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Salsa, Mambo & Cha Cha Cha footwork

Salsa or Mambo footwork can be thought of in terms of

  • Basic steps
  • Footwork required by the most common salsa or mambo turn patters
  • Free style footwork, which can be choreographed (as in shines or pasitos) or spontaneous and improvised (which we much prefer)
  • Executing the basic steps correctly is a matter of following the music (being ‘in time’ with the music) and with what beats of the music you need to sync your footwork; the latter depends on the style you dance. We explain these two concepts here, here and here

    When we dance with a partner usually we execute the basic steps following the regular beat on the music. How the feet move however, may change depending on what turn patters we execute. Fortunately, while there are an infinite number of turn pattern combinations, these are usually made up by combining only 13 footwork elements. We describe these in details in our DVD From Salsa to Mambo (via Cha Cha Cha) where we include exercises which both male and females can practise solo at home until they are fully mastered.

    At times dancers release the hand hold and they may dance solo for a few bars of music. Here is where they may wish to improvise with some solo footwork. This footwork may be choreographed (that is, learn by memory and praticsed extensively in front of a mirror) which is usually referred to as shines or pasitos. Other times dancers my feel to improvise this footwork to fit the music they dance to and we do like this much better :) . For an amazingly inspirational example, have a look at the clips in the Introduction of our DVD Salsa on the Spur of the Music. Very skilled advanced dancers may be able to improvise their footwork while they execute turn patterns, as here..

    In this page we describe a method we developed to annotate salsa and mambo footwork. It consists of a set of symbols for different foot actions and the timing such actions occurs within the bar of music. It is really nothing but a music score for salsa and mambo footwork. As everything which uses symbols, initially it may look scary but believe us, it is very simple.

    You can make two uses of this method:

  • You can use it to write down and memorise your footwork.
  • You can use it to ‘invent’ new shines or pasitos, very much like music composers write music directly on the music score without instruments. This is exactly how most of the footwork in our vol 3 was developed.
  •    
    More important, if you become familiar with it, you will start to ‘see’ the structure of your footwork when you dance solo and it may help you improvise because it make the relation between each foot movement and the music visually explicit. It really works for me!

    In what follows you can find the list of symbols used, the explanation of the method and the notation for all the footwork contained in our DVD ..

    The footwork 'score’

    Think of this as the equivalent of a music score. We have 3 lines.

    The first line gives the music beats; these go from 1 to 8 and cover 2 bars of music, as it is customary in salsa and mambo. in between each beat of music we have the ‘and’ step. If you are familiar with music theory, this is the 16th of a beat. If you are not familiar with music theory, this is what dance teacher may call ‘and 2’, ‘and 3’... or quick step, or syncopations although this term is not strictly correct).

    This line shows us that if we wanted to step to all beats or the music and all ‘&’ beats we could perform 16 steps in 2 bars of music.

    Example 1. The 3 lines in our Salsa & Mambo foorwork score.

    The second row, tells us what foot needs to step at that specific beat. Where L=left foot, R=right foot. And empty cell means that there is no step at that beat. For example, this figure shows that the left foot steps at beat 1, we rest at beat 2, the right foot steps at beat 3, etc. In this row we also write ‘where’ the foot steps. This of yourself in a resting position, feet slightly apart. We call that the ‘default’ position. That is where the left foot ‘normally steps (L) and the right foot normally steps (R). Now imagine you move your left foot forward and in a normal basic step. To show that left foot has moved forward we put a bar underneath it (L). In other words, the bar is the reference of the foot default position. A right foot stepping backward as in the standard basic steps would be R̄. The same applies for movement sideways. We list here some examples.

    Salsa and mambo Footwork symbols
    Example 2. Symbols used to describe which foot moves and where

    It is easier to see it that to describe it by words, as in this example.

    Here the dancer:

  • steps with the left foot forward on beat 1;
  • steps in place with the right foot on the beat ‘and 2’;
  • steps again with the left foot forward on beat 2;
  • steps sideways to the right with the right foot on the beat 3;
  • steps backward with the left foot on the beat 4;
  • etc...
  •   Example 3. How to read the second line of the footwork score

    Finally the last row. This describes ‘how’ the foot steps, as follows

    Salsa and mambo Footwork symbols
    Example 4. Symbols used to describe how a foot steps

    And here is an example of how to read the third row in the footwork score:

  • steps by pointing the left foot forward on beat 1;
  • steps in place with the right foot on the beat ‘and 2’;
  • crosses forward with the left foot on beat 2;
  • steps sideways on the right heel on the beat 3;
  • steps backward with the left foot and accents the step with a tap, on the beat 4;
  • etc...
  • How to step to salsa and mambo footwork
    Example 5. How to read the third line of the footwork score

    Salsa-Mambo Footwork examples

    from Timing Exercises Vol 3

    What follows are example of free style footwork. They are taken from our DVD Timing Exercises Vol 3 to which you can refer if you want to study them and exercise to them. As explained in the DVD page, they are divided into 4 groups:

  • Stepping exercises with strong, weak and syncopated beats.
  • Stepping exercises with three salsa instruments: clave, conga and bass.
  • Footwork exercises with a faster pace to develop your speed and agility.
  • Free style footwork
  • Stepping exercises with strong, weak and syncopated beat
    Exercise 1 – Basic stepping strong beats

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 1

    Exercise 2 – Basic stepping weak beats

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 2

    Exercise 3 – Basic stepping syncopations

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 3

    Exercise 4 – Basic stepping, switching from on1 to on2

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Stepping exercises to salsa instruments
    Exercise 5 – Step to the Clave

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 1

    Exercise 6 – Step to the Clave

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 2

    Exercise 7 – Step to the Clave

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 3

    Exercise 8 - Step to the Conga

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 9 - Step to the Conga

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 10 - Step to the Conga

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 11 - Step to the Conga

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 12 - Step to the Bass

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 13 - Step to the Bass

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Speed, coordination and agility

    Exercise 14 - Speed, coordination and agility

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 15 - Speed, coordination and agility

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 16 - Speed, coordination and agility

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 17 - Speed, coordination and agility

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 18 - Speed, coordination and agility (Shuffle basics)

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 19 - Speed, coordination and agility

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Free style footwork

    Exercise 20 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 21 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 22 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 23 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 24 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 25 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 26 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 27 - Free style

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    from Timing Exercises Vol 3
    DVD - $30
    Click for more info

    Cha Cha Cha footwork examples

    from Timing Exercises Vol 4

    What follows are example of free style Cha Cha Cha footwork. They are taken from our DVD Timing Exercises Vol 4 to which you can refer if you want to study them and exercise to them.

    Exercise 1

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 1

    Exercise 2

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 2

    Exercise 3

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 3

    Exercise 4

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 5

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 1

    Exercise 6

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 2

    Exercise 7

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 3

    Exercise 8

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 9

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 10

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 11

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 12

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 13

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 14

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 15
    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 16

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 17

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 18

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 19

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 20

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 21

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4

    Exercise 22

    Salsa and Mambo Footwork 4


    from Timing Exercises Vol 4
    DVD - $30
    Currently available only as digital download Click for more info

     


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