Salsa Body Movement & Isolations
Salsa steps and patterns will only get you so far. Body movement and isolation exercises
will be your ticket to making things look smooth. Proper salsa body movement will make the difference between
somebody that can do the salsa steps, and somebody who is dancing them.
We don't only dance with our
feet, our whole body moves. If we're doing steps, well, we're merely doing steps. It's the whole body moving that
creates the dance. When we move our legs, that means we're moving our feet and knees, which leads to hip
movement which leads to movement of the torso, shoulders and arms. When we lift an arm, the arm doesn't just move
by itself, there is a shoulder attached to it, the shoulder blade connecting it to the hips and so forth. If we
move a body part upward, something else has to go downward to compansate.
Lack of body movement normaly
leaves the dancer look disconnected somehow, missing a certain flow. Also the ability of the different body parts
to move in all kind of ways adds to your movement reportoire and makes you able to interpret the music
The reason why we look and
feel so stiff sometimes is because salsa makes us move in ways which are not in our daily movement reportoire. If
we don't move in certain ways, the body will kind of "erase" that movement possiblity from its memory, since it's
not needed. If we're then trying to move like that, it will feel strange and uncoordinated. But with a little
practice we can get back that range of motion. Some movements also require a certain flexibility, that will have to
be trained. Especially the spine can be stiff if not used, and it may take a while to rebuild that
Doing basic isolation
exercises should be a regular practice. You should be able to move your hips, torso and shoulders in different
directions, first concentrating on one move at a time, later you can do several moves
strengthen your coordination. Although we're working to cleanly seperate the different movements at first, the
aim is to put it all back together in the end to create smooth flowing yet higly complex moves.
Basic Isolation Exercises
Directions Of Body Movement
We can move our body and its
parts in different directions, like up-down, left-right, front-back, and in many more two- and three-dimansional
ways like diagonally. These directional movements can be created with our hips, torso and shoulders (and every
other body part for that matter, but for salsa dancing these are the most used parts).
The hips already
move with the cuban motion, but we can also add some more styling to them, like hip-swings, pops and
Practice swinging your
hips from left to right and tilting your pelvis front and back. Connect those four points and make the
hips circle in both directions.
Isolation Exercises For The Torso
The torso, or ribcage, plays a
very active part in creating all kinds of moves and styling. Since it's the spine that is moving, the range of
motion is very high in all directions. What we use normally is the side-to-side motion partially created by the
cuban motion, or the front to back motion creating for example body waves.
Stretch out your arms to the
sides, and pull your ribcage to your right and left. Keep your shoulders level (avoid tilting your arms up and
down like a child "playing airplane"). Take your arms down and move your solar plexus (the point under your
sternum) front and back. Note that it is NOT your shoulders that are moving, they should follow the movement of
your torso, but not initiate it. Then connect again the four directions creating circles, also here your shoulders
should be level, so your upper body is not collapsing to either side.
When you're isolating the
ribcage your hips should not be moving (and vice versa). You need to ground yourself and keep your body weight
between both legs, avoiding any sway.
The shoulders are an easy part
to move, and many beginners move them excessively to compansate a lacking cuban motion. The shoulders most
often are rolled or shaken (shimmies).
Practise rolling the shoulders
backward and forward, first individually, then alternating. When rolling both shoulders imagine they are connected
with a stick, so that when one shoulder goes up, the other goes down and vice versa. For the shimmies
practice moving your shoulders front and back in a straight line. The movement comes from your back muscles,
so don't try to "push your shoulders forward" but rather "pull them backwards". Try to breathe evenly as you build
Developing good salsa body movement will take time, a lot more than you might think. The flexibility and
coordination necessary is a lot higher than learning to make your feet do side- and backsteps. Create a practice
plan and do the basic isolation exercises as often as possible. It doesn't need to take more than a couple of
minutes each time, but you will need continuos repetition to achieve results.