Licensed To Dance Tips for stepping into the social salsa scene.

Salsa socials—or parties—are an essential part of a dancing community: they are an opportunity for salsa enthusiasts to dance together and enjoy each others’ company. Whether formal or informal, socials are a wonderful opportunity to practice what has been learned in class.

Socials can be hosted by particular studios for their students and members or they can be hosted by dance instructors and DJs for the general public at restaurants, cafés, boardwalks, or markets—any venue that is willing to host dancers is fair game. For example, in Cape Town, South Africa, the organisers of Sunkissed Salsa host their socials on the sunny and romantic Seapoint Promenade while in Toronto, Canada, La Rumba Buena, organised by DJs Blancon and Drumspeak, is hosted at BSMT, a local bar. And back in the day, in the world before COVID-19, The Salsa Club used to host street-style salsa socials at Cramer’s Ice-Cream in the heart of the CBD.

All socials share similar traits: an assortment of musical offerings (salsa, bachata, cha-cha, mambo, boogaloo, cumbia, and many others); regulars from the local community and drop-ins passing through a city; and, dancers of all levels and experience (from the freshest beginner salsero to the oldest salseras) moving to the music.

Regardless of where one finds themselves in the world—Windhoek, Cape Town, or Toronto—the following list of tips should be borne in mind by every dancer:

  1. A good lead or follow adjusts their steps and patterns to accommodate their partner. As much as possible, they try to avoid any steps, patterns, or tricks which might confuse or throw off their partners. Why? No one, especially dancers who are just commencing on their dancing journey, enjoys feeling out of their depth.
  2. Dance to the music. Good leads and follows listen to the music and then dance with their partners as the music dictates. A good ear for music takes some time to develop—dancers who have just started dancing should not be intimidated by dancing off time. In time, with more familiarisation with music, dancers pick up rhythm and timing with relative ease.
  3. Paying attention to one’s dance partner is essential. It is important to acknowledge one’s dance partner when pairing up, when dancing, and when a dance concludes. This helps to build a rapport with one’s dancer, and since dancing is a form of nonverbal communication paying attention to one’s partner is integral for proper leading and following.
  4. Consideration is key. Good dancers know they are not alone on the dance floor—spatial awareness, for both leads and follows, is needed to avoid bumping into other dancers or, worse, hogging the dance floor.
  5. Simple, neat, tight, and stress-free. This means: elbows in, hair tied up (to avoid whiplash), no excessive jewellery on one’s fingers or necklaces that swing around too much. The watchword is simple: the more comfortably one is dressed, the better one dances.
  6. Instruction is for class; socials are for dancing. Teaching on a social dance floor is a taboo; it is best left to professional instructors who teach particular steps or patterns at their studio. Socials are meant to be an atmosphere of relaxed and experimental dancing (when dancers try out new steps or combinations to the best of their ability).
  7. Mistakes happen. If a dancer steps on someone else, all that is needed is a quick apology. If a lead, step, or pattern is missed or misunderstood, the best thing is to smile and move on—there are greater and pressing matters in the world than making a mistake on the dance floor.
  8. A smile, a mint, good cologne or perfume, and a thank-you go a long way. As with the rest of life, it all comes down to the small things.

Often referred to as “dance etiquette”, these tips are some general rules that help socials to be the wonderful and communal dance opportunities they are. There are, of course, others that each dancer encounters in their own time depending on where they are in the world (each dancing community and culture is different). But these eight pieces of advice are considered to be cardinal; for anyone stepping on a social dance floor, adhering to them is akin to being given a license to dance.

And if it comes to dancing, this compilation of songs featuring the likes of Nelson Arrieta, Gian Marco, Maluma, Maluma, Ñejo, and Grupo Niche is designed to get any social moving and dancing.

Dime Cómo Hago—Nelson Arrieta featuring Ronald Borjas & Oscarcito

El Ritmo De Mi Corazón—Gian Marco featuring Grupo 5 & Tony Succar

Como Los Quiero—Ñejo & Dalmata

Felices Los 4—Maluma featuring Marc Anthony

Culebra—Grupo Niche