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The “Big 3” You Must Do To Get Good At Salsa or Bachata

Updated: May 11

What if you could compress years of learning into months?

Taking a strategic approach to your salsa and bachata educational journey will do exactly that.

The big 3 activities you must do to get good at salsa or bachata are the following:

  • Take classes (1. the RIGHT classes, 2. with the right frequency)

  • Practice outside of class (1. the RIGHT material, 2. with the RIGHT strategies)

  • Social dance (1. with purpose-driven intention, 2. focusing on the RIGHT skills)

If you do just the bold text, EVENTUALLY you’ll become a great dancer.

If you embrace the text in parentheses, you’ll become a great salsero or bachatero faster than all the students around you, and they’ll look up to you in amazement.

So let’s plan our strategy!

Taking salsa or bachata classes

The RIGHT classes


If you are starting from zero, you need STRUCTURE.

If you “grew up dancing” with your family, friends, relatives, but it’s your first time taking class, you need STRUCTURE.

Look for a dance program in your area with the LONGEST structured timeline possible. For example:

  • Drop-in classes (timeline = 1 class. No progressive structure. Not good for beginners.)

  • 5-week programs (some structure, but nobody becomes decent at dancing in 5 weeks)

  • 10-week programs (getting better)

  • 6-month programs, or longer (jackpot. Go there)

So why don’t we run 6-month programs at Movers and Shakers?!

Our curriculum actually extends over a year – it’s just cut into smaller 10-week pieces to help students break for travel etc. and come back right where they left off.

salsa and bachata dance classes in los angeles california

Drop-in Salsa / Bachata Classes

Trying to learn salsa or bachata from the ground up with drop-in classes (classes that any students may join, or not, at any time), is simply a terrible approach.

Even if the drop-in classes are taught by the world’s greatest dancer, who is also the world’s best instructor, that instructor’s ability to help you is severely limited by the lack of structure in drop-in classes.

Piecing together the details from unstructured drop-in classes means extending your learning time dramatically and missing hundreds of key foundational details that you need to become a great dancer.

Drop-In Classes At Salsa / Bachata Clubs

I used to teach the drop-in class at a salsa / bachata night club here in Los Angeles. I did taught there for maybe a year or two. Although I loved the management, my teaching partner, and the students, and was grateful for the opportunity, I always felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to serve the students better in that environment.

The biggest challenge was the mixed level of students in the classes.

The beginner class students ranged from first-time salsa or bachata dancers, to students who had taken 10 classes somewhere else, to students who joined my class at the club weekly, to students who had taken 30 classes at various places.

Although they were all “beginners,” their needs were very different.

Intermediate classes made more sense in that drop-in club context, but that class also attracted a wide array of experience levels.

Drop-in classes at salsa / bachata clubs are really best suited for the following:

  • Fun, party night out with friends who just want to dip their toes and experience salsa or bachata once or twice (if it’s a super beginner class)

  • Experienced dancers who have great fundamentals (this is NOT most dancers)

The beauty of first locking in great FUNdamentals, is that you can then take drop-in salsa or bachata classes anywhere in the world and truly benefit from them!

Fundamentals first. Everything else after. 


Look for details, details, details in the program you join. Being an amazing professional dancer and amazing professional instructor are two different skills. Try a class and make sure you feel great with the quality of instruction.

Quality Professionals

Look for an instructor who has the dancing skills themselves!

Most instructors do, but some dance schools are built on training hobbyist dancers without much experience how to be just a few steps ahead of the students (because it keeps costs down for the company) – typically not the best setup for the students.

Specializing in salsa / bachata SOCIAL dancing style

Salsa / bachata for social dancing is DIFFERENT from ballroom salsa or bachata. If a ballroom dance instructor is teaching salsa / bachata alongside 5+ other ballroom dances, the style of salsa / bachata is NOT what will serve you best on the social dancing floor.

Ballroom dancing (including latin ballroom), is built on maximalist movement. Social dancing is not. Social dancing is built more on fluid movement.

Ballroom dancing is built on strong, consistent pressure to connect with the partner. The leader is expected to push the follower through entire movements. Social dancing is more relaxed – the leader initiates movements and the follower finishes them. This is a BIG difference in how the connection feels, how your dance ultimately looks, and what is possible (and not possible) to execute while freestyle dancing in a club.

Ballroom dancers are trained to create wonderful, beautiful movements that salsa / bachata social dancing specialists are not.

By the same token, salsa / bachata social dancing specialists move in wonderful ways that ballroom dancers do not.

So, in short, if social dancing at clubs / socials is your goal, learning with salsa / bachata social dancing specialists will serve you best.

The RIGHT Frequency

Too little class means forgetting material and wasting time catching up.

Too much class means never learning the material in the first place (also wasting time).

Take class at a pace that’s sustainable long-term AND enables you to get the material into your muscle memory.

Class once per week is sustainable for most people. Any less frequent than once per week becomes inefficient because students tend to forget what they learned before.

More than once per week is great IF it fits your schedule AND you’re practicing outside of class enough to get the material into your body.

Plowing forward with new material before mastering what you just learned will not serve you as well as taking the extra time to master what you’ve just learned.

One of my favorite quotes: “If you’re not doing it, you haven’t learned it.”

More is not better. Learning what you learned is better.

Which brings us to our next topic….

Practice Your Salsa / Bachata Skills Outside of Class

Practicing outside of class is different from social dancing.

Practicing outside of class means at home or some other space, solo or with a partner, specifically practicing what you’ve recently learned in class.

salsa and bachata practice sessions

Practice With the Right Frequency

One practice after every class should be your minimum standard. Typically that means one practice per week.

If you’re taking two classes in a week, combining the material into a single practice is fine.

What should be avoided is going back to the same class next week without having practiced the material from the previous week. That slippery slope leads to inefficient, much slower learning.

Practice The Right Material

Focus on what you learned in class, not the new, exciting move from YouTube or the video that your friend sent you or wants to practice.

Once your fundamentals are rock solid, picking up material from the Internet, and actually doing it well, becomes more feasible. In the meantime, just focus on fundamentals.

Practice With The Right Strategies

For gentlemen (leaders), learning new patterns typically follows this flow:

  1. Repeat until you remember the whole pattern and can lead it decently enough

  2. Clean, clean, clean. Review your recap video from class (you recorded one, right? ;). Do your best to embrace every detail that was taught. Isolate the details and repeat them again and again.

For ladies (followers), practicing with a leader in your class is ideal since you’re working on the same material. Focus on being the best follow that you can for those patterns. Isolate the trouble spots and repeat them.

Practice Solo As Well

For gentlemen (leaders), practicing with a “ghost partner” works! Seriously. You can learn salsa or bachata patterns quickly this way.

For ladies, also practicing solo is crucial for your success. Spinning for salsa and body isolations for bachata are arguably some of the most valuable skills you can work on.

Practice at The Right Speed

Practice SLOWLY. VERY slowly. Slower than you want to practice.

Start with counts.

Then dance with SLOW music.

Save the medium speed music for… probably another practice session.

Sometimes students say, “It’s easier faster!”

Translation: “When I can move on quickly from the things I’m not doing well because the music is pushing me forward, I feel better about my dancing.”

Dancing slower indeed is harder in some ways. It requires control and attention to detail.

Start slow. Save the fast dancing for the clubs J.

Social dancing

Time to shine!

Social dancing is a great way to get exposure to a whole variety of movements, feelings, styles, patterns, dancing levels, music speeds etc.

And it’s fun!

If you can sustain social dancing at least once per week, it will accelerate your learning in your dance journey.

salsa and bachata event in los angeles california

Social Dance With Purpose-Driven Intention

When I was deeply focused on my dance education, I would typically social dance with PURPOSE.

I would commit to doing the same one or two new patterns EVERY dance that night.

The beauty of this strategy is that since I would typically do a single dance with a person in a night, the follows had no idea that I was repeating the same moves all night!

Between dances I would routinely retreat to a corner, check the class recap videos on my phone, then go do those moves again, with more detail and improvement. (How lucky are we to have phones with cameras?! Let’s use them.)

For ladies (followers), you won’t be able to practice the exact movements from class unless you’re dancing with classmates. I recommend dancing both with classmates and strangers.

What ladies CAN work on though, no matter who they’re dancing with, are fundamental skills for following. Some examples:

For Salsa:

  • Spotting when spinning

  • Traveling less on traveling turns

  • Controlling momentum at the end of traveling turns to not fall

For Bachata:

  • Holding yourself up (as opposed to hanging on the lead)

  • Body isolations

  • Head rolls with complete movement,  starting with the ear to the shoulder

For Salsa and Bachata:

  • Relaxed arms during the basic

  • Relaxing in general

  • Resistance when required

  • Following exactly what’s being asked for, nothing more, nothing less

  • Smaller steps

  • Details for basic step

These are just a few examples. There are hundreds of things to work on. Choose ONE or TWO skills and focus on cleaning those skills during every dance of the night.


The “Big 3” In the Right Order

  1. Class

  2. Practice

  3. Social Dance


If you’re able to set up your schedule in this order every week, you’ve done it perfectly.

If not, don’t sweat it! Just work with whatever schedule is feasible.



Follow the strategies above to become an amazing salsa or bachata dancer in the quickest, most efficient way possible.

I see many dancers dancing for years not realizing that they could be making progress so much more quickly using the strategies above.

You’ve learned the strategies - now it’s up to you to use them.


Salsa / Bachata Classes In Los Angeles

Step 1 is class.

If you’re in Los Angeles and ready to learn, join us at Movers and Shakers.

We’ve got you covered for the big 3:  class (properly structured), practice (community of students you’ll grow and practice with), social dancing (we take you out and you’ll go out you’re your classmates). 

Check out the current salsa class schedule and bachata class schedule.

Excited to meet you!



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