The Complete Guide to:
Salsa from the Start
Volume III

This page shows the complete guide.
For a briefer description with just the sections and topics, click here.




1. Demo of Basic Latin Body Motion

2. Why we need to learn this

3. Right way and wrong way

4. Basic Weight Transfer without stepping

5. Basic Weight Transfer with stepping

6. Timings

1-2 count (Merengue timing)

1-2-3 (Salsa timing)

7. Mechanics of stepping forwards

8. Mechanics of stepping backwards

9. Moving in place, forwards and backwards

With slow music

10. Merengue motion

moving to left

open to left with left foot, close with right foot

moving to right

open to right with right foot, close with left foot

dancing contra-body motion in closed position

11. Salsa basic (forward and back)

Women’s timing

Why you naturally take smaller steps when you are doing contra-body motion

Focus on 2nd (and 6th) step – in place but with feet apart

Men’s timing

12. Landing heel or toe first?

When you step down you can land with both toe and heel flat on the ground at the same, or with the toe first.

If toe first, then heel touches down very soon after.

For women (especially on high heels), toes lands first and heel may never land. (Heels actually land as you start weight transfer for next step.)

This applies more for forward and back basic, rather than in place.

13. Relative timing of hips versus feet

You don’t move hips, then lift and place foot.

Instead you start to transfer your weight. Somewhere in the middle your foot lifts off the ground, and foot touches down as your opposite hip settles (finishes moving.)

If you see hips appearing to follow feet during the forward and back basic, that’s because the hip (weight transfer) is just starting for the next step. At full salsa speed, you don’t ever really stop moving the hips.

14. The larger the step, the smaller the hip motion

For forward and back basic, hip motion is smaller .

However, generally speaking, the woman moves her hips more than the man’s.


1. Intro to using your arms

Same as the arm swing we use naturally when walking

the wrong way is the way Frankenstein walks

arm swing is the same whether you are going forward, in place, backward or wherever

2. Coordinating arms with feet and hips

Men’s starting position:

Weight on Left leg
Left hip out to left side
Left arm forward

Women’s starting position:

Weight on Right leg
Right hip out to left side
Right arm forward

3. Dancing in place facing one another

Arms should “clash” (arms are mirrored)

4. Arms in forward and back Salsa basic

Men’s timing

Women’s timing

Open position (men and women facing each other)

Focus on starting position

Don’t swing your arms too much


1. Intro to Chest Motion

Before adding chest, make sure you can isolate your hip motion

this is really fine and sometimes desired

sometimes for added effect (or for other reasons) you add chest movement (show correct way)

2. Move chest in isolation (without moving hips)

Movement should be lateral (side-to-side)

wrong movement shown

shoulders should stay level

keep opposite shoulder down to help keep shoulders level

3. Coordinating chest with hips and legs

direction of chest matches feet and opposite of hips

4. Starting position

Men’s timing:

Left hand forward
Weight on Left foot
Left foot straight
Left hip out to the Left
Chest to the Right

Woman’s timing:

Right hand forward
Weight on Right foot
Right foot straight
Right hip out to the Right
Chest to the Left

5. Just moving chest and hips (stopping feet) while maintaining beat


1. Can turn side-to-side hip motion into a figure 8:

Make semi-circle on each side

Looks like this:  ∞


1. Intro to turning and contra-body motion

2. Basic Right Turn

you could do full latin motion during every step of the turn

small wind to left and arm motion will help propel you

you might land differently than with normal weight on R foot. You could land:

with weight on right leg. In that case, do the normal weight transfer.
with weight divided evenly between both legs. In that case, do weight transfer to left leg and step back right.
with left hip out. In that case, just step back with right foot on 5, without weight transfer. This is probably most common, because it helps to step your momentum.

3. With partner - matching arms after turns

4. Basic Left Turn


1. Intro to leading and following technique

Why this technique is so important

Leading and following is the “art” of conveying what you want without speaking.

Man pushes on woman’s arms, but the last thing you want to happen is that the woman moves her arms!

Instead you push on woman’s arms in order to move woman’s body.

If arms are loose, all that happens is woman’s arms move.

If arms are tone, so that man’s push (force) makes her body move.

2. Arm Tension

Woman should not walk forwards or backwards just because man does – i.e. don’t follow movement of man.

Exercise: keep feet in place and make woman’s body lean forward and back by pushing and pulling on her arms

wrong way shown (with arms loose)
woman should maintain elbows just in front of her torso

3. Hand Contact

Push and pull surfaces of hands shown and explained close-up

4. It’s all about forces (pulling and pushing)

Woman can close eyes and waits for actually being pulled or pushed

Man provides most of power to make woman move across dance floor

Like woman always be pushed/pulled up a hill


5. Cross Body Lead and forward on 1 instead of back

6. Guys should keep arm tone and limited motion as well as women

7. Exercise to keep arms in front of torso and toned

Exercise: XB lead and reject

Pull woman forward on5
Push woman back on6

8. The “Art” of when arms should be tense versus loose

If arms are super tight, you would never miss a lead, but this doesn’t feel good.

If man’s arms are loose, woman’s arms can (and should be) loose.

Man must give woman some warning to firm up arms

9. Exercise: snap woman back on1

On7 draw hands up and towards man to signal to create arm tone

10. Exercises: Push-Pulls for XB

Basic Push-Pull

push woman back on 1
pull woman forward on 2
push woman back on 3
then regular XB on 5,6,7

Extended Push-Pull:

Push on 1
Pull on 2
Push on 3
Pull on 5
Push on 6
Pull on 7
Then can do Basic Push-Pull

Push-Pulls from closed position

on 1: push woman back with left arm
on 2: pull forward with man’s right arm around her back
on 3: push woman back with left arm
on 5: pull her forward for regular XB

Don’t push-pull too hard

eventually push-pulls feel subtle


1. The Three Dimensions of Leading and Following

First Dimension: Forward and Back

Second Dimension: Rotation

Third Dimesion: Up and Down

2. Ladies – never lift your elbow up by yourself

3. Second Dimension: Rotation Explained in Detail

If arms are loose, man cannot power woman through turn

Woman just pivot feet and have tone in arms and man gets woman to pivot and turn

Do not let arm extend out or close in to body. Instead keep arm in limited range in front of body.

4. Swivel chair used to demonstrate rotation tension dimension

5. Applying tone to making the woman spin

Exercise: Rotation

releasing either arm & in either direction
released turn to L with all hands
released turn to R with all hands
released turn to L and R with L-R hands
released turn to L and R with R-L hands

6. Move: “Rock & Release”

Rock & Release

WRT switching to R-R hands on7
Guy backs breaks and moves to left of woman and switch to L-R hands on3
Woman does traveling 1.5 WRT on 5, 6, 7 with power (impulse) from man with woman’s arm tension

Man & woman end up switching positions

7. Released XB:WLT

Arm tension is critical for this move


1. Basic idea

Woman should always have some pressure on the guy’s right palm when in closed position

Woman’s chest should be square with man’s chest

If woman’s chest angle is too open, man’s fingers dig into her back
If woman’s chest angle is too closed, no good either.

Then man & woman can move very effectively together clockwise and counter-clockwise

2. Close up of chest angle

3. Connection to move all around the dance floor

4. Woman constantly closing chest angle in during moving counter-clockwise together

5. Applied to XB

Woman should not walk across on their own

Instead focus on keeping pressure on man’s palm and let man bring you across

Try to fake out woman

You don’t need man’s left holding onto woman’s right hand for XB

“Cross Body Lead Fake Out” move

Show as exercise with music
It’s very important to be able to follow this “fake out” move correctly
Don’t have your weight/energy forward. Instead, keep your weight back, and let man lead you across.

6. Applied to XB:WLT right into another XB


1. Basic ideas

Key concept and separates the very good dancers from mediocre dancers

Will enhance woman’s ability to follow (and man’s ability to lead)

Article about this topic at:

Example: very useful for getting woman to step forward on1 after XB

The earlier the man leads the more time the woman has to respond to the lead

But, more important, the later the woman steps the more time she has to respond to the lead

2. Amount of delay is a small fraction of a beat


1. Demo of Improvising

2. Intro to Improvising

These exercises will help you with:

1. leading & following connection
2. staying with the music and with your partner
3. how to invent your own moves

Forget about all the timing of moves you have already learned, and instead turn at any time

Moving around anywhere by yourself

3. Improvising Partner Work

Turn woman any way

to left or to right
can turn her fast or slow
using any hand combination

Simultaneous turns

Woman walks around man

clockwise usually
can also move around together

4. Man turning and all the possibilities

Hand combinations:

1. L-R
2 .R-L
3. L-L
4. R-R
5. L-R, R-L (non-crossed hands)
6. R-R, L-L (crossed hands, right hands on top)
7. L-L, R-R (crossed hands, left hands on top)

When turning:

Hands go over head
Can switch hands behind back as you turn
Can duck under hands
Can do released turns (not in video)

5. Practice Improvising


1. Woman should learn to stay on beat to matter what

Woman might get off-beat because she feels a strange lead

Woman might get off-beat because she gets lightly bumped

2. Ways to try to get woman off the beat

Shake woman

Push and pull her back and forth

Women: focus on “Right, step, step, Left, step, step” no matter how women are lead

If woman stays on beat no matter what, it allows man to experiment to make up new moves

3. Demo of Improvising and trying to get the woman off beat



Demo # 1