, and it’s essential for guys to know in order to make the turns easy and achievable for the lady, as well as feeling good.

It’s the difference between average social “advanced” and my definition of ACTUALLY advanced.

I’ve only covered the technique here at footwork level – we can dissect these turns further in terms of the other FIVE PRINCIPLES OF TECHNIQUE:

BALANCE – through posture, head alignment and eyeline.
ENERGY – creating, storing and releasing momentum to power the turn.
BODY MOTION – Integrating hip roll, Cuban motion and shoulder/arm styling into the turn.
CONNECTION – understanding and responding to the lead, and maintaining contact through the turn.

Now there are other types of travelling turns which initiate on 2, but I’ll cover those in another article.

And guys, if you still believe that a social dancer can teach these turns successfully to a brand new beginner in the middle of a freestyle dance…good luck with that!