The Summary Guide to:
Salsa from the Start
Volume I

This page shows the sections and topics only.
For the complete guide, with a fuller description of the material, click here.




1. Basic Timing of Salsa

Music is based on 8 count

Stepping is on 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

2. Two basic rules of salsa

First rule of Salsa Dancing:  Always alternate your feet

Second rule of Salsa Dancing:  Always take three steps in a row, and then pause one.

3. Stepping anywhere

Stepping in place

Walking anywhere

4. Other ways of counting

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

"L, step, step, R, step, step"

"L ... R"

5. Matching your partner’s feet

Third rule of salsa dancing:  Always match your partner’s feet

Men start with L foot, and so women with R foot

Dancing together matching feet and keeping timing

6. How to count

Men count, “1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7”

Women count may not count with numbers, but instead “R, step, step, L, step, step”

7. Listening to the music

clapping  1,2,3,5,6,7

dancing demo staying on beat

8. Learning to hear the beats

clap just the tempo (speed of the music) (all eight 8 counts)

picking out the first count of each measure (“1” or “5”)

dancing demo using just four counts instead of eight

distinguishing the “1” from “5” (picking out the true “1”)

9. Keeping your feet with the music no matter what

Turning around in place (both ways)

Doing very simple moves and finishing with feet matched

What to do if one person gets off beat – how to get back on beat

It is the leader’s job to find the beat in the music. And it is the follower’s job to match the step of the leader.
Ultimately, both the leader and the follower should always maintain their feet in sync with the music. But it is common practice for the woman to adjust to the man’s beat regardless of who may accidentally get off beat.

10. How to hold your partner

Open position

Keep tone in arms

Closed position

Three points of contact
1. Man’s right arm around woman’s back (around her L shoulder blade)
2. Woman’s left hand resting on man’s right shoulder
3. Man’s right forearm on woman’s left upper arm
Close-up of closed position
Foot position (man slightly offset to left) so that you can dance closer


1. Demo of “Mambo Basic” and Intro to Basic Steps

2. Forward and Back Basic (“Mambo Basic”)

3. Men’s step

Forward, In place, Return (1,2,3)

Back, In place, Return (5,6,7)

Close-up of footwork

Demo to music

4. Women’s step

Just swap two measures from man’s part:

Back, In place, Return (1,2,3)
Forward, In place, Return (5,6,7)

5. How footwork fits together

6. Neutral Position

Close-up of woman’s footwork (side angle)

Instead of feet always coming together, have the right foot about a half foot length in front of left foot (for man and woman)

this is position at start, and on every 3 and 7 count

Close-up of man and woman doing basic (side-angle)

Both man and woman have right foot in front of left for start, etc.
Also, man’s feet should be offset a little bit to the left so you can dance closer

7. Small steps are KEY

looks bad

can step on people

too hard to keep up with fast music

step with always a little bit of overlap

8. Demos of Basic Step with Music

Woman step only (side-angle)

Men and Woman together (side-angle)

Stay in your own space
Don’t take large steps


1. Intro to right turn (with Demo)

2. Footwork for right turn

turn split into two halfs

one complete turn

3. Close up of footwork and some more details

underturn – land left foot behind right foot

turning on the spot

4. Close up Demo with Music

5. Timing in partner dancing

You turn when you step forward with your left foot. So:

Men turn on 1,2,3
Women turn on 5,6,7

6. Demo of timing for men and women turning from the basic


1. Intro to leading

2. Variation #1: L-R from open position

Timing of lead

Arm and hand connection and technique

3. Variation #2: R-L from open position

Timing of lead

Arm and hand connection and technique

4. Variation #3: from closed position

Timing of lead

Arm and hand connection and technique

5. More technique

Woman’s free arm should not hang down

Be able to grab hands without looking

Exercise # 1

Without looking, do the following:



1. Variation #1: R-L under hands

maybe have to duck

2. Variation #2: L-R, switching hands behind back to R-R

adjust hands during 5,6,7, or:

switching again back to L-R during on 5,6,7

3. Variation #3: R-L, switching hand behind back twice

switching to L-R (on1) and back to R-R (on3)

Combo # 1



MRT passing under R-L

Combo # 2



MRT switching hands behind back and then switching back to L-R

Combo # 3



MRT switching twice and immediate R-L:WRT


1. Intro to XB (with Basic Demo)

Called “Cross Body Lead” because the woman walks across man’s body

This move swaps positions of man and woman

2. Overview of footwork

3. Man’s footwork in detail

1 – forward

2 – step to the right

3 – open up to the left

5 – in place

6 – in place pointing in ending direction

7 – back to basic position

4. Woman’s footwork

1 – regular basic step of 1

2 – regular basic step of 2

3 – regular basic step of 3

5 – forward (just very slightly further than regular basic step of 5

6 – forward and about ¼ to the left

7 – step back finishing ½ turn to the left

5. How footwork fits together

6. How to lead it and follow it (seven minutes long – lots of important technique here)

Men should keep their left arm out so that woman doesn’t get pulled toward you (during 2 and 3)

Make sure that man steps to right on2

Line out from man’s right foot should only be crossed by woman on5

If from closed position, woman back should maintain contact with man’s right palm on3

Just before on5, give woman pretty strong tug to lead her forward

Not too light and not too strong
But almost all people initially don’t lead this move strongly enough

Like being helped up out of a chair – woman’s tone in arm

Lead will pull man a little bit in opposite direction

7. Variations

Variation #1: From closed to closed position

Variation #2: From closed to open position

Variation #3: From open to open

8. Different man’s footwork depending what position you finish in

Going into CLOSED position

Going into OPEN position

First shown just as close-up of man’s footwork

Then shown man and woman together

9. Cross Body for woman is just like walking with turning around

Women should never launch hips or feet in front of their bodies. Instead they should keep underneath their body when walking across.

Combo # 4

XB closed to open position


Into closed position & XB

Combo # 5

XB closed position to open with WL sliding down MRforearm

R-L:MRT & pick up L-R on7



1. Intro to hand switches – why we do hand switches

2. Variations:

Variation #1: L-R:WRT and switch to R-R on7

Variation #2: R-R:WRT and switch to L-R on7

Variation #3: switches on3 and then do WRT

3. Don’t squeeze down on woman’s hand

4. Variation #4: with R-R pick up L-L below on3 and WRT

Combo # 6

XB (closed to open)

L-R:WRT switching to R-R on7


Pick up L-L below on3 & WRT


double female head comb & basic


1. Basic Demo

2. How to do woman head combs

3. Timing of woman head combs

Woman head comb on1, catch on3

Woman head comb on5, catch on7

4. Male head combs

Man head comb on1, catch on3

Man head comb on5, catch on7

5. Woman must let man lead and not anticipate head combs

6. Combining head combs with WRT

R-R,L-L:WRT and then comb woman on1, catch on3 and repeat

On 5,6,7 you do WRT to substitute a woman’s head comb
How to distinguish leads between two moves

Exercise # 2

R-R,L-L:WRT to get into move

Woman head comb (1,2,3), and either:

WRT (5,6,7)
woman head comb (5,6,7)

repeat above move

7. Mix and match head combs

Start of how to improvise

8. Man head comb to get back into closed position

R-R,L-L:WRT and male head comb and into closed position

Very important

9. Man head comb and end sequence with XB

L-L man head comb into XB

Woman modifies third step to keep contact with man’s right palm

Combo # 7

Switch to R-R on3 & WRT

R-R Mhead comb on1, pick up L-L on3, & WRT

L-L Mhead comb on1 and XB

Combo # 8

1. Closed position XB into open R-R position

2. pick up L-L below on3 & WRT

3. XB

4. L-L head comb & XB

5. R-R head comb & XB

6. L-L head comb & XB

7. simul man & woman head comb & basic


1. Basic Demo

2. Basic footwork and timing for men & women

3. How footwork fits together when dancing together

4. Leading Woman Left Turns

Variation #1: lead with R-L releasing

Variation #2: lead with R-L releasing and L-R following over head

5. Male Left Turns

Variation #1: L-R over head

Variation #2: L-R switch to R-R (on3) & to L-R (on5) behind back

Variation #3: L-L,R-R:MLT with L-L going over Mhead on3 and R-R going over Mhead on5

Combo # 9


MLT with hands going over head

Combo # 10



MLT with hands switching twice


Combo # 11

1. XB closed to closed

2. XB closed to open L-R


4. MRT

5. L-R,R-L:WLT

6. Switch to R-R on3 (with smooth arm loop) & WRT

7. Head comb / basic

8. Head comb / head comb

9. MLT with all hands over Mhead

10. XB

11. XB double man & woman head comb & XB



Demo # 1

Demo # 2

Demo # 3

Demo # 4