Salsa – The Best Leaders and Followers(Part III)

Part III

*Hi, if you are reading this article and you have not already read Part 1 (click here) or Part II (click here) go and read it & then come back. *

Ok Guys, we all know that Men like to be confident and think of themselves as the s**t on the dance floor. After speaking to a lot of Salsera’s, I think most Men need to seriously re-think exactly what it is that Women want on the dance floor because trust me, just like everything else in life, Men don’t know what Women want (Another article I will be exploring in the future).

So what will get women to start walking up to you and asking you to dance? Before I answer that question, just know that MOST Women will never, EVER ask you to dance regardless of how good you are because they believe its the mans Job (Sometimes you gotta wonder why they fought so hard for equal rights), but for the few that are confident enough to ask (and to make sure that the ones who aren’t never say No when you ask them to dance), Women just like Men are looking for …… Connection.

Connection for women and connection for Men mean 2 totally different things. So let’s break down what Connection Women are looking for and therefore what will help you improve your connection….


Contrary to what Men think, almost all Salsera’s I spoke to talked about Having Fun as the most important thing to make them want to dance with a Man again. It was not his Lead and not the amount of moves in his arsenal (which by the way is what most men think it is). Lead and Moves are still important, however these Salseras said they would rather dance with a man with limited moves who was having fun than dance with a man with lots of moves who was not enjoying himself.

So Gents, how can you show your partner you having fun on the dance floor? Let’s identify a few key factors…..

DANCE WITH HER – What do I mean? Well when most guys ask a girl to dance, even when she says yes, they end up dancing by themselves with the woman in their arms. They forget that dance is a language of communication. So for the few minutes you dance together, make her feel like the centre of the universe. Forget about how many moves you can throw at her or how many people are watching, it’s a dance between two people who are sharing a beautiful experience together.

EYE CONTACT – Staring at her boobs is a No-No. Staring at other women on the dance floor is a No-No. Staring into space – also a No-No. When you are dancing with a woman, dance with HER and maintain some eye contact. However;

  • Don’t gaze deeply into her eyes – It comes across as predatorial.
  • Staring at her the entire time without blinking comes across as sort of serial killer.
  • Too little eye contact however comes across as disinterested.

You need to find the balance. Make eye contact every now and then and then use the rest of the time for ‘Floor craft’( Watching the floor and noticing where other couples are and how they are moving to make sure you do not send her into them or worse, into a table or wall).

MAKE HER FEEL SAFE – Don’t be creepy and respect her space. Now, how close is too close? Dancing is in essence a sensual activity, but everyone has their limits, and crossing them can have negative consequences. Just so you know, women are aware of the trick where your hand on their back keeps getting lower, and lower…and they don’t like it. Pay attention to the lady’s feedback. If her arm is around you on your shoulder blade, it’s a good sign. If, however, her left hand has wandered to the FRONT of your shoulder, and she is slightly pushing you away, you are too close.

HYGIENE – If you sweat a lot, carry a towel and an extra t-shirt or even 2 or even 3. If for some reason you do not have an extra t-shirt or towel on-hand, then make sure you take a break in-between dances to allow your body to cool down. Also, have some Roll-on and deodorant handy. Some women do not mind sweat, but bad BO bothers everyone (even the men next to you). On that note, breath mints are also useful. Remember, you are entering a woman’s personal space. You wanna smell good. As to why this point is listed under having fun? Well, it’s kind of hard to have fun when you are pressed up against someone drenched in sweat with bad Body Odour or Breath; don’t you agree?

SOLID LEAD (Gentle but Clear)

TECHNIQUE – Think of this as learning to drive a car. Nothing beats experience and you have got to pay your dues and learn (Sorry guys, no shortcuts). The more your drive the better you get, same on the dance floor.

Its also important to note, that some things are just more difficult to learn than others. Reversing is more difficult than driving straight forward; The same principle applies to moves on the dance floor. Certain moves will be more difficult to execute than others. This is how technique fits in. You have to know what level of a dancer you are and perform moves you can perfectly lead and execute. If you want to practice new moves, that is cool, but experiment with Salseras who you know well and not Salseras that you have met for the first time. People you know won’t mind and will be more forgiving if you mess up. You want to always put your best foot forward when dancing with someone new.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY – Rather do the 6 moves you know really well than the 26 you just learned yesterday and haven’t perfected yet. However, to be fair you should throw in a couple of new moves you’re trying out, but you want to ensure the lead is solid so the lady is comfortable and relaxed. That means being sensitive and more importantly acknowledging what you can and cannot smoothly lead.

LEARN HOW SHE MOVES – Driving any car follows the same driving principles, however, you do not drive every-car exactly the same. A manual-steering car requires more effort than a power steering one. The point? Even though technique remains the same, every woman is different and thus requires a different lead. Therefore, continuously learn how she moves as you dance with her and adjust your lead accordingly.

DON’T OVER THINK – Do what you are comfortable with – You have to be confident with your lead. Make it look & feel effortless. Looking at the floor remembering moves is only ‘Cute’ if you are a beginner.

KNOW HER LEVEL – Identify her dance level and push her slightly beyond it (everyone loves a challenge). What you don’t want to do is throw combo after combo and make her feel bad about herself because she cant keep up with you and is stumbling all over the dance-floor. Tailor your arsenal to her level especially when dancing with beginners to intermediate dancers. If however, she is more advanced than you? Well then go all out and hold nothing back. 😉

What is important to note is that all Advanced Salseros have their own test to identify a Salsera’s level the very 1st time they dance with her. I personally have a 6 step process that I will share with you today for those of you that don’t have one. Each one of these tests a different aspect of the woman’s skills. Here it is:
1. Basic Step – Can she keep timing? Does she follow? How firm does my lead have to be?
2. Cross Body – Can she follow my lead? Does she know the step?
3. Right spot Turn – Can she do a spot turn? Did she try and go left (a rookie mistake)?
4. Comb – Tests her hands reciprocation? Did she try to turn as I sent her hand over her head?
5. Left Travel Turn (Left pivot turn)- Tests her balance, skill & ability to get back on the 1.
6. Double Spot turn into a hammerlock – simultaneously tests her hand and feet co-ordination.

If she passes all 6 steps, then that usually means I have an intermediate to advanced dancer on my hands. If she is unable to follow at any point or misinterprets my lead, then I recognise her level at that point and will dance at that level.

SURPRISE – Have a nice, challenging move on hand & learn to execute it PERFECTLY. Throw it in when you dancing with a lady to spice things up, keeping an element of mystery and the unexpected in the dance. Consider it the Midas touch 😉

KEEP TRICKS FOR PERFORMANCES- Surprise having been said, remember Dancing with the stars is a show on TV and not something to be done on a social dance-floor, especially when dancing with someone you do not know extremely well. So keep the tricks and stuff to a minimum.


Ok, Musicality has lots of meanings. I personally think its a combination of 3 things which I have listed according to importance. START WITH 1 AND WORK YOUR WAY TO 3!

1. Dance on the right beat (55%). You are either dancing on 1 or on 2. You cant just dance to some imaginary beat. Salsa dance is based on moving to the rhythm. Anything else, isn’t Salsa.

2. Listen to the song (25%). Is it Romantica (soft) or Dura (hard) or classic Salsa? Don’t just execute endless turn patterns irrespective of the music. Make sure your dance style fits the music. Understand the idea of flow and using both exertion and calmness (Ladies need a rest sometimes – so pull her in or let her go) during the song so that it does not feel like an aerobic exercise.

3. Interpret the music and play with it (20%). Feel the music with your body and hit those musical accents and feel the changes in the song and use these changes in your choreography to express it. Hitting a break in the song with a perfectly timed dip or move is magic and will do wonders for you.

These are the things that came up, but were not as important to every single Salsera. However, these are definitely things you should incorporate and are much easier to fix.

Don’t take No personally – If she says No when you ask her to dance, don’t take it personally. She could be genuinely tired. Give her sometime and space and then ask her to dance later on in the evening.

Don’t Teach on the Dance floor – Do not start correcting a lady or start teaching her how to dance or do a step on the dance floor. You know what, don’t do it after the dance either unless you know each other personally or she respects your opinion as a more advanced dancer. Just so you know – using a dance as your chance to hit on a lady and try and get her number – NOT COOL! Do that after the dance 😉 (LOL!)

Get to know each otherAFTER the dance, ask her what her name is and engage in a minute or 2 of small-talk. A lady is more than likely going to ask you to dance if she feels that she knows you. Exchanging names is the first step. P.s. Don’t stalk her back to her table and invite yourself to join her friends. A 2 minute conversation and exchanging of names is more than adequate.

Alright people, I hope you found this 3 part article on the Best Leads and followers useful.

If you wish to view the profiles of all the people who contributed to these articles, click here.

I got feedback from 11 Advanced Salseras from Cape Town, Joburg, USA and Switzerland. A Big thanks to all of you.

I would especially like to thank 2 International Salseras’ who took the time to contribute:

Josie Neglia a.k.a. the Princess of Salsa. (Latin Dance) She is a Salsa Legend who has been in the Salsa scene since 1990 and pioneered the Salsa Video industry …….. and Jocelyn Rosero Co-host of

Next Salsa article will be on Salsa Congresses. Keep an eye out….

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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8 Responses to Salsa – The Best Leaders and Followers(Part III)

  1. Dan G says:

    Just thought I’d say something about MUSICALITY because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. You gave 55% to simply dancing on the right beat…. depends on your outlook I guess. To me, that is a prerequisite to musicality. I’d give near 100% to the second two. Musicality to me is “interpreting the music”. It’s breaking long on drama, it’s flirting when the music flirts, it’s repeating a move 3 times when the music repeats, it’s going into a shine when musicians bring out the percussions. It’s knowing that dancing on2 is better if you hear congas (because the congas emphasize the 2nd and 6th beat). Unfortunately that means you simply can’t have musicality in general without intimately knowing a song. That’s not completely true, because there are some cues that musicians share that can let you guess with some accuracy about what is coming next even if you’ve never heard it before.

    Just to illustrate the point, I could say that someone has great musicality if they know the song but don’t really know salsa, but are confident enough to “do their thing” with the music. So definitely increasing your knowledge of music will increase your musicality! I’m quite lazy here, I used to listen to a lot more new salsa than I do now… at the moment, only hearing new tracks on the dance floor, instead listening to Goodhope and 5FM in my car 🙂

    When both people are in sync because they both know exactly what’s coming up next… and they can play with each other and the music because of it… bliss!!

    • Chilly says:

      Interesting point. Well I guess the debate on Musicality continues. I am curious to hear what other Gents have to say. So Guys that are reading this, whats your opinion?

  2. kAt says:

    Keep it up my legend, very insightful! xxx

  3. As usual, awesome post, can’t wait for the next read! Thank you for the insight.

    X t

  4. Regan says:

    Great article Chilly, and well researched!!

    I have to agree with Dan. Dancing on beat (on1 or on2) is a prerequisite to dancing Salsa!! It is with this that the dancers will be dancing/playing with the musicians and are open to catch all the breaks.
    Salsa music is like house/techno music as it’s just as predictable if one knows how to read the signs of an impending “break”.
    SO GUYS; stop counting in the class or on the dance floor. Let the instructor and/or the music do that for you and dance to what you HEAR not what you THINK YOU HEAR.

    And yes, tricks and lifts etc are for the stage, and are often dangerous on the dance floor. Also, followers tend to feel like the instrument of guys that are trying to look like good dancers. These things are also not necessarily musical or “dance” and have a tendency to pull the dancers off the rhythm.


    And one more thing about leading: it should come from the leaders’ centre and not from your strength. Pushing and pulling is amateur and makes the follower feel like a rag-doll. It’s all about energy transference.

    Keep it up guys 🙂

  5. Dan G says:

    Well of course you agree with me Regan! 😛

  6. Glen B says:

    i agree with this guy about dancing on the right beat and musicality.

    though some definitions of musicality are “set to or accompanied by music, of the nature of or resembling music; melodious;harmonious,” making Chilly technically correct, I feel that musicality singled out by the use of salsa dancers to other salsa dancers would be more accurately described as 100% of the latter two items in that list—with “dancing on the right beat” being a prerequisite lesson to “musicality”

    the way I see it, it’s the same wordplay associated with “dancing” and “executing moves”

    to non-dancers, a person executing moves emotionlessly would be “dancing” but to those in the scene it would hardly be called that

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