Becoming a Salsero

Learning to dance Salsa !

About me

I remember the first time I saw a salsa performance. The dance was mesmerizing and I decided that becoming a Salsero would be my new goal.

Just getting started took a lot longer than planned but I still haven't regretted a single moment of learning to dance salsa. Why don't you join me and become a salsero / salsera as well?.

About this site

This is where I share my experiences and thoughts on dancing salsa.

If you have any questions or remarks please leave a comment or send an email to becomingasalsero@gmail.com.

Additional ways to contact me can be found on my contact page.

Salsa twittering

As a former IT person I guess I had to give in some time so as of now I'm twittering.

Not sure exactly how I will use twitter but I felt it was worth giving it a try so as of now you can keep track of the things I'm up just by following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/becomingasalser.

An empty dance floor

It is Saturday night and I walk into the party.

It's still early, just 9.40PM. So far only about 10 -20 people have arrived. They seem to be mainly followers. As was to be expected, the dance floor is empty.

I make my way around the room saying hello to the people I know. Given the fact that so few people are there this normally shouldn't take much time. However this party is organized by our dance school as they always do at the end of a course. Because of that there are a lot of familiar faces and it takes me about 15 minutes to make my round.

At the end of those 15 minutes the dance floor is still empty.

All the way in the back there are 3 other leads that I know well. They are just sitting there, looking at the empty dance floor.

1 Of the other leads is slightly more experienced than I am. 1, slightly less experienced the last one has been dancing a fair longer than I have. As they seem to have been there for a while I can´t figure out why they are not dancing yet. In the end I decide that the easiest way to find out is to go ahead and ask.

They all tell me that nobody is dancing yet and they are waiting for it to become a bit busier on the floor.

This is where I get lost. These are the most experienced leads here at the moment and they are waiting for other people to start dancing first. But, if the more experienced leads don't open the floor because they are too intimidated then how can we possibly expect anybody that is less experienced to be the first to dance?

I get confused and decide that a salsa party without people dancing just isn´t right so I walk over to one of the girls and ask her to dance.

She has been dancing for a while now now so I hope she won't be too self concious but as I come closer I can tell that she doesn´t feel completely comfortable. She´s a great sport though and she accepts even though it is clear that she doesn't like the idea of being the first one on the floor.

That is definately something I can relate to. All eyes are on us now and we are not great dancers. Slightly bigger fish in a small pond at best.

We begin to dance and start real slowly. Single turn, cbl, basic. Rinse and repeat.

After a while we start to relax and begin to enjoy the music and the dance. Slowly we incorporate more moves and after a while I have completely forgotten that everybody is watching us.

I laugh of my mistakes and just have a good time. So does she. Laugh my mistakes off that is. She's doing brilliantly. Now that the initial fear has worn off we are just enjoying the dance and forget about everything else. At least, that's what I do.

After a while the song ends and I suddenly realze we are no longer alone on the floor. Some other couples have started dancing as well.

Mission accomplished, this party is open for business!

I thank my partner and I'm off to say hello to some friends that have just arrived.

We talk a bit about the situation (experienced leads being to intimidated by an empty floor) and they start laughing. When I ask why they point to the floor and saying 'looks like you have to do it again'.

As I turn around I notice that the dance floor is empty again.

By now my initial fear is gone and I ask one of the newly arrived girls to dance with me. This time the others are quicker to respond. It only takes about 30 seconds for the next couple to get up and start dancing as well. Before we're halfway through the song there are about 10 couples on the floor. Things are looking up. It seems like the party will finaly get going after all.

When the dance ends I walk over to welcome some other friends that just came in. As I leave the dance floor I see the other couples leaving as well but I don't think anything off it. After all, enough people have been dancing now so someone else is bound to start dancing now, right?

Wrong! Nobody goes near the dance floor. They all sit on the site, looking at each other and the empty floor.

I decide to wait for the song to end. Perhaps some people just need to catch their breath for a second before they continu dancing. They might just start again in the middle of the song. And surely the more experienced leaders will start dancing now that some of their favourite follows have arrived . . .

Unfortunately once again, nothing happens.

The next song comes on while I still stand off to the side, wondering what is going to happen. And indeed you´re right, nothing happens. The floor stays empty

By now I´m completely lost. I have danced and my fear has gone away. The other more experienced leads have danced so surely they realize there´s nothing to be afraid off. Why do they stay on the side=

Halfway through the song I decide to try once more.
I ask one of my favourite follows and as soon as we move towards the floor another couple gets up and comes to the floor as well.

Shortly after that more people join in and, at last, the party has started.

This was the last time that the floor had been empty that night. It would not be empty again until the end of the party.

Still, to get back to the original question, if more experienced dancers won't open the floor, how can we expect beginners to start dancing?

Of course I realize that a lot of them are self concious. So am I. When they tell me it is intimidating to be the first one out there I can relate. I too was scared when I started that first dance.

But after that things got better and I started to think. What am I really afraid off? That somebody will laugh at me? I don't think that has ever happened.

That I am not a good enough dancer perhaps? But not good enough compared to who? After all, if I am the only one on the dance floor then by default I will be the best dancer on the floor :-)

There really is not a a reason to be scared.

Obviously I did not realize that yet when I started that first dance. It took some effort to get over that knot in my stomach and to go out there. The only reason I started to dance was a sense of guilt.

Because most classes are short on men I get asked to help out at a lot. When somebody asks me how I learned to dance so well (it's relatively easy to impress beginners ;-) ) I always stress the importance of social dancing.

And because I always say how important social dancing is I felt obliged to go out and dance. I felt that I owed it to them to get on the floor and dance. To show them that they have nothing to be afraid off, even if I was scared myself at that time.

Looking back though it was the best thing that happened in a while. As soon as I started to have fun it made me realize that dancing is not scary, it´s fun!

So what if I was the first to get up and dance? Sure, I made mistakes. But at least I was out there and I was dancing and having fun. That was after all the main reason that I came to the party.

So why didn't any the other leads do the same? Especially after people had already been dancing. I honestly don´t know and haven´t had a chance to talk to them about it yet.

All I can think of is that the fear was too great for them to overcome. But if that is true than how can we honestly tell beginners that they really should go social dancing? That it a wonderful way to improve their dancing and that they'll improve much faster. How can we say any of that if we with more experience don´t set the example?

Personally I know this won´t happen again. I won't be intimidated by an empty floor scare me anymore. After all, I now know that it's my chance to be the best dancer on the floor so I'm going to get out there and enjoy that ;-)

If you happen to know of a way for me to help others get over their fear please feel free to share it.

Enjoy your dancing!

A Gozar (To Enjoy) : An Introduction to Salsa Dancing

A Gozar is a video about salsa dancing.
It was made by Kate Thomas to explain why she likes to dance salsa so much and what exactly she likes about it.

Even though the video has been published on several sites since it was released I think that it has not yet gotten the exposure it deserves.

As you can probably tell, I think that it is a great video. And even though I have seen it several times now I still love it.

As a nice bonus (for me anyway) the video also shows pieces from an interview with one of my favourite salsa bloggers, Don Baarns (The Unlikely Salsero). Just as he does in his blog, he clearly shows his passion for the dance in the interview as well.



And, in case you think 9 minutes is too long (personally, I think it could have been much longer) there is also a condensed version that clocks in at under 5 minutes.

If you ever tried to explain why you like to dance so much but have failed, try showing this video to those people instead. Who knows, they may even join you next time you go to the club.

correcting your partners mistakes

A thread on Salsa Forums got me thinking about this situation. You're out dancing salsa and your partner makes a mistake. What do you do?

It seems that some people correct their partner's 'mistakes' or will try to explain moves while dancing. Others just give positive feedback and don't mention the mistakes at all. There is also a third group that will not say anything. At least not while they are dancing. They will thank their partner after the dance but will not point out anything positive or negative.

I belong to the second group. Personally I find that positive feedback often works much better than negative feedback. Not saying anything is just beyond me. If a girl surprises me in some way I can't hide the surprise and 'wow' will be said before I realize it. If I try to hide my surprise she'll still see a really big grin on my face so I might as well express it.

Another reason I believe in positive feedback rather than correction is that less experienced dancers (and by that I mean anybody with less experience than you have) are often nervous when they get out on the floor. To me it seems that most of their mistakes come from their nervousness rather than from anything else.

Obviously at that point in time you can choose to correct somebody but that most likely thta will only result in making the person more nervous and self concious. That will lead to more mistakes again and before you know it you're caught in an endless downward spiral.

Using positive feedback instead will make them relax a bit more which in turn improves the quality of the dance a lot and will make it a lot more fun for both partners. And that to me is what social dancing is about. Having a good time.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely use social dancing to improve. I practise what I have learned or try what I have seen (depending on my partner) but not to the point that it goes at the expense of having a good time.

Besides, and I'll admit that I'm relatively inexperienced and my point of view might therefor be different from a lot of experienced dancers but if my partner isn't nervous it is usually because of 1 or 2 things that she makes a mistake.

1) I didn't lead the move properly
2) I lead a move that was above my partners level.

Either way, it will not be her fault that she can't follow the move. It's mine. And if it's my fault then what gives me the right to correct her?

Sure, if I lead a move that is above her level I could explain it to her but I'm not her dance instructor so unless she explicitly asks me to, it's not my task and I should just let her enjoy the rest of the dance.

How do you handle situations like this on the dance floor?

Are you too old to be dancing salsa?

I still regularly hear people say 'I would love to have learned to dance salsa but I'm too old'.

At that time I usually try to explain that age is irrelevant. After all, I didn't really start dancing until about a year ago and most people that bring up the 'too old' argument are about the same age I am.

Often though they are so stuck in their believes that it doesn't matter what I say. They'll reply with things like 'but you used to do martial arts' (never mind that I stopped doing that more than 10 years ago) and 'but you already learned to dance as a kid (never mind that I stopped ballroom dancing when I was just in my teens).

Going forward though I won't say a thing anymore. Instead I'll just send them this clip:



After watching that, who could possibly say 'but I'm too old'?

5th Croatian Salsa Festival

As the dates for the 5th Croatian Salsa Festival have been set (25 - 28 June, with 2 pre-festival days) this is as good a time as any to reminisce and share some of my experiences from last year.

The festival is held in Rovinj, a lovely, tranquil village in Croatia. You can stroll around the quiet streets or along the seaside and feel like you've been transported to another place and another time. A more peaceful time. A time without all the stress that we so often feel these days.

If you have never been to Rovinj then this slide show should give you an impression of what the town looks like. If you have been there before then the pictures will most likely bring back some wonderful memories of this lovely town.




As you can see, it's a lovely, quiet town.

A place where time seems to have stopped and life is more simple, more relaxed... calm. The kind of place you would try to find you wanted to get away from the hectic life that most of us live these days. A place of such tranquility that you will forget about everything that may trouble you. A place where you can just relax until time seems to have stopped for you as well.

Rovinj is just that kind of place... most of the time.

But once a year, when it is time for the annual Croatian salsa festival, this sleepy town wakes up and roars.

It shakes of it's sleepiness and instead of the calm, peaceful town something else arises. For a couple of days the town transforms into a place so incredibly vibrant you will find it hard to believe that you are still in the same town .

It transforms from a cozy village, where lazy tourists calmly stroll around the streets and relax on beaches, into a vibrant town where you dance in the streets.

It becomes a place where swimming pools turn into dance floors and sleepy tourists are replaced by energetic, colourful salseros and salseras from all continents.

A town where the market square takes on a new role as it changes into a huge open air dance hall with some of the most amazing shows and musical performances ever witnessed.

A town so full of life that you feel it's newfound heartbeat pulsate, so full of energy that it keeps you going day and night.

A place where you can hear the sound of the clave and can feel the beat of the conga everywhere you go.

A place were both novice and expert salsa dancers fit right in and have an amazing time side by side.

A place that forges friendships that will last a lifetime and creates memories that last forever.

A place that words just can't describe.

But as a picture is worth a thousand words . . . here are some of them:




Unfortunately I can't seem to find any footage from 2008 but here are the highlights from 07:

Highlights Croatian Salsa Festival 2007




Last year I attended the salsa festival in Croatia for the first time but I can already say that it was the first time of many. This year I'll be there from the 22nd (I'm sure I'll need the extra night to get some rest before it all starts) right through the end of the festival. If you are there as well, come over and say hi!

New layout

As you may have noticed, I have changed the layout of this blog.

The old layout served me for a while but it turned out that it wasn't quite what I was looking for as it didn't meet all my needs/wants.

I'm still experimenting with this one (photos at the bottom will be replaced soon) but so far I like the look and feel as well of the options of the new template better.

Don't be afraid to give your opinion regardless of whether you agree or disagree.

How to become a good lead

I'm still getting used to my life back in the Netherlands which is one of the reasons my updates are still very infrequent at the moment.

The other reason is that I just don't have a lot of time at the moment.I've started in telecom, am helping out a friend with a flower shop a couple of days a week and aside from that there is a severe shortage of men dancing salsa so I help balance the number of men vs women in class most nights of the week. However, sometimes I manage to find some free time like this morning which allows me to browse the net and write updates.

While I was browsing youtube earlier today I came across a video in which William Carpenter gives some tips on leading and following.



As you can see William states how important it is for the leader to understand what their partner is supposed to do, to know exactly how much time it takes to do it, what's necessary for it to happen and to execute it.


While I watched the clip I realized that a lot of this has applied to me at one point or another. Or rather, just the opposite. Not knowing all of that.

When I began dancing I had no idea what my partner was really supposed to do. I was happy if I knew what I was supposed to do. Ok,I did know that my partner was supposed to turn but when or how... some time during count 5 and 7 was probably the best answer I could give.

Once I had finally figured out when things were supposed to happen my leading improved a bit. I still had no idea though how long it took to do some moves. In fact I would have probably never 'really' found out if I had not gotten bored in class one day.

As most classes are short on men I often get asked to come to a class so there are (closer to) enough men. This means I do a lot of beginner classes as well. One day when the ladies were struggling with the steps they had to do I was watching them and I decided to join them.

I found myself stepping along with them, doing a move I had seen a hundreds of times before. Being confident and familiar with the steps it is obvious that I failed.

Or rather, I struggled. We were doing a move that I had seen a lot of times already and one that I had heard being explained a fair number of times as well. It wasn't even a complicated move (cross body lead turn if I remember correctly) but I still struggled to make it through. I had no idea how much time each of the steps would take. As I did have the advantage that I had seen the move a lot of times already the second try went a lot smoother already. Soon after that I picked it up.

This experience also changed the way I lead the move. I had gotten a much better idea of how the lead should be and as it turned out, I had always started turning the lady just a little bit too soon which affected her balance. Just a tiny correction made for a great improvement. It had given me an idea of what was needed for it to happen.

Taking the advice in this video to heart (even before I had seen it) has improved my lead according to the feedback I have gotten. Perhaps it can do the same for you.

And I realize that there is more to being a good leader than just knowing how to lead a move properly but more about that in another post.