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Advice for Dancing at the Salsa Club or Bachata Club for the First Time

Updated: 21 hours ago

salsa dancing in the club for the first time

This audio was recorded by Danny Kalman, the Director of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy. The following text is an unedited transcript of his audio.

Transcript of Audio:

Here's what to expect when going out social dancing to a bachata club or a salsa club for the first time. If you are going out, I'll first say congratulations for building up the courage to go out at all. It can be intimidating at first, especially if you're in a large city with a very developed Latin dance scene. So, congrats on going out at all. Get ready to have a good time.  

The bachata and salsa dance communities are very friendly and the environment is that everyone is interacting with everybody. You're talking to everybody, it's friendly, and pretty much everybody dances with everybody else, which is a very different experience than if you've gone to other bars and clubs. You might find that people are very closed off sometimes and hesitant to interact. It's the exact opposite here. So first of all, just relax and know ahead of time that it's a very welcoming and friendly community.  

When you're there, you'll dance with a whole variety of people and if it's your first time or your first few times, it's great to actually go out with some friends, if possible. If you can bring some people from your dance class if you're taking dance classes, that's even better because you guys are learning together, and that's your support system, you can dance with each other and always fall back on the people who you came with. 

When you go out and ask other people to dance, it is fine for ladies to ask guys to dance, and guys to ask ladies to dance. That's all normal. If you're standing on the edge of the floor, standing up, looking at the floor, you're probably going to be asked to dance, especially if you're a lady. So if you want to take a break, try to create a little space from the floor, maybe sit down so you don't look so available for a dance. People will probably still ask you to dance and it is normal to say yes most of the time when you're asked to dance.  

If you really do want to take a break, then, of course, you always have the right to say no. But just know ahead of time that it is common to accept most dances. Maybe even if you don't 100 % want to do that dance, it is customary to default to a yes. After the dance, though, it is actually normal to just do a single dance with a person, and then it's just- “thank you” and then you turn around and walk away.

That is the normal etiquette, and that can feel really strange for some people.   They might feel like, “Oh, don't I have to talk to them during the dance and after the dance and engage with them and be polite?” The answer is no, not at all. Actually, when I dance with people, sometimes I don't talk to them. Usually, I'm not talking to them at all, actually, during the dance.

So ask them to the dance, they'll say yes, and we're focused on the dance. If I'm talking to somebody and moving the focus away from dancing while we're dancing together, that's okay, but it's not necessarily the normal thing. We're there to dance, right? So most of the time, I'm not saying a word, and I'm just completely focused on the dance. Then afterward, it's, “Thank you so much”. We turn around, we walk away. That's what's normal.  

So if a person after a dance wants to dance with you again for another song and another song, that's fine. You're welcome to do that but you're also to just say, Thank you, and quickly turn around and walk away. That's not offensive, that's not rude. Actually, the one who's asking for multiple dances is the person who is imposing. So just know ahead of time what the customs are around that. That should be helpful for you.  

When you look out onto the dance floor, it can feel very intimidating. I hear a lot of people say, Oh, everybody there was a professional or looked like a professional. I do understand that it can look that way. You should also know that they are definitely not professionals. Depending on the venue that you go to, some will have more advanced dancers than other venues. When you're new, maybe everybody looks like an advanced dancer. But the reality is, 90-95% of people on the dance floor, it's a lot more messy than you might realize when you're a beginner.  

bachata dancing in the club for the first time

After you have a lot of experience, you'll start to understand that a lot of dancing is really, really messy. Unless it's somebody who's been dancing for a long time, 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and has really put in the time to develop their skills as a dancer. So what that means is you are not as far away from a lot of those people, skill-wise, as you might think. If you just keep focusing on your dancing, you're going to be right in there with them, feeling comfortable in no time at all. 

So I'd encourage you to just keep that in perspective, and there's no need to feel intimidated. Again, it's a very welcoming community. If somebody says no to you when you ask them to dance, do not take it personally. Sometimes that's just how it goes. Don't worry about it.  

I do remember, when I first moved to Los Angeles, one of my first times out dancing, I got rejected for three dances, and I was really shocked by that because I had already been dancing for about 10 years. But I don't know, I was new to the city. Maybe I wasn't dressed the right way. Maybe it was my aura, or who knows. But I do still remember all these years later that I was rejected three times when I first went out dancing. So that can hurt at the beginning, or just be shocking or surprising. But seriously, don't take it personally. It's more about them than you.  

Actually, one of the people who rejected me for a dance, I saw her a couple of years later on a performance team. I said, "You're the girl who rejected me for the dance.” She said “No, I'm not. I work there. I have to be nice to everybody. Or, I am nice to everybody." I said, “No, it was definitely you”, because I remembered a very specific characteristic about her. We had this banter about it. Then we became competition partners, and we actually went off and won a competition together. So it wasn't personal. It was just in that moment for whatever reason. She didn't want to dance with me. Okay, fine. I would encourage you, don't take it personally. 


For dancing shoes, if you have dancing shoes, great, it's typical to show up in your regular street shoes and then carry your dancing shoes in a bag and you can change them when you're at the club. If you don't have dancing shoes yet, then just wear any shoes that are as slippery as possible and that's it, just keep going out as often as possible, you're going to get comfortable very quickly, explore different venues, you're going to feel a different vibe, different levels of dancers at different venues as well.  

Oh, and if you do dance with somebody and they look bored or unattentive while you're dancing with them, again, don't take it personally, put things in perspective.  

If you are just starting off and they've been dancing for years and years and years, maybe that is understandable that it wouldn't be that exciting for them, right? That's okay, everybody's got to start somewhere, so you just do your best.  

Even after I've been dancing for years though, sometimes I notice the girls would be inattentive. Maybe in that moment, I don't know, their energy, they really want to dance with a certain person so they're kind of looking off to the side, “Oh, do I get a chance to dance with that person?” Those sorts of things can happen also, even with somebody who's very experienced. So I usually just make them spin like 10 times in a row and bring their attention back to me. I'm kidding, sort of. In any case, if her attention is elsewhere or the guy's attention is elsewhere, that's okay too.

Again, don't take it personally. Some people are really eager to coach beginners on the dance floor. Maybe they can help you with some things, a lot of times it's not a great idea to take advice from random people on the dance floor because it's probably not good advice, but maybe there's some takeaways that you can get from it. Some people can find that annoying when they're being coached on the dance floor. But again, a dance is 3, 4, 5 minutes. You'll be fine in that period of time.  

There is no obligation to do more than one dance with a person and if you do enjoy being coached a little bit, whether it's a good idea or not, it's a different topic, but if you appreciate their help, then that's a good thing too.  

So again, I guess I would just really emphasize, that don't take anything personally when you're going out dancing. Just bring a big smile and whatever happens, just enjoy the process, stick with it and very quickly you're going to start to feel right at home. 

Bachata and Salsa Classes in Los Angeles 

salsa classes in los angeles

Looking for salsa and bachata dance lessons around Los Angeles? Join us at Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy! Expect programs that are progressive, structured, and comprehensive, ensuring you build a solid foundation from the ground up.

Our Academy Director, Danny Kalman, and our dedicated team of professional instructors are here to guide you every step of the way.

Kickstart your dance journey and join a fun, inclusive community passionate about dance.



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