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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 better.

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 flexibility.

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 simultaneously.

Isolations will 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).

Hip Isolations

The hips already move with the cuban motion, but we can also add some more styling to them, like hip-swings, pops and circles.

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.

Shoulder Isolations

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 up tempo.

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.



Related Articles:

Cuban Motion Technique 

 Salsa Body Movement

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