Becoming Pro: The Perfect Attitude for Learning Cuban Salsa

I am often surprised when I meet people who tell me that they have been dancing for many years — and it simply doesn’t show.

Actually, in most cases it’s NOT a matter of talent.

Sure, if you start dancing at age 50, you will have to work a lot harder than a 20-year-old to “get into the groove”. (Especially if you don’t have a sports-background.)

But if you’re a normally fit person, you should be able to make progress — IF you only adopt the right attitude.

I’m not suggesting that “Becoming Pro” is the only good reason to dance salsa. In fact, fun should always come first.

But if you’re somebody for whom fun also means becoming better, and getting positive feedback from other people, read on!

So what is the perfect attitude for learning Cuban salsa fast?

It’s skill like any other. The more time you put in, the more you will improve. 

Every hour you spend in front of the mirror will improve your dancing. Every minute you remember moving your shoulders while you ride the bus to work (even if it’s barely visible), makes a difference. Every video you watch attentively, and every time you watch a good dancer, is a chance to learn. Every time you think about dancing, picture moves in your head, or visualize what you’ve learned in class before going to bed is helpful. 

You see, in the end it comes down to repetition and EXPOSURE (I always tell this to my students.)

Simply being exposed to dance, through a screen, a dance festival, a class, a concert, or ideally living on Cuba will make you a better dancer.

You need to see how people move, what they do to different parts of the salsa music over and over again. Until your European brain cannot longer ignore it.Then, at some point, it simply becomes obvious. Something clicks.

I remember when I started out. I was looking at great dancers, being absolutely flabbergasted at what they did. It looked crazy, it looked awesome. But in my mind, there was no way I could ever do these things!

Can you imagine what it feels like when you suddenly understand EVERYTHING that advanced dancers do? 

Well, this is what happened to me through the magic of exposure. One night out dancing in Havana things just fell into place for me.

Obviously I’m far from being one of the top dancers in the world. And I definitely can’t dance all the moves that advanced dancers do.

But when I look at these Pros now, I’m not confused anymore. I can see EXACTLY what they are doing. 

Imagine how what it would be like if you were like Neo in the Salsa-Matrix.

  • When Pros do crazy partner-work, you can immediately see these moves as variations of things you already know. You recognize the pattern.

As a result, you can literally grab somebody nearby and immediately REPLICATE what you saw. (When I practice with my dance-partner Linda, we can learn any new couples-turns in about 20 minutes just by watching a video.)

  • Any movement you see in Cuban salsa choreographies would make sense immediately.

You know, you just can tell that “Ah, this is a Rumba element right there,” 
or “I know this movement is coming from Son,” or “This definitely was some ballet-trained elegance here.”

  • And because you’ve been practicing different movements, suddenly you understand the new choreo from styling-class within only half an hour.

This WILL happen to you if you start treating dance seriously — guaranteed.
I’m at a point were I will only pay for Cuban folklore classes, ballet or similar, because these highly-technical dances cannot be self-taught.

Anything, salsa-related, however, has become automatic. Because I treated dance as serious business for 3 years. For that to happen, though, you have to put in the time, energy and mental focus.

“But, David, what if I just want to dance for fun?”

Good point. In my humble opinion, the more you dance and the more movement you understand, the more fun salsa becomes! So seize the moment now. 

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