Forward-Back Basic Step

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Here is where the feet go on counts 1 through 4. It is 3 steps on 4 beats:

 1234
Men do left forwardright (in place)left together (left next to right)hold (no step)
.
Ladies doright backleft (in place)right together (right next to left)hold (no step)

And then on counts 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 , they each do what the other did on counts 1 - 2 - 3 - 4, like this:

 5678
Ladies do left forwardright (in place)left together (left next to right)hold (no step)
.
Men doright backleft (in place)right together (right next to left)hold (no step)

Step, step, step, hold. Step, step, step, hold. Well, that's the feet part, but there is a lot more to learn to make it look like salsa, so we'll allow the pros to explain it. Stick with it. Good luck. --DanceTutor

Salsa 1 with Kana Kubota and
Helmut Salas of New York City

DanceTutor (DT): Well, thereís the feet, the beat and the hips. Letís start with the feet. Kana, we already have the diagram above, but in your words what are the feet doing?

Kana: Basically gentlemen start forward with left step and then right step and then the left steps next to right and the feet are together. That is first three steps.

Ladies step back with right, then left step, and right steps next to left and the feet are together.

DT: And the 4th, 5th and 6th steps?

Kana: Gentleman stepped with left step on 3rd step, so right foot is next, and he steps back, then steps on left, and then steps right next to left, and the feet are together.

Ladies stepped with right on 3rd step, so their next step is with left, and it is forward step. then right step, and then left steps next to right, and the feet are together and ready to start again.

Starting Up Straight

DT: Okay, itís 6 steps, but itís in 3's, correct?

Kana: For people with music background, best expressed 6 steps to 8 beats of music -- itís step, step, step hold (hold means donít step), step, step,step hold. Or one two three hold, one two three hold.

DT: And both the man and woman are stepping and holding on the same beats.

Kana: Yes, in the basic dance, yes.

DT: What about the hips?

Kana: Try not to force the hip movement, but let it come from floor and weight change. Your body weight change one foot to the other, when that happens from your ball of foot, flat foot, ankle, knee, hip move. But try not to initiate the move from your hip.

Helmut: In all the latin dances as Kana mentions you are just changing weight onto a bent leg and as it straightens -- as your body moves from one side to the other -- it looks like the hips are moving.

DT: Does your hip follow your feet or do your feet follow your hips?

Stepping with bent knees.
Straightening the knees
as weight is shifted
causes the hips to sway

Helmut: The hip follows the body weight change.

DT: When you step, what part of the foot is first to contact the floor.

Kana: Almost flat foot. I wouldnít think toe or heel, I would think almost flat foot, but always knee bent. Itís contacting the floor with the knee bent, then the knee is straightened and that is what causes the swaying in the hips.

Helmut: You don't move with stiff knees, and you try not to move with your hips side to side. Otherwise, you will end up with your feet too far apart.

DT: How long of a process is it for a new student to learn the hip motion?

Helmut: It will take awhile. Most people learn the steps first and after awhile they get the salsa look with the hip motion.

DT: Are there any exercises or tricks for learning the hip motion?

Helmut: No, nothing other than just doing it over and over, possibly in front of a mirror.

DT: Helmut, what are you doing with your arms? It looks as though you are making a circular motion with your left.

Helmut: I am keeping my left arm almost still, but I am moving my torso which makes it appear that the left arm is moving. Most people are not used to moving their upper body, so, -- to add to your previous question, -- squirming is a kind of exercise to improve flexibility and control.

DT: Do you have any general tips for leaders?

Helmut: Stay relaxed, keep time with the music.

The Keys:
The same foot never steps twice in a row, so if the left was the last to step, the right will step next. The stepping of the feet is not too difficult, and in large part remains the same from salsa figure to salsa figure. The knee-hip action discussed above will take a good while for the beginner to master.

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