The 3 Most Important Factors For Great Social Dancing

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Do you want to be a Great Social Dancer? Well this post is dedicated to helping people (irrespective of level) identify what it takes for them to become the best social dancer that they can possibly be.

Now – if you don’t have time to read this article – In a nut-shell, it all boils down to Connection: Connecting with the Music  – Connecting with your partner – connecting with the move… etc. It’s all about connection. However, how can you improve on this connection? Well that is what I am going to share with you in this article, So let’s get to it….

1. It’s all about the MUSIC:

You do not dance to 123, 567! Those are counts, you dance to the Music!

Music should excite you....

Music should excite you….

Don’t forget about the Music when you dance because you are too busy counting. Dance to the MUSIC!

Counting was introduced to make teaching easier and to help people keep the rhythm. It was never meant to replace the music all together. So, Dance to the Music!

Now, just in-case you missed it, DANCE WITH THE MUSIC!!!!

There is a combination of 3 things that encompasses dancing to the Music. I recommend you start with A and work your way down to C.

A. Dance on the Song = To the right beat (45%). You can’t just dance to some imaginary beat in your head. Salsa dance is based on moving to the rhythm. Anything else isn’t really Salsa. So find the rhythm and stick with it.

B. Dance to the song = Style of music (35%). Is it a romantica (dance soft) or a dura (dance hard) or a classica (dance smooth)? Don’t just execute endless turn patterns irrespective of the style of music. Make sure your dance style fits the music. Music like all good stories has an intro, a build up, a main section and an outro. Make sure you move accordingly and  understand the idea of flow – using both exertion and calmness to create varying effects when you dance.

C. Dance with the Music = 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 movement to express it. Hitting a break in the song with a perfectly timed dip or move is magic and will do wonders for you and your dance partner.

Perfect practice personified...

Perfect practice personified…

2 – TECHNIQUE, Technique, Technique

Perfect Practice makes perfect. Dancing is an art-form and just like any art-form, you need not just practice, but practice perfectly. So Learn to Lead or Learn to Follow.  However, what does it mean to Lead or follow?
Women should feel and not think; following in this sense refers to feeling the lead and the rhythm, not thinking what does the man want me to do now? This kind of following requires a lady to be totally receptive.


Totally receptive

Imagine the Leader is like a radio station sending out signals or sound waves, and you the Follower are like a radio with it’s antenna totally receptive. The whole dance is the interplay of opposites but these opposites need to blend together to work in harmony and become one, just like the yin-yang symbol. (analogy courtesy of Marchant Birch)


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 short-cuts). The more your drive the better you get, same on the dance floor.

Now driving just like leading follows the same principles. You do not drive every-car exactly the same even though the principles of driving are set. So a Ferrari is very different experience from a Volkswagen beetle in almost every way. The point?

Even though technique remains the same, every woman is different and thus requires a different lead. Therefore, continuously learn how different women move and adjust your lead accordingly.  

Lewis Hamilton owning the Track

Lewis Hamilton owning the Track

P.S. Accept the fact that not everyone can be the Lewis Hamilton on the dance floor. Get over it and just be the best damn driver you can be! This boils down to Quality over quantity. Rather do the 6 moves you know really well than the 26 you just learned yesterday and haven’t perfected yet.


Having Fun is probably the most important thing on the dance floor. Here are 5 key points that will help you communicate to your dance partner that you are having a good time:

How can you not smile looking at this guy?

How can you not smile looking at this guy?

1. Smile – This is the easiest way to communicate you are having a good time and put the person you are dancing with at ease.

2. Dance together – Dance is a language of communication. So for the few minutes you dance together, make the person you are dancing with feel like the centre of the universe. Forget about how many people are watching you, it has nothing to do with them. This dance is between you and your partner. 2 people sharing a beautiful moment and creating a wonderful experience together.

3. Eye contact – Maintain some form of eye contact, however don’t gaze into each others eyes too deeply. Note: Staring the entire time without blinking comes across as serial killerish. Too little eye contact however comes across as disinterested. So you need to find the balance.

4. Hygiene – It’s kind of hard to have fun when you are pressed up against someone dripping with sweat and smells like they have not had a shower in days and also has bad Breath! Enough Said.

5. Don’t be a creep –  Learn to respect personal space. While dancing is in essence a sensual activity, everyone has their limits, and crossing them is the opposite of fun.

Till next time, Live, Laugh, Love & Salsa!


This Article is based on research and advice given by some of the Worlds best Salseros and Salseras. What do you think? Is there anything else missing in this article that would help make you become a Great Social Dancer? If so, please share with me and the World.



  • Tamba says:

    Hi Chilly,

    Great article which covers loads of stuff! However I think Connection should be up there with Music and Techniques

    • Hey Tamba,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. Regarding connection, you are totally right. If you read the first paragraph – the music, technique and having fun can all be summed up in 1 word – connection.
      Thanks for the comment!

  • Marie says:

    Very good article! One thing though, you said that I differ on–that you should do the moves that you’re good at. I agree that you shouldn’t try a whole bunch of new moves you don’t know (unless you took the class together) but social dancing is a great way to teach yourself how to add in maybe one or two new things you learned (at least in my experience). And usually people are pretty forgiving if it doesn’t go well the first couple times. Just maybe try it with differernt people and not too many times with the same person.

    • Hey Marie,
      Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it when people take the time to leave their opinion. It means a lot to me.
      Regarding new moves – I used to take 1 move from any new routine I learnt in class and would add that to my repertoire. 1 Move a week was easy and by the end of the year, I had added 52 new moves and I could lead them flawlessly. This worked out much better than trying to rehash the entire turn pattern I learnt in the class. So I agree that you should add in new moves, but i believe this should be done gradually and not all at once.

      • Ally Knight says:

        Agreed! I tell my leaders in class not to forget that girls would rather dance with a guy who just does a few super smooth moves than a guy who has a million turns if they all feel rough around the edges!

        Also, don’t get too caught up with memorizing whole patterns. If you are just regurgitating whole patterns on the dance floor, there’s no way you’re connecting and dancing to the music. Pattern classes are meant to show possibilities: possible combinations and variations. Take the pattern apart into different building blocks to mix in with your repertoire.

        Regarding getting comfortable with new moves, have one “building block” that you want to improve on when you go out dancing and try to work it into each dance once or twice, but no more than that. By the end of the night, you should have it down pact! Hope this helps someone out there :)

  • BeSalsa says:

    Women should feel and not think.
    I have to say I’m not really agreeing with that. Maybe you mean the same thing as what I’m writing below but that’s why i prefer to clarify.

    What is following? It’s understanding a lead. Every lead gives an indication to the follower and that’s how she can follows. Making followers understand how to follow a lead or how to recognize what is going to happen, is making her think and understand. Once the follower understand the process, it’s going to become a habit of recognizing those signals. (like we know you have to stop when you see a red light. We don’t think about it, we just do it)
    One of the main reasons why Followers should be giving explanation in classes instead of just being told you just have to follow.

    • Hi BeSalsa,
      In a way we are sort of saying the same thing. However, if you watch a Beast like Terry from France dance – the woman has no time to think she needs to feel. Her body has to be conditioned how to react even before her brain registers the move that is happening. When a woman is always thinking, she has to purposefully make a movement as opposed to letting her body feel the movement. That is what I mean by feel and not think.

  • Tamba says:

    To add to this conversation, I think being a great social dancer as far as leading is concerned can be summed up in one sentence: “Look after your lady!” It doesn’t mean be nice to her, it can mean lots of things: make her feel nice about herself whatever her level, challenge her to her limits, make your leading cues invitations as opposed to commands.

    Even though, the car analogy is a bit awkward (disclaimer: ladies you’re not cars, get over it!) it can be pertinent in the following case: you don’t drive a peugeot 106 the same way you would drive a Ferrari! Each car/lady is different and you need to take into account their strengths and weaknesses. For this, you need to be aware, receptive and be in touch with the lady you’re dancing with, you need to be emotionally connected.

    • Ally Knight says:

      Absolutely! As a leader, it’s your job to maintain awareness of your surroundings and keep your car safe from obstacles! Whether that obstacle is someone dancing crazy out of control next to you, or a triple spin that she is not ready to be dragged through. One should always use the first few 8 counts to get a feel for both the music and the level of dancer you’re with, gradually working your way up in difficulty. Don’t just throw the book at someone before she’s even warmed up! Give her a chance to get used to your lead as well, just as you are getting used to her follow. :)

  • Anonymous says:

    When people say hygiene, people always assume they don’t have a problem. Most people shower enough that they don’t smell when they leave the house.
    What some don’t realize is that while dancing is fun, it’s also a surprisingly good cardio workout. If you don’t use deodorant WITH antiperspirant, you are going to smell…really bad. You won’t notice. The person dancing with you will be less than 2 feet away from your armpits for 3-5 minutes. They will notice and it will be much worse than you realize. They are trapped in a cloud of BO that they can’t escape from. Meanwhile you are really liking this dance. You walk away thinking you can’t wait to dance with that person again and they are secretly gasping for fresh air so as not to embarrass you.
    If you think proper deodorant/antiperspirant isn’t necessary for you, because you’ve never had an issue with BO before, then you are the one everyone complains about. Guaranteed.

  • Roger S. says:

    Hi, I once heard an Argentine Tango coach describe the Music’s, Leader’s and Follower’s role as this:

    The Music is the Message. The Leader delivers the Message. And, the Follower interprets the Message.

    Whether it can be considered too simplistic or not. I think that it kind of helps, in a basic way, to determine’s one’s “mission” when choosing the moves, and responding to them. As opposed to simply delivering moves without emotional, mental or musical intent. And, following them, without “coloring” them with styling.

    Just something to consider.

  • JMarie says:

    I agree with the hygiene thing. Please add: men, when your shirt is dripping wet and soaked from sweat, change it! Bring an extra shirt. I only met one male dancer who had the decency to do that. No towels hanging from pants. Kinda nasty! It’s been used, so why keep using it? yuck!

  • Debbie says:

    Great article! I agree with all points made. I have noticed lately that with the “franchise” dance teams becoming so prevailant practically everyone these days is recruited to dance on a bachata or salsa team irregardless of their ability or level of experience. Unfortunately many of them become so caught up in learning choreography as their first experience with the dance scene that they end up “performing” on the social dance floor & are quite limited to the moves that they have learned as part of a performance. As instructors we need to stop pushing performance as a goal for all people & remember that social dancing should be FUN! Let’s encourage & create great social dancers so we have more people to dance & have fun with… As I look around the dance floor at the venues where all the “dancers” go it looks like a lot of them are performing rather than just interacting with their dance partner & enjoying the dance. When I go to the places where people are mostly “native dancers” they look like they are having waaaay more fun. They don’t have the skills that studio dancers have for a gazillion turn patterns but they remind us where the dances came from & why we dance to start with… Because it’s supposed to be FUN!

  • Nicky says:

    I agree with you.
    Recently I think salsa has become a salsa to compete or for show.
    Originally, I think that salsa dance is when two people in a pair feel the groove , the connection and have fun, and also pay attention to the people around you.

    If you’re dancing at a congress or an event, it’s fine to show off dance, but at a normal dance party, you should change the way you dance and dance to the situation.
    Your dance partner and you dance happily on beat , the sound and the men lead the lady well, the lady follow the leads well, and dance so as not to disturb the people dancing around.
    So everyone can enjoy dancing salsa.

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