top of page

Which Level Classes Will Help Me Dance Salsa or Bachata the Best?

Updated: May 11

I love this dance adage: “beginner dancers want intermediate classes, intermediate dancers want advanced classes, and advanced dancers want beginner classes.”

It’s often true!

Frequently I see this sentiment at the dance academy here in Los Angeles.

A lot of dance students are eager to move up to a higher level.

Moving up isn’t necessarily the path that will help the most though. In fact, it can even make a student’s dancing worse.

Let’s explore…

salsa bachata classes los angeles california

The Three Types Of Dance Students

You likely fall into one of these categories:

  • Starting to learn salsa or bachata from zero

  • Graduated level 1 (beginner classes)

  • Have some salsa or bachata experience and are choosing a level

If you’re starting from zero, then obviously you should start at the beginning.

This article is more for people who are in the second two categories.

Even Professionals Repeat Dance Programs

So let’s say you’ve taken some beginner classes in salsa or bachata (or graduated from a beginner program), and are deciding whether to move up.

I understand that entering a more advanced class brings a feeling of accomplishment - kind of like the pride that comes with a fancy job title.

Before you move up so quickly though, consider this story…

When I graduated from my level 1 ballet program, I sucked.

My instructor was wonderful, the program was well-structured, I was already teaching salsa and bachata professionally, and I already had 12 years of dance experience under my belt in a variety of styles.

All the cards were stacked in my favor to excel…

But it didn’t matter…

I sucked.

It didn’t matter that I had technically received all the information from the instructor. My execution was terrible. 

So I muzzled my ego and repeated level 1.

After my second graduation, I did move up to level 2, which re-humbled me, and I then moved back to level 1 AGAIN, for the third time.

Stumbling through level 2 wouldn’t serve me. There was simply more benefit to be had from mastering the level 1 material.

Aren’t Salsa and Bachata Easier Than Ballet Though?

Yes! Whereas ballet requires immense physical strength and flexibility, salsa and bachata (for social dancing – not referring to competition), do not. I call them “friendly” dances.

However, salsa and bachata are still rich in details, and mastering details takes time.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: When salsa students graduate the 101 program at Movers and Shakers, only about 1 in 100 have at least 95% of the material in their muscle memory.

For bachata students, it’s more common that students get all the details into their body more quickly, since bachata is easier to learn at the basic levels (but arguably harder to learn than salsa at the more advanced levels). For bachata, I’d estimate that about 30 in 100 really absorb all the level 1 material in their first round.

If every student can whiz through a salsa or bachata program and get every detail taught into their body quickly on their first try, then the program should be teaching more details to serve the students better. 

Should I repeat my salsa or bachata program?

Whereas there’s often an assumption that a person should automatically rise to the next level after graduation, that’s not necessarily what will help the student the most.

I remind people: “You’ve got your whole life in front of you to dance. What’s the rush? How about investing in rock-solid foundations now so you can become a much BETTER dancer later, and forever.”

When you graduate a level, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Which path will make me a better dancer, faster?” Often, that means repeating a level.  

If your goal is to have a clean, smooth, flowing connection and style, then typically repeating a program will serve you best.  

If a program felt easy, you’re probably missing the details (assuming the program teaches proper details).

When students repeat the salsa 101 or bachata 101 program, they typically express amazement at how much more they absorb the second time.

A quote that I love is “If you’re not doing it, you haven’t learned it.” If you agree with this, then perhaps it will help you decide whether repeating a level makes sense ;)


But I Want to Feel Challenged. Repeating Sounds Boring and Easy

Sadly, I’ve learned that most students don’t want to repeat programs.

I understand the desire to be challenged. I’m absolutely the same way.

For me though, the exciting challenge is not in doing harder patterns, but rather executing the simplest movements REALLY WELL.

I would encourage any dance student to embrace this same focus on the details – this will serve you long-term.

Leaders (Gentlemen): How To Be A Delight On The Salsa Floor or Bachata Floor

There are a lot of guys at dance socials stumbling through sophisticated, advanced patterns.

Spoiler alert – they’re typically not the most fun ones to dance with.

What’s typically more fun is to dance with a guy who maybe is doing less advanced things, but is doing them really well, or with a lot of flavor and feeling, and a really clean connection.

Honestly, even though I have a bunch of fancy movements under my belt, I’m typically leading simpler stuff anyway to adjust for packed dance floors without much space and for the level of whomever I’m dancing with. There are a lot more beginner and intermediate dancers on the floor than professionals.  

The point being that your whole life you’re going to be leading mostly intermediate and even beginner level patterns, so mastering that material will typically give you more fun in more dances than stumbling through advanced movements.

Follower (Ladies): How To Be A Delight On The Salsa Floor or Bachata Floor

Here’s the blueprint to be an amazing follow: follow exactly what the lead is asking for, nothing more, nothing less (except for styling embellishments that don’t disturb the connection with your partner).

This is important! Did you get it?

Again: follow exactly what the lead is asking for, nothing more, nothing less.

Mastering this skill, of course, is easier said than done – and of course it comes down to fundamentals. Focus on connection, timing, and especially spinning, and you’ll be well on your way.

The Dancers We Admire

Imagine any professional salsa or bachata dancer who you love watching dance in person or on social media or YouTube.

Why do you (and everyone else) choose to watch them over other dancers?

Many people can do all of the same fancy patterns that those professionals do!

The difference is HOW the professionals do them.

Professionals can make even a basic step look delightful.

So logically, it would make sense for any student to focus more on HOW they’re executing movements, which again comes back to fundamentals.

How Mastering Salsa or Bachata Fundamentals Unlocks Access To Classes Anywhere

Once you have rock solid fundamentals, you can take any intermediate or advanced salsa or bachata class anywhere in the world, in any language, and pick up the material quickly. (I’ve done it! I’ve trained in dance with instructors speaking English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Japanese).

Most students leave intermediate and advanced classes fumbling through the patterns. You, on the other hand, will understand the 45 movements and skills underneath the patterns that make them work, and you’ll pick them up in no time at all.

Learn Faster and Faster

As you build proper fundamentals, your learning actually accelerates over time.

So basically you’re investing extra time early in your dance journey in order to save time for the rest of your life, AND enjoy dancing more because you’re doing it better.


Professionals Love Beginner Classes

Recently I took a trip to Spain to study Sensual Bachata, because that's where Sensual Bachata originated, and some of the best instructors in the world for that style of course are in Spain.

In one week I did about 40 hours of private and group classes.

Every single instructor I worked with in the private lessons, I started by asking to see their basic step and to break down every detail for me, count by count.

The BASIC STEP! That’s what you learn in day 1 of any dance program. I dance professionally, have been dancing for nearly 20 years, have studied many styles of dance, and I teach bachata and salsa for a living, so why would I still care about seeing a basic step?

Because I want to understand exactly how THEY do it. I want to understand the exact nuance of how these professionals do their basics the same, or differently.

I then also asked them who they learned from in order to compare and contrast techniques and styles.

They’re beautiful, world-renowned dancers because of HOW they move, so naturally I will be interested in understanding exactly how they move.

The point of the story is that if reviewing fundamentals is good enough for professionals, it’s probably good enough for beginners too.

graduation photo of bachata and salsa classes in los angeles california

What If I Have Salsa or Bachata Experience Already?

Students sometimes call the dance academy here in Los Angeles wanting to learn salsa or bachata, and they say, "I've been dancing my whole life, what level should I be in?"

I respond, “Great! How many classes of bachata or how many classes of salsa have you taken so far in your life?"

"Oh, none, but I grew up dancing with my family and at parties and it’s in my blood."

Let’s be clear, although coordination comes more easily to some people, nobody is born knowing dance technique.

That’s like saying “I should start in calculus class, because math is in my blood.” Huh? It sounds ridiculous, because it is. A “math person” may be able to learn math quickly, but they still need to receive the material from somebody – nobody is born knowing calculus.

I guess what also happens is that people think they know everything because uncle Pedro showed them some moves.

When they walk into a salsa or bachata social though and dance with people who take class, it’s a completely different experience that is often…. humbling…

So the short answer is that if it’s a person’s first time taking class in salsa or bachata, level 1 will serve them the best.

The Truth About Advanced Salsa or Bachata Classes

Some of my students may hate that I’m writing this, but the reality is that many of the students in the advanced 103 programs are still not dancing with the fundamentals from back in their 101 programs.

Although, I typically share this blatantly in class, so I guess they already know J.

For some students, what would really help is just drilling the fundamentals at home with a partner 500 times. It sounds tedious, but truly is the most efficient thing you could do. Once it’s in your muscle memory, the next 500 patterns you learn will flow more cleanly and naturally and be more fun!

I guess advanced classes sometimes can become a mode of entertainment and release and fun and therapy more than to fulfill a voracious appetite for cleaning details. In that case, I do understand the desire to come play in the advanced classes.

If those students will also supplement class with a little extra time each week to drill their fundamentals though, they’ll enjoy class even more!

In Summary

Fall in love with the process of learning.

Focus on the details.

Consider repeating programs.

Always ask yourself “What level class will serve me the most long-term?”


Salsa and Bachata Classes in Los Angeles

I tell students on day 1 of the beginner 101 bachata programs and salsa programs at Movers and Shakers here in Los Angeles, “This is the most important stuff that you're going to learn in your entire dance journey. It’s more material than you’ll be able to get into your body the first time through, but do your best to get everything out of it that you possibly can. Once you master this material, your dance future will be very bright!”

If you’d like to learn salsa or bachata with great fundamentals right from day 1, and are in Los Angeles, check out the current salsa class schedule or bachata class schedule and come dance with us at Movers and Shakers!



Home  > Salsa / Bachata Blog  > Which Level Classes Will Help Me Dance Salsa or Bachata the Best?


© 2024 MaS Dance, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

bottom of page