Salsa Spins by Melissa Fernandez

Below is an article from World renowned Salsera, Melissa Fernandez who is also Luis Vasquez dance partner.

Disclaimer: This article is a bit lengthy. That being said, its a must read for anyone who is serious about improving their spinning. Enjoy!

“Come on! Who doesn’t love spinning?!  I confess. I am a spinning addict. If you know me, you know I absolutely love spinning. Spinning isn’t everything and many times one beautiful turn is way better than 12 perfect spins but now a days, spinning has taken many new shapes. Spinning with the head up, spinning with one foot in the air, pencil spinning in place, traveling spins, solo spins, one turn with a head roll and a body roll at the end, spinning in the air, everyone now a days is creating their own style of spins and this is AWESOME…Its Legend… wait for it, wait for it… DARY. Legendary- TV seris ‘how I met ur mother’

Words to become friends with:
The 3 C’s: Center, Control, Connection (Equilibrium, Momentum, Power)

Topics Below:
Center
Your Foot
Posture
Balance
Spotting
Men/Leaders while spinning their partners
Practice

 Here, share some of my spinning tips:

CENTER
Finding your center is important and its accomplished with a good posture. What is your Center? Its the thing in the stomach that gives you sweet butterflies… no, I’m just kidding. Finding your Center means finding an equilibrium within your body. It is felt when you find your balance. You will use your Center to find your Balance and vice versa.

Your Foot
When spinning, nail your spinning foot on the floor and keep it grounded on the floor. Imagine the ball of your spinning foot nailed to the floor. I mean NAILED to the floor. Next time you are spinning, just remember me saying to you ‘NAIL YOUR FOOT TO THE FLOOR!’ in a sweet way of course. If you need to me to record a voiceover saying ‘NAIL YOUR LOVELY FOOT TO THE FLOOR! please…’ Then I will. Send your email and I will forward you the MP3 voiceover 🙂 No shipping costs

Feel the floor press up against you. This spinning foot should be slightly bent. Pressure the ball of your foot down while controlling your upper body. And for the ladies, when partner spinning, keep your spinning arm light! If the follow is heavy (meaning your spinning arm), then your partner will have a hard time spinning you more than the strength in his arm will allow him too. It doesn’t necessary matter how many KILO’s or POUNDS you physically weigh, its all about HOW YOU CARRY YOUR WEIGHT. There are tiny 50k girls who make themselves heavy and men will only spin them once, and there are women who weigh a lot more and yet they know how to carry their weigh so well, that men love spinning them.

Basically two things are happening: your upper body gives you the momentum and control and your lower body connects you to the floor, which explains the smoke that comes from the floor when you’re spinning 🙂

POSTURE
Try to maintain good posture when spinning. What does that mean Melissa? Well, try not to hunch your back forward because the weight of your body will lean you forward and down. Try not to bend back while spinning, well because Cirque Du Soleil is not having auditions yet. So, try to straighten your spine. Keep your hips and torso aligned when spinning. Try not to let your hips go first, and then your upper body and vice versa.

BALANCE
Create a balance with your body. Create a what?! Thats right! A balance with your body. Hmm, not such an easy thing to do. To some it comes naturally and to others (like me) it can take months to discover; Its when your body is in harmony and you feel like you are flying with control.

 Try this technique I teach in my workshops: 
Start off with your feet together, standing still, feet apart at shoulders length, now straighten up… pick up one leg up in the air, as high as you can. With your left hand up in the air, point your right index finger in the air and yell ” I love you Salsa!” Just kidding!

Seriously, start pick up both heels off the floor, keeping your weight on the balls of your feet, using your toes if you need to, when you find your balance, pick up one leg off the floor. Keep the grounded foot slightly bent. Keep the ball of your grounded foot on the floor and be on the ball of your foot as much as you can. The trick is to keep the ball of your foot on the floor and the other in the air. When you have found your balance, start playing with your foot in the air! Create different moves, point your foot, flex it, lift it as high as possible, create different shapes with your leg, the one that is up in the air that is. When you feel accomplished with this practice, then the real run starts when you can challenge your body to move in different directions, of course, all in while keeping the ball of one of your feet grounded (“nailed to the floor”) and your heel as high as you can up! Feel the floor pressing back at you. Then switch feet and test your balance. This is a great solo technique you can practice by yourself.

Spotting
When spinning, spotting is crucial! Spot at your eye level. We come in different heights, so find a spotting point that is based to your own eye level. Keep your eyes on a stable point of reference, then turn your body as much as you can in your spinning direction, keeping your head locked in its original point of reference. And when your torso/upper body can’t give any more, then turn your head and shoulders to complete a single turn, meaning that you return to the original position. Don’t try whipping your head around and leaving your upper body behind, this will actually slow down the other remaining turns, if its more than one turn. Spotting in Ballet and spotting in Salsa are similar but different, very different. In partner Salsa spotting, the follow must (MUST– in capital letters and possible in Bold, notice how its not in italics:) ) stay connected with his/her partner for it is he or the lead that is spinning you/the follow. As a lady/follow, we spin in the direction that our partner wants us to and at the timing/speed/velocity that he wants us to so connection is a MUST. And don’t look down! There’s nothing on the floor. You have two feet. YES!!! I am sure someone will tell you if you have three! So keep your eyes at your eye level. If you look down, you could become dizzy.

Keep your arms close to your body in neutral position (if u don’t know what neutral position is, then you haven’t taken one of my workshops and now you are in trouble) The control of the spin comes from the your core and your arms, the spin comes from your preparation: meaning your shoulders. If you are turning to the right, then prepare your upper body slightly to the left. And you if you are spinning to the left, then prepare slightly to the left… no, to the right! (for those of you that are paying attention… 🙂 Momentum and control comes from your upper body, the connection to the floor is your feet, or the ball of your spinning foot. Try not to put your weight on both feet, because you will eventually swift the weight from one foot to the other, making you lose your equilibrium.

Ah yes, lower your shoulders and breath. Its cute to watch people prepare for the spin… ready? steady? Bang!!! They take off, hold their breath and pull their shoulders up. Its cute I tell you. But its only entertaining for me to watch. If you want to become a better spinner, then relax your shoulders, smile and breath. I usually inhale while preparing and exhale as I’m coming to a stop but when the preparation gets too fast, i just hold in my breath and exhale when its over.

Men/Leaders for spinning your partner:
ok, men, secure your frame and get in a comfortable position. In theory, the man should be able to move his feet while spinning the girl. Beginners should first stay to stay in place and not move his frame while spinning her and after he feels comfortable and spins her successfully, then he should start moving his happy feet:)

Remember that each girls height is different, therefore, he should stencil a halo over her head at about 2 inches above her head. Awww, an angel. The movement originates from his shoulder, which includes his entire arm (shoulder, bicep, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers), and not just his fingers as most beginners do.

Prepare the girl into spins. Give her the time to allow her to prepare with her feet, the better you both become, then u can quicken the preparation time and allow for speed. You can get so fast, that later you won’t need a real preparation. 🙂 ohhhh spinning…

And when stopping, gentlemen, be aware of when u want to stop her. Do u want to stop her because you feel she is getting out of balance? because you know a break in the music is coming and you want to hit the accent, or because your arm is about to fall off? or because you have had too many Cuba Libre’s’ and now you think its you spinning when you’re trying to make her spin?!:)

Spinning, like dancing is a communication between you and your partner. When you are ready to stop, slow down the last two (or one) turn(s) and as you see her back, and you know she is about to come around on the last turn, slowly bring down your elbow close to your rib cage, slowing down the velocity of the spin so that you can both make the spin come to a stop properly. It also helps to make eye contact with her after the spins have stopped, even though I prefer a wink:) Try not to overturn her by bringing your arm down too fast at the last minute. And don’t pull her arm down, squeeze her arm or pull her hair! These are No, No’s….

Practice
Practice is the only way to get better. Try solo spinning, ask people to spin you… Do you have how many times I’ve asked my dance partners “Spin Me!! :)” Ask politely or demand it. You want to get better you need to practice. Happy Spins.

And sometimes we need Sad Spins… Sad Spins? YES! Unsuccessful spins. These spins only allow us to meet our challenge and get better. Do you get dizzy? Fall out of balance? Fall on the floor? Well, what do you do when you fall? you get right back up and TRY IT AGAIN 🙂

Realize what you are doing well, find the harmony in your balance, core, body and spin again.

And don’t forget to BREATH! LOL- If you see your dance partner turning Blue, stop the spin, cross your eyes, make a funny face and smile. Remind her/him to breath. Partner spinning is like a relationship, it takes two.

And for goodness sakes people… WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES!

“Oh Melissa, I can’t spin! I’m watching all your DVD’s, I’m following your spinning techniques but I just can’t manage. Porque?”

“Well, Smarty Pants, maybe its because you are wearing rubber soled shoes and well, you are practicing in the cement parking lot of Ralphs”

Have a Beautiful Dancing Day!
Un Beso y Abrazo,
from the airplane over snowy mountains,
Melissa Fernandez
Seat 9A,
Flight Destination: Salsa Paradise”

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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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One Response to Salsa Spins by Melissa Fernandez

  1. Lilia says:

    Melissa, I have been trying to execute a proper multiple spins for the last 4 year, however, I never took any class in spins. After I read your tips about the head movement and that it shouldn’t go before the shoulders, I decided to try and I was shocked….. It worked all these years I didn’t know that this was my problem. I always had a perfect balance and knew how to carry myself on the floor, but I never expected that delaying the shoulders can mess everything up! You are a Super Star. I love you so much!

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