So, what does it take to become a salsa dancer?
People of all types ask that question before taking the first step along the road to learning to dance. We've known barristers, doctors, nurses, shop assistants, web designers, truck drivers, engineers, hairdressers, nail technicians and loads more trades and occupations taking part in salsa dance classes. Most initially fall into 3 categories - some have had formal lessons in other dance styles and are used to dancing with partners, others like do dance in clubs or at family events (maybe after a few drinks) and others have had no experience of dance at all.
The first two groups probably have a slight advantage but anyone can do it - just bring a willingness to learn and, if possible, a slight sense of rhythm.
But, whichever group you fall into the first thing you need to do is RELAX! You are learning to dance, that's all.
Your First Class
Your very first class will be taken at quite a slow pace and as it is something new for most people it will seem like that there is a lot to learn. Don't worry though these first steps will soon become easy with practice. We concentrate initially on the basic footwork and steps which will include both left and right turns. We will also introduce you to the techniques of leading and following - both important aspects of salsa dancing. Then it's a little bit of practice of what we have learned followed by a drink to cool down. Alternatively we run a complete six week beginners salsa course from time to time.
Over the next few weeks you will practice the basic steps learned in the first week. Also in this class we begin to introduce some of the moves that will later help you to dance with a partner for a whole 3 minute song. It sounds daunting but it doesn't take too long to achieve. The beginners salsa class is essentially a collection of about six or seven moves to practice, that's all. Think of these moves as the building blocks for constructing a salsa dance routine.
The second half of the evening is concerned with what we call improvers classes. This is for those who have become more confident with dancing basic cuban salsa and are ready to learn moves that are a little more involving. There are literally hundereds of cuban salsa moves and generally we will try to make this class quite varied by introducing a selection of new moves each month. From time to time we will also revisit earlier moves as it is surprising how quickly we forget..
Rueda or Cuban Wheel
Rueda is a great way to practice Cuban salsa dancing and most weeks we will include least some of this. Rueda is very much like a Latin barn dance - it's danced in couples but as the dance progresses the men advance along to the next lady in the circle by reacting to the calls of the Rueda leader. In theory, all the men advance together in time performing the move that has just been called, but in reality the wheel can descend into chaos as the guys forget what to do. It's all very light hearted though and mistakes are just part of the fun. The good news for the ladies is that they don't need to remember the moves - that's the man's job. Rueda definitely puts a smile on peoples' faces.
Bachata originated in the Dominican Republic and is performed in very close hold to a more melodic beat than salsa. You will hear bachata tunes played at most salsa events and can be a welcome interlude from the sometimes frantic salsa beats. Sweet Salsa hold classes where you can learn this dance - see the current timetable. It can take a bit of time to become comfortable with the closeness but once you have overcome this it is a very rewarding dance.
Merengue is a latin dance that is very similar to salsa and shares a lot of the same arm movements and turn patterns. The difference is that merengue is danced on a very regular 1 - 2 beat that is similar to a 'march'. It is fun because it requires less concentration and if you have ever seen one of our 'merengue muddles' you will realise that it can be a very social dance too.
Kizomba is the new kid on the block and has grown in popularity over the last 4 years or so. If you think Bachata is danced in close hold - you haven't seen anything yet - Kizomba is danced CLOSE! It does divide opinion a little and it seems that you either love it or hate it, with little inbetween. For some it does seem to become an unhealthy all-consuming obsession so beware. Sweet Salsa doesn't provide teaching for this Angolan originated dance but Julia does encourage our dancers to go and try it. Sweet Salsa don't host kizomba events either as we prefer to leave that to those who are more passionate about this dance.
Other Latin Dance Classes
On top of all the above Julia and Steve will include, from time to time, tuition in other latin dances. Usually this is decided on the night between the group that is present. It can be useful to learn other dances such as Cha Cha Cha as you will hear the associated music styles at salsa parties and events that you will attend.
The good news is the it's not all about learning. We also get to practice what we have learned and to socialise with the group. The more experienced students will always help out the new people and are more than happy for the experience to develop their own dancing skills. For those who become a little more confident there are also our salsa party nights at The Canberra Club and other venues.