Updated: Nov 2
Transcript of Audio (edited for clarity):
"How long does it take to learn to dance salsa? Or how long does it take to get good at dancing salsa?
When people call for classes at the Academy here in Los Angeles, they ask this question pretty often.
The answer depends on your definition of 'good' or your definition of 'learn to dance.'
For example, if we take the English language, how long does it take to get good at English?
You can get good enough to communicate with people pretty well by middle school, so that is the first 10-15 years of your life (don't worry - salsa is much faster!).
If we are talking about being good enough to write a thesis for a PhD, that takes many more years, and many people go their entire lives and never get good enough to do that.
So, the answer is very much open to interpretation, but I will answer this in the simplest way possible.
How Long To Learn Salsa Basics
When you come in for your first salsa class at the academy here in Los Angeles, Movers and Shakers, you learn the basic step within 10 minutes.
How Long for Leaders
After the 10-week beginner program (20 hours of training), the leaders (traditionally the guys) learn enough material to dance through a song. That's quick!
The dancing won't yet be clean, and there will be some stumbling, and they will have some basic steps in between their movements, and they'll repeat some moves, but that is okay. It is enough to get through a song, which is very empowering!
How Long for Followers
For the followers (traditionally the ladies), it's the same situation - the dancing is not going to be clean, but they will be able to follow a lot of basic patterns.
Of course some people learn dancing more quickly and easily, and for some, it takes longer.
Either way, it is important that you are practicing between classes - that makes all the difference in the world for how quickly you pick it up.
Reaching the Intermediate Level of Salsa Dancing
By the time a person completes their level 2 program at Movers and Shakers, they've got about 40 hours of class time under their belt. Anybody who can execute level 2 material comfortably and confidently is a delight to dance with on the dance floor.
Intermediate Salsa for Leaders
You do not have to lead all the super fancy patterns to be an enjoyable person to dance with.
You just need to be able to stay on beat, and even if you are leading simpler patterns but you're doing them well and enjoying them, you can be really fun to dance with.
Intermediate Salsa for Followers
The same goes for the followers. If they follow at the intermediate level confidently and have the fundamentals in their body, leaders can lead them through quite a few patterns.
How Long To Be an Advanced Salsa Dancer
In terms of standing out on the dance floor - being a star on the dance floor - that, of course, takes a lot more time - maybe years or decades. The time also varies greatly depending on how often you go to class, how often you social dance, and how often you practice.
The Keys to Getting Good At Salsa: Class + Social Dancing + Practice
Class, social dancing, practice: those are the keys to get good at salsa.
Practicing means at home, either solo or with a partner, focusing on the material you learned from class. Practice is a different category from social dancing.
For class, it has to be the right class - you must have an instructor who knows what they are talking about and really gives you the details underneath the patterns. If possible, get into a program with a lot of structure - well-thought-out structure.
If you are going into a salsa class and you forget what you learned the next day or right after class, it is a waste of time. If you remember it, but you did not really understand it, and you are just stumbling through it, it is also not a good use of your focus. So you have to make sure you go into the right program that reviews the material over time and gets the movements properly into your muscle memory.
What is the quickest a person can become a salsa star on the dance floor?
A person can become a "star" on the dance floor probably within a year if they are really focused and are pretty coordinated coming into it. I see it occasionally with students, so it is possible.
Typically, however, it would take several years.
How long does it take to have fun dancing salsa?
Two seconds! If you come in with the right attitude, even from the first day that you are learning your basic steps, you will start having fun with it.
"If you just fall in love with the learning process, everything else will naturally fall in place. That is important. Just enjoying the process is one of my top recommendations. When you make mistakes, laugh at yourself, do not take it too seriously, and just embrace it as feedback."
The more humble you are, the better you'll do in your dancing journey. There is a saying: “Beginner dancers want to take intermediate classes, intermediate dancers want to take advanced classes, and advanced dancers want to take beginner classes.
There is a lot of truth in that because, as an advanced dancer, you realize that the sophisticated patterns are less important than all those fundamentals underneath. Once you have great fundamentals, the sophisticated patterns become easy.
So, for myself, even after I had been dancing for ten years, I would go to these big dance festivals (called "congresses)" that sometimes attract the best international talent, and I would look for their beginner classes because I wanted to know: “Okay, this person is so great. I don't care what their fancy pattern is. I want to know what their technique is. The fundamentals underneath that fancy pattern - how do they approach it? Because if I can understand that, I can pick up any fancy pattern in 2 seconds and do it well."
The Value of Fundamentals in Salsa Dancing
Being a great dancer is all about fundamentals. When I say be humble, what I mean is, for example, when I see prospective students with some dance experience and I say: “Do you feel you're more Level 1, Level 2, Level 3?”, and they say Level 1, I have all the respect in the world for that person. I know they're going to do well in their dancing journey because they are taking the time to learn the fundamentals and they understand the importance of that.
On the other hand, it's also common for students to come to me eager to advance to a salsa program above their level because the thought of it is exciting.
I get it, and I understand that tendency. I am also a person who often wants to push to a higher level, maybe too early. I want to support that student, but I know that it will not serve them in the mid to long term. They will struggle more. So, I tell everybody:
"Just take the time to learn proper fundamentals. Find the best program available in your area that will offer that, and then do your best to get the fundamentals into your muscle memory. You will start having fun with it right away, and then in the mid-to-long-term, you will become a much better dancer and enjoy the process even more.”
Salsa Classes in Los Angeles
This audio was created by Danny Kalman, the creator and director of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy in Los Angeles, California.
If you are in Los Angeles, reach out to us for salsa classes. We'll teach you everything from the top with proper structure to get rock solid foundations.