There is a theory that implies once you put 10,000 hours of practice into anything, you will then become a master at it. Lots of people ask me, how long does it take to learn Salsa? Well, you can relax, it definitely won’t take you 10,000 hours (or at least I hope it won’t).
However, before I answer the question, lets cover five things that will get you dancing first.
1. Group Classes
Group classes are probably the fastest and easiest ways to learn Salsa while also being fun. Most salsa schools have what are referred to as drop-in group classes and these usually happen once or twice a week. If you have never done salsa before, this is the easiest way to start.
You rock up at a group class and get a quick and easy introduction to dancing salsa. The teacher will usually start the class with a warm-up to get you relaxed and excited. They will then go on to give you a concise version of how salsa works, explaining the basic step and the timing to the music. At this point you will learn a move or two in the class, dance it a couple of times and change partners and voilà – you have begun your journey of learning to dance Salsa.
The additional cool thing about group classes (apart from the fact that everyone else in the class is also a beginner) is that it is a great way to meet people. You don’t need to come with a dance partner, so you can come with a friend or even ride solo. Most group classes are set up in a way that accommodates everyone.
Listen to salsa music: make sure you understand what you are dancing to and can find the different beats. To take it even further and in the words of Frankie Martinez, when you dance, you must become part of the band by making your body an instrument to compliment what is being played.
3. Private Classes & Courses
Once you have taken a few group classes, I would definitely recommend that you take some private classes with a great teacher. In a group class, the teacher is taking care of the group and hence you get no ‘individual personal attention.’ In a private class, its all about you. All your quirks, problems and bad habits will be fixed and you will also get a much deeper and personal understanding of how salsa works.
There is, however, one catch: private classes are not cheap. If you can’t afford private classes, you should definitely consider doing some kind of focus group, course, or workshop that runs over a period of time that continually builds off a foundation. You will not learn as much as you would in a private class, but you definitely start to get a better understanding of how everything fits together.
Once you have learnt the basics and how to do a few moves, its time for the pedal to hit the metal. I am assuming the reason you are learning to dance is so you can actually dance? Well, then you should be dancing socially. This is the number one guaranteed way to improve your dancing.
Imagine going to university and getting a degree, but refusing to get a job in the real world? That is exactly what it is like when you attend classes all the time yet you refuse to get onto the social dance floor. You have all the theory and none of the experience.
5. Challenge Yourself
Set yourself goals and constantly challenge yourself, especially when you are at socials.
I recommend the following:
a. Ask every lady to dance at least once at every single social that you attend. FYI, every lady means every lady, from the novice beginner straight through to the advanced dance (and as an add-on to this, learn to not take rejection personally. If someone says “no,” just move on.)
b. Focus on mastering and perfecting one move at a time. Mastering a move means that you can lead different kind of followers successfully into the move, even if (i) they were not in the class where the move was taught, (ii) they learnt to dance at another school, and (iii) they are an absolute beginner.
c. Learn to develop your own style and don’t just be a cookie-cut copy of your instructor.
a. Do not be afraid to ask people to dance if they are not asking you.
b. Do your best to let go and feel a lead rather than to predict or overthink it.
c. Don’t say “no” when asked to dance (unless the person physically hurts you or is verbally or physically inappropriate when dancing.) Start to consider every dance as a learning opportunity, especially with the people whom you do not like dancing with. Challenge yourself to see how well you can follow even the most outrageous or boring lead.
Ok, now that I have listed the five things that will make you a better dance, I guess it’s time to answer the question you have all been waiting for.
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Dance Salsa?
Well, it depends. (I doubt that is the answer you were looking for, but hey, its the truth.)
Some people take months and others take years, based on so many different variables. Yet I would say three things apply above all else:
1. The more time you put in, the faster you will learn and the more you will get out of your efforts.
2. Knowledge, confidence, and creativity: first, you must learn the rules (knowledge), then you must follow them (confidence), and only once you master them can you then bend or break them (creativity).
3. Realise it does not matter how good you become, you will always be learning. Actually the more you learn, the more you will start to realise just how little you actually know. Its a journey, not a destination so just make sure you are always having fun along the way!