Tips on finding your time in salsa
Salsa is in 4/4 time with a rythmn that extends for two measures - so it takes 8 beats to complete a cycle (If you're just counting downbeats, that's 4 beats in a complete cycle). It can be a tricky rythmn to find. Here are some queues to help know where you are: The low conga or bongo usually plays an accented tone on the 4th beat - this is the most consistent cue. The bass tends to also play on 4th beat, and sometimes on the 1st - but this can change. Piano usually also accents the 1st beat. Voice will often accent the first beat, but can sometime be syncopated against it.
Dancers usually step on beats 1,2 and 3 - pausing, tapping or stepping in place on 4. Whether the 1st and 3rd beats are emphasized (downbeat) or the 2nd and 4th beats is the difference between dancing 'on 1' or 'on 2'.
Catching the beat can be difficult at first. A simplified way of dancing which can help is to dance only the downbeats - rock-step sideways with left foot on 1, then step back to original position with same left foot on 3. Rock-step sideways with right foot on 5 and in place with same right foot on 7 - etc.
Salsa on 1: Start with your two feet together and slightly parted (parallel). On beat 1 put your left foot forward in a 'rock-step' - which means you shift your weight forward onto the foot and then immediately back again stepping in place on the beat 2 with your right foot and then again in place on beat 3 with your left foot. Pause on the 4th beat and then step back with your right foot in a rock-step on the 5th beat (ie: the 1st beat of the second measure). Step in place with left foot on 6 and with your right on 7. Pause on 8 and begin the cycle again with the left foot forward rock step on 1. In summary the two rocksteps on 1 and 5 are the only steps which are forward or back - all the other steps are in place and you should end the cycle exactly where you started. When dancing as a couple, the woman and man face eachother, and so in order to for the couple to keep in sync the woman's steps are the inverse of the above. The woman steps back with her right foot on 1 (while the man steps forward with his left) and she stepls forward with her left foot on 5.
Salsa on 2: The pattern is similar to the above but with a slight variation. The 1st step is in place and the 2nd step is a rock-step. So for a man, in place with left foot on 1, rock-step back with right foot on 2, then in place on 3 and pause on 4. Start in place with right foot on 5, rock-step forward with left on 6, in place with right on 7, pause on 8.
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