Salsa – The Best Leaders and Followers(Part I)

This post is dedicated to – What makes the best Leaders (Salseros) and Followers (Salseras) on the social Salsa dance floor…..

Due to the large amount of useful information that I have gathered, this post will have to be split as follows –

  1. Part I –  The 5 different types of Leaders & Followers
  2. Part II – What should Ladies do on the dance floor to get Guys lining up to dance with them?
  3. Part III – What should Guys do on the dance floor to get Women to start asking them to dance?

If you have not figured it out yet, this article is about helping people identify what it takes to become the best dancer that they can possibly be. Part 1 will focus on identifying the 5 different kinds of salsa dancers, while part 2 & 3 will give the best advice possible on how you can become a better dancer. To stay objective, I am not writing my personal opinion in these articles, instead I have and still am carrying out detailed research speaking to some of the Best Salseros and Salseras in the Salsa scene; getting the opinion of Teachers, Advanced Dancers & Performers not only in Cape Town, but in  Johannesburg and from all over the World in countries like Canada, UK & the US just to name a few.

I have already spoken to some of the best salsa dancers in South Africa and I have also received feedback from 3 International Dancers with quite a bit more feedback still coming. This will be an interesting article to say the least, as a matter of fact, some of the responses I have already gotten are so brilliant that I will definitely have to publish them as separate articles in the future.

So Let’s get down to it, what are the 5 different kinds of Leaders and Followers? These categories have been designed based on information gathered for part 2 and 3 of this article. Before I break it down, I would just like to state:

  1. These categories have nothing to do with your skill level. There are beginners, intermediate and advanced dancers that fall into any of the categories listed below.
  2. People can sometimes move from one category to another depending on the song, their mood or even their dance partner.
  3. These are opinions, they are meant to inspire and encourage you & maybe spark some debate. So have fun, laugh and enjoy it as you read it and maybe you will learn from it. Remember life is too short to take everything seriously. 😉

Now, let’s get into it. My Mum always told me, Ladies first – 🙂

The 5 different kind of Salseras :-

The Interpreter – This is the Lady on the dance floor who interprets what the man leads down to a tee. She waits for the lead to indicate what the man wants her to do and then she executes it flawlessly. She is light on her feet and an absolute pleasure to dance with. However, she constantly wants the man to lead and direct her and therefore she does not do well when left to her own devices.

The Dancer – She is just like ‘The Interpreter’ mentioned above but with one main difference; when she dances, she engages the man she is dancing with. She not only smiles and plays off the music, she is capable of both following and being independent. So if the man does ever leave her alone to her own devices, she will shine strong as an independent woman.

The Reactor – This is the type of follower that does not really follow. What she does is maintain an extremely tight frame that enables her to react to the man rather than follows his lead. Reactors therefore require a REALLY strong lead because they are basically being carried around the dance floor. Dancing with reactors feels like you are in a  WWE wrestling match. (It Really does…)

The Predictor – This one is a really tricky one to spot. They could appear to be ‘Interpreters’ or even ‘Dancers’, the only real way to spot them is:

a)      They will normally finish off a move before the man actually executes it, such as when a man does a hand flick or sends her into a Copa.

b)      If they get sent into a move they are unable to accurately predict, they will literally stop the man from executing it instead of just following his lead.

The Maverick – This is the 1 category that if you are in ladies, you need to get out of and quick. Maverick ladies are ladies who do whatever they want to on the dance floor. They do not follow the mans lead. As an example, a man could be dancing with a simple basic step and they would suddenly burst out into a spot turn without being led into it. A man could be trying to execute a normal cross body, and they decide to make it a travel turn instead. A man wants to lead on the dance floor, and Mavericks don’t allow him to do that.

There is however 1 positive thing about Mavericks, there is never a dull moment on the dance floor because you never know what is going to come next.

Alright, Ladies its time to break down the Men!

The 5 different kind of Salseros:-


The Care-taker – This is a Leader who has a firm yet gentle lead and is very clear on the dance floor as to what he wants the lady to do. He takes care of the lady on the dance floor, learns how she moves so he can lead her in a way that she will enjoy and that is easy for her to follow. He takes notice of her skill level and pulls out enough moves to challenge her, yet not push her beyond her limits so that she always looks good on the dance floor.

The Man – The Man is ‘The Care-taker’ with one main difference. He allows the lady to play with the music every now and then and to express herself. He takes care of her, while still allowing her enough space & independence to do her own thing when she wants or needs to.

The Showoff –  This  leader usually has lots of moves and perfect timing. They could easily appear to be ‘Care-takers’ or ‘The Man’.

The only way to spot a show off? They always dance flashy and they do not adjust their lead to suit the lady they are dancing with even if they lady is not at his skill level. For example, if all a lady can do is a single spot turn, the showoff will try and send her into a triple spot turn and everyone will see the lady is not looking nearly as graceful as she should be.  ‘Who knows what he thinks would happen? Maybe he believes in Miracles?

Showoffs dance for themselves and to make themselves look good and unfortunately do not really care about the lady as much as they should. Sometimes they may even execute a move that bumps their partner into another couple (So not cool).

The Wannabe – If you are in this category, get out of it and fast. This type of Leader (if you can even call it that) tries to execute an endless number of complex moves and turn patterns and normally at the expense of lead and timing. They basically want to be a Showoff without the Skill level that is necessary to be in that league. My only advice to you, in the words of a World Class Salsera – ‘Rather lead & execute 6 moves perfectly than do 60 moves terribly.

Mr. Inappropriate – This leader has one main difference from all the others, they tend to put women in compromising positions on the dance floor and their hands may wander and lead the woman from places where they should not.  Remember, when you are dancing Salsa, a woman allows you into her personal space. Additionally as a follower, she is placing her trust in you. Don’t abuse her trust by doing inappropriate things to her on the dance floor. This is NOT COOL! Respect her personal space and respect her.

On the other hand, if the woman you are dancing with is your Girl-friend or someone you are flirting with & she is flirting back with you – well then, who are we to judge? 😉

So now that we have broken down the 5 Categories, LADIES, what can you do on the Dance Floor that will get Salseros lining up to Dance with you?

Well, to get the answer to that question click here for PART II….

About Chilly

Causality - I believe for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cause and Effect. I am the cause - what will be the effect?
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11 Responses to Salsa – The Best Leaders and Followers(Part I)

  1. Amanda says:

    more more more :))

  2. Carmen says:

    Look forward to the next one 😉

  3. Tsheps says:

    WOW!! .couldn’t have put it better myself Chilly!!! can’t wait for the Part 2..

  4. Dan G says:


    Debate debate debate.
    People seem to like categories. (i.e. you’re either in one category or another).

    Maybe it’s because I’m in tech, but I think having labels or tags is a far more descriptive way of qualifying people. (i.e. multiple labels on an individual).

    Don’t get me started on Hard arms, Spaghetti arms and Self supported… hehe.

    Best of luck with your journal.

    …I feel like dancing now.

  5. teddyBear says:

    Great article, you’re right about switching… salsa should be fun for you and your partner at all times. Keep it coming 🙂

  6. Rijk says:

    Very nicely put. I look forward to more. 🙂

  7. Kay-Marie Carlsson says:

    yes please….

  8. kAt says:

    Love it babe! 😉

  9. Nick says:

    I concur your observations in part 1.
    I am off to explore part 2 and 3 now and looking forward to it!

  10. Pingback: Salsa Picao

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