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A language to write salsa figures and routines

Introduction. In order to write down salsa figures and routines we introduce a concept of ' salsa lines' and a concept of ' salsa elements' . We believe that salsa figures and routines can be described using five salsa lines and four salsa elements:

Five salsa lines

  1. Hand hold line
  2. Direction line
  3. Man (or leader) line
  4. Common action line
  5. Lady (or follower) line

Four salsa elements

  1. Hand holds
  2. Directions
  3. Positions
  4. Actions

We will use a code to write down each salsa element.

Another important concept for writing down salsa is to be able to show the time progression. In order to indicate the time progression on salsa lines, we will separate four count bars by a vertical line.

We will now discuss in details five salsa lines and four salsa elements and show the examples of how they are used to write down salsa figures and routines.  

Five Salsa Lines

An example below shows the five salsa lines. A vertical line separates two four beat bars. In this way salsa lines can be used for writing down figures danced On 1 and On 2.

Example

Hand hold

 

 

Direction

 

 

Man

 

 

Common action

 

 

Lady

 

 

1. Hand hold line is used to indicate type of a hand hold during each bar. For this purpose, a code for a hand hold will be written on this line.

2. Direction line is used to indicate where the dancers are facing. This is done by writing a code for a direction on this line.

3. Man (or leader) line is used to indicate actions performed by the man independently from common actions performed by both dancers together. This line is also used to indicate positions specifically for the man (E.g. a comb on the man or a hammerlock for the man). In addition to the positions for the man, this line will be used to indicate the common positions (or positions shared by the man and by the lady), since there are only two of them an arm lock and a sombrero.

4. Common action line is used to indicate actions performed together by both partners. This is done by writing a code for an action on this line.

5. Lady line is used to indicate actions performed by the lady following the man's lead. Sometimes the lady can perform an action which is not dependent on the lead (e.g. one or multiple free turns). This line will also be used to indicate positions specifically for the lady. E.g. a comb on the lady or a hammerlock for the lady.

Four Salsa Elements

In this chapter we will describe salsa elements, introduce codes and show how they are used to write down salsa figures using five salsa lines.

1. Hand holds

This is by far the element that provides the most variations in salsa figures. Because a hand hold is a crucial part of leading, it will refer to the hand positioning of the leader (or the man). Since we have only 2 dancers, the man's hand positioning will define the hand positioning for the lady.

First, we will discriminate between two basic hand holds - Normal and Crossed.

Normal hand hold. A symbol 'N' (for Normal ) will be used for normal hand holds, that are defined as 2 dancers holding hands in a normal position (i.e., the man's right hand holds the lady's left and/or the man's left hand holds the lady's right). The presence or absence of asterisk indicates whether that particular hand is holding or is free. Hands can be held either up or down, which will be indicated by an asterisk in superscript of subscript.

Examples

the man's right to the lady's left, hands up = N *

the man's left to the lady's right, hands up = * N

the man's right to the lady's left, hands down = N *

the man's right to the lady's left hands down & man's left to lady's right, hands up = * N *

Crossed hand hold. A symbol 'C' (for Crossed) will be used for crossed hand holds, which are defined as 2 dancers holding hands in a crossed position (i.e., the man's right hand holds the lady's right and/or the man's left hand holds the lady's left). The rest follows as above.

Examples

the man's right to the lady's right, hands up = C *

the man's left to the lady's left, hands up = * C

the man's right to the lady's right, hands down = C *

the man's right to the lady's right, hands down & the man's left to the lady's left, hands up = * C *

In some cases dancers execute free moves (e.g. free turns) without holding hands. A symbol '0' will be used to indicate absence of a hand hold.

While writing salsa figures, we indicate hand holds on the hand hold line.

Example: First bar - normal hand hold, both hands up; Second bar - no hand hold; Third bar - crossed hand hold, both hands down.

Hand hold

* N *

0

* C *

Direction

 

 

 

Man

 

 

 

Common action

 

 

 

Lady

 

 

 

2. Directions

Another element that introduces variations in salsa figures is the direction where dancers are facing. For each dancer two main variables define a direction - a partner and a line of dance. In brief, each dancer can be facing a) the partner; b) the same direction as the partner; or c) the opposite direction from the partner. In addition, each dancer can be positioned facing the line of dance or facing perpendicular to the line of dance. We will use arrows in combination with the letters 'M' (for Man) and 'L' (for Lady) to indicate where each dancer is facing.

Examples

the man and the lady facing each other and facing the line of dance = M → ← L

the man and the lady facing the opposite directions (back to back position) and facing the line of dance = M ← → L

the man and the lady facing the same direction (with the lady in front) and facing the line of dance = L ← ← M

the man and the lady facing the same direction (with lady in front) and facing perpendicular to the line of dance =
L ↑
M↑

the man and the lady facing the same direction (side to side) and facing perpendicular to the line of dance =L ↑ ↑ M

We indicate directions by placing codes on the direction line. Directions, where the man and the lady are facing the line of dance and one of the partners is positioned behind the other are also referred to as 'shadow positions'. Directions, where the man and the lady are facing perpendicular to the line of dance are referred to as 'butterfly positions'.

Example: First bar - in normal hold the dancers are facing each other and the line of dance; Second bar - in crossed hold the man and the lady are positioned perpendicular to the line of dance and are facing the same direction; the lady is in front of the man. Third bar - in crossed hold the man and the lady are facing the same direction and both are facing the line of dance; the man is standing behind the lady.

Hand hold

* N *

* C *

* C *

Direction

M → ← L

L ↑
M↑

L ← ← M

Man

 

 

 

Common action

 

 

 

Lady

 

 

 

3. Actions

As indicated by the name, actions are dynamic elements of salsa. actions are undertaken by both the the leader (man) and the follower (lady). For the leader it can be a lead (e.g. a cross body lead) or an action independent from the lead (e.g. a turn); the follower mainly performs actions in response to the lead, however she can also undertake independent actions (e.g. a free turn).

Change of a hand hold. This action is indicated with a code 'X Hands' placed on the common action line. Respectively, the hand hold line will show the change.

Example: A normal hand hold is changed to a crossed hand hold.

Hand hold

* N *

* C *

Direction

M → ← L

M → ← L

Man

 

 

Common action

X Hands

 

Lady

 

 

 

Change of directions. This action is indicated with a code ' X Directions' placed on the common action line. Respectively, the code on the direction line for the following bar will reflect the change.

Example: The man and the lady swap directions.

Hand hold

* N *

* N *

Direction

M → ← L

L → ← M

Man

 

 

Common action

X Directions

 

Lady

 

 

Cross body leads. Symbols 'XBL' and '°XBL' are used to describe a normal and a 360 ° cross body leads respectively. Cross body leads are written on the common action line.

Example: A standard cross body lead. The second bar indicates that the lady ended up on the opposit side.

Hand hold

* N *

* N *

Direction

M → ← L

L → ← M

Man

 

 

Common action

XBL

 

Lady

 

 

Turns. For turns we use a symbol '@'. We classify turns according to the direction - 'left' or 'right' and the number of the turns. The number of turns is indicated by a number placed on the left (for left turns) or on the right (for right turns) side of '@'.

Examples

one right turn = @ 1

one left turn = 1 @

two and a half right turns = @ 2+1/2

Occasionally, turns are executed by bending down or 'ducking'. In this case the direction and the number of turns will be written as above, however by using subscript, in order to give the visual idea of bending down. Sometimes 'ducking' can follow a normal upright turn. In this case a normal turn will be indicated as a normal number and a turn with 'ducking' as a subscript.

Examples

one right turn by ducking = @ 1

one right turn followed by another right turn by ducking = @1+1

Turns are indicated on the'Man line' or on the 'Lady line' depending who performs them.

Example: A cross body lead with a left turn for the lady.

Hand hold

* N *

Direction

M → ← L

Man

 

Common action

XBL

Lady

1@

Ducking without turning. Sometimes the man or the lady can duck without turning. We will use the word 'Duck' to indicate this action. The man ducking will be indicated on the 'Man line' and the lady ducking will be indicated on the 'Lady line'.

Example: The man ducks without turning.

Hand hold

* C *

Direction

M → ← L

Man

Duck

Common action

 

Lady

 

Checks. Roughly speaking, checks happen when the man suddenly stops the lady turning in one direction and leads her into a turn(s) in the opposite direction (usually after a pause). Coding checks requires more information due to a larger number of possibilities. For example, the man can use his left or right hand to check the lady on her left or right hip or shoulder or check her holding her left or right hand. Under a simple scenario of a 'not over-creative man' (no checks with feet, knees or elbows) we need to code 3 pieces of information into a single symbol.
We will use a symbol '!' to describe a check, since it bears meaning of a surprise. An asterisk placed on the left or the right side of '!' will indicate which hand the man uses to perform a check. Words 'hand', 'shoulder' and 'hip' will be used to indicate the lady's body part used for a check. These words will be placed on the right or the left side of '!' to indicate if the lady is checked on her left or on her right side.

Examples

the man checks the lady by stopping her with his right hand placed on her right shoulder = !* (shoulder)

the man checks the lady by stopping her with his right hand placed on her left hip = (hip)! *

 

Checks are indicated on the common action line.

Example: The man checks the lady with his right hand on her right shoulder in a shadow position. The lady's both hands are free.

Hand hold

0

Direction

L ← ← M

Man

 

Common action

!*(shoulder)

Lady

 

Combs. Comb is an action of putting one hand behind the neck of either the lady or the man. We will use a symbol 'E' for the comb, since this symbol looks like a large comb. A comb performed on the lady will appear on the lady line and a comb performed on the man will appear on the man line. Therefore, all we have to indicate additionally is which hand (left or right) is the man performing a comb with. An asterisk in a superscript position placed on the left or on the right side of 'E' will indicate the hand.

Examples

the man performs a comb with his right hand = E*

the man performs a comb with his left ' = *E

Here is an example of how we will write down combs using the five salsa lines.
Example: First bar - the man performs a comb on the lady with his right; Second bar - the man performs a comb on himself with his right.

Hand hold

*C*

*C*

Direction

M → ← L

M → ← L

Man

 

E*

Common action

 

 

Lady

E*

 

Copa. Copa is also referred to as 'in and out'. We will use a word 'Copa' to describe this action and we will place it on the common action line.

Example: Copa followed by an inside left turn for the lady.

Hand hold

*C*

*C*

Direction

M → ← L

M → ← L

Man

 

 

Common action

Copa

 

Lady

 

1@

Hand drops and throws. These are characterized by quick changes of hand holds usually with emphatic drops or throw of the lady's hands. As symbols we use ↓ for a drop and ↑ for a throw. An asterisk placed on the left or the right side indicates the left or right hand of the lady that is dropped or thrown.

Examples

the lady's right hand drop =↓ *

the lady's left hand throw = * ↑

Hand drops and throws are indicated on the common action line. If the man catches the lady's hand after he drops or throws it, this will be shown on the hand hold line.

Example: The man and the lady are facing the same direction with the man in front of the lady. The man holds left to left (hands down) and right to right (hands up). The man drops the lady's right from his shoulder level and catches is again at his waist level.

Hand hold

*C*

*C*

Direction

M ← ← L

M ← ← L

Man

 

 

Common action

↓ *

 

Lady

 

 

Natural top. We will indicate Natural top by writing a word 'Top' on the common action line.

Example:

Hand hold

*N*

Direction

M → ← L

Man

 

Common action

Top

Lady

 

Walk. Sometimes the man or the lady may walk on the straight line or walk around their partner. We will indicate this action with a word 'Walk' and place it on the man line or on the lady line depending who performs it. Walk on the straight line will be simply indicated by 'Walk'. Walk around the partner will be indicated by 'Walk O'.

Examples: First bar - the lady walks around the man; Second bar-the man walks on the straight line.

Hand hold

* N *

0

Direction

 

 

Man

 

Walk

Common action

 

 

Lady

'Walk O'

 

4. Positions

After performing actions the dancers end up in certain positions. The same positions can be reached following different actions, therefore we will describe positions as such, as opposed to describing how to end up in these positions.


Hammerlocks. Hammerlocks are positions where the dancers are holding each other with both hands with either the man or the lady having one arm bent (broken arm) behind self, while holding the hand of the partner. There are eight variations of hammerlocks that are due to combinations of the following three types: 1) Normal and reverse hammerlocks; 2) Left and right hammerlocks; 3) Hammerlocks for the man and for the lady. In order to indicate a hammerlock , we will use an abbreviation 'HL'.

Normal hammerlocks are obtained in a normal hand hold, while reverse hammerlocks are obtained in a crossed hand hold. We do not need to introduce symbols for normal and reverse hammerlocks , since we indicate hand holds on the hand hold line. E.g. if a code 'HL' appears in conjunction with *N*, we have a normal hammerlock , whereas if a code 'HL' appears in conjunction with *C*, we have a reverse hammerlock . We also do not need to define whether the HL is for the man or for the lady, because they will appear on the man line or on the lady line respectively. What we need to define is if the HL is left or right. We will indicate a left hammerlock with 'HL(L)' and a right hammerlock with 'HL(R)'.

Example 1: A normal left HL for the lady followed by a normal right HL for the man.

Hand hold

*N*

*N*

Direction

M → ← L

M → ← L

Man

 

HL (Right)

Common action

 

 

Lady

HL (Left)

 

Example 2: A reverse right HL for the lady.

Hand hold

*C*

Direction

M → ← L

Man

 

Common action

 

Lady

HL (Right)

Half Hammerlock or Broken Arm. A hammerlock variation is a position called a half hammerlock or broken arm. In this position only the hand which is bent behind the back is held. Similar to hammerlocks, there are eight variations of half hammerlocks and they are written down similarly to hammerlocks with the difference that a symbol 1/2HL is used. The hand hold line shows that only a single hand is held and the asterisk indicates which of the men's hand is held.

Example: A reverse right 1/2HL for the lady. The lady has her right arm bent behind her back. The man holds the lady's right with his right in a crossed hold.

Hand hold

C*

Direction

M → ← L

Man

 

Common action

 

Lady

HL (Right)

Embrace. Embrace is a position where one of the dancers has both hands crossed behind or in front of self while holding both hands of the partner. If the dancers are facing each other, either the man (embrace for the man) or the lady (embrace for the lady) will have the hands crossed behind the back. If the dancers are facing the same direction, either the man (embrace for the man) or the lady (embrace of the lady) will have the hands crossed in front of self. We will use a word 'Embrace' to code this position. An embrace for the man will be indicated on the man line and an embrace for the lady will be indicated on the lady line.

Example: First bar - the man and the lady are facing each other and the lady is in an embrace position with her hands crossed behind the back; Second bar- the man and the lady are in a shadow position with the man in front of the lady. The man is in an embrace position (in a normal hold).

Hand hold

* C *

* N *

Direction

M → ← L

L → → M

Man

 

embrace

Common action

 

 

Lady

embrace

 

Arm Lock or Arm Hook. Arm lock is a position where the man hooks the lady's one or both hands behind his shoulders. We will use a word 'Lock' to indicate this position and an asterisk on the left or the right side will show which hand the man uses to lock the lady's arm. With his right the man will lock the lady's left hand and vice versa. An arm lock is indicated on the man line, although it is a shared position between the man and the lady (i.e. there is no 'arm lock for the man' or 'arm lock for the lady'). Arm locks are performed in a normal hold.

Example: The man locks the lady's left hand with his right.

Hand hold

N *

Direction

M → ← L

Man

Lock

Common action

 

Lady

 

Arm Loop. Arm loop is a position where the man loops his arm on the lady's shoulders behind her head. An arm loop normally follows the left of the right turn for the lady. We will use a word 'Loop' to indicate this position. An arm loop is indicated on the lady line, since it follows the lady's turns.

Example: The lady's right turn is followed by an arm loop.

Hand hold

* N *

Direction

M → ← L

Man

 

Common action

 

Lady

@1 + Loop

Sombrero. We will use a word 'Sombrero' to indicate this position. In a sombrero the lady can be positioned to the left or to the right side of the man, which will be respectively indicated by an asterisk. Code for the Sombrero will appear on the man line although it is a shared position between the man and the lady .

Example: A sombrero on the man's right side.

Hand hold

* C*

Direction

M → → L

Man

Sombrero*

Common action

 

Lady

 


Indicating what actions or positions that are held

Sometimes we need to indicate that an action or a position is held for more then one bar. For this purpose we will use a sign ----------|. This sing shows for how long the position is held and when does it end.

Example: Comb on the lady is held for 2 bars.

Hand hold

* C *

* C *

Direction

M → ← L

M → ← L

Man

 

 

Common action

 

 

Lady

*Comb ---------------

----------------|


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