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The Salsa Dictionary


Here you can find:
  • Names of basic salsa elements, which include Hand holds, Directions, Actions and Positions;
  • A written description of each element;
  • A visual example, which allows you to view each element;
  • A symbol (or code) for each element taken from our Salsa Language.

Remember that different dancers may use different names to describe the same element. For example, Cuban names can be very different from the NY and LA names. Moreover, dancers who dance the same style can and do use different names for the same salsa elements. Here we tried to select the most commonly used terms.


Holds Directions Actions Positions

Normal closed hold

Normal open holds

Crossed holds

Facing the line of dance

Facing perpendicular to the line of dance

Change of a hand hold, Change of directions
Cross body lead, Turns, Duck, Check
Copa or 'In and Out', Hand drop, Hand throw
Natural top, Walks
Hammerlock
Half hammerlock or Broken arm
Embrace, Arm loop, Sombrero
Arm lock or Arm hook

Hand holds

Term

Definition

Symbol

Thumbnail
Click to enlarge

Normal closed hold

Dancers are facing each other: the man positions his right hand on the lady's left shoulder blade and holds her right with his left with his arm bent. The lady places her left hand on the man's right shoulder.

N

Normal open holds Dancers hold left to right and/or right to left. Variations. N

Crossed holds

Dancers hold left to left and/or right to right. Variations.

C


 

Directions

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Term

Definition

Symbol

Thumbnail

Facing the line of dance

Both dancers are positioned facing the line of dance. The dancers can face each other, face the same direction or face the opposite directions from each other. Variations.

Variations of the 'directions', where the man and the lady are facing the line of dance and one of the dancers is positioned behind the other are also called shadow positions.

 → ←

Facing perpendicular to the line of dance

Both dancers are positioned facing perpendicular to the line of dance. Such positioning of the dancers with respect to the line of dance is also called butterfly position. Variations.



 

Actions

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Term

Definition

Symbol

Thumbnail

Change of a hand hold

Swapping from a normal hold to a crossed hold or vice versa.

X Hands

Change of directions  

Swapping places by walking to the opposite side.

X Directions

Cross body lead

The man normally leads the lady across to the opposite side: from his right side to his left. Variations.

XBL

Turns

There are many variations of turns for men and ladies. Turns can be broadly classified according to the direction (right or left) and the number of turns (1/2, 1, 1½, 2, 2 1/2 ,  3 etc.).  Turns can be executed with partners holding each other or in NO hold (free turns). Variations.

 @

Duck

The man or the lady duck down and normally pass under the arm.

Duck
 

Check Checks are executed by the man and involve the man stopping the lady midway through a move (e.g. a turn). Variations. !
Comb Combs are executed by the the man and involve the man bringing the lady's hand over her or his own head.  Variations. E
Copa or 'In and Out' Copa is an action of bringing the lady in and leading her out. This action is called 'Copa' or 'In and Out' in salsa. Variations. Copa
Hand drop The man drops the lady's hand and normally catches it with the same or the other hand. Drop
Hand throw The man throws the lady's hand up. The lady'’s hand goes up and then falls down.  Throw
Natural top The dancers break, come back together into a normal closed hold and execute a full right turn. Typically, the turn ends up with another break. Top
Walks One of the dancers walks on a straight line or walks around his/her partner. Variations. Walk

 

Positions

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Term

Definition

Symbol

Thumbnail

Hammerlock

Hammerlocks are positions where the dancers hold each other with both hands with either the man or the lady  having one arm bent  behind self (broken arm), while holding the hand of the partner. Variations.

HL

Half hammerlock or Broken arm Half hammerlocks are very similar to the hammerlock positions; the only difference is that only the bent arm is held. Variations. HL

Embrace

Embraces are positions where one of the dancers has both hands crossed behind or in front of self while holding both hands of the partner. Variations.

Embrace

Arm lock or Arm hook

Dancers are facing each other and the lady's arm(s) are hooked behind the man's shoulder(s). Variations.

Lock

Arm loop

Dancers are facing each other and the man has his arm looped on the lady's shoulders. The Arm Loop is often used after a turn for the lady. Variations.

 Loop

Sombrero

Dancers are facing the same direction with the lady positioned on the right or on the left side of the man. Both hands are connected in a crossed hold and rest on the shoulders of the dancers. Variations.

Sombrero
 


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