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Timing, rhythm & music interpretation in Salsa

Timing Training Set$120

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The 'right' way: being on time

Roughly speaking, if you avoid the mistakes we listed before, that is, if you do not dance too slow or too fast and you do not anticipate the beat, your basic steps are probably correct. Reaching this point should be priority number one for each salsa dancer, even before venturing into learning figures or shines.

Once you get here, with time, you can proceed further. Basic steps are just what the word suggests.. basic steps.. the first level of salsa steps. Once you understand the salsa timing completely, and you are able to follow it instinctively without counting, then you can free yourself from the constraint of having to follow the basic steps mechanically and you can experiment with improvising with your footwork, while you dance with your partner. In timing DVD we show a simple but beautiful example of it. Pay attention to how the dancers, especially the male dancer, rarely execute the standard basic step, but how they are always perfectly on time and perfectly synchronized. Despite the fact that the basic steps are rarely performed you should recognize that they are dancing on the clave 2, Puerto Rican style.

Basically you improvise simple shines while executing your partner-work. This is not easy to achieve and the first attempts may be frustrating, but if you learn to listen to the music properly, one day it will click. The crucial component is to always know where the beat number 1 or n2 are, so that, independently of what you do with your feet, you will always be synchronized with both the music and your partner. You may want to watch this clip a few times to notice all the details of the footwork.

How can you understand if your free footwork now matches the music? Imagine your steps can generate a sound. Would the sound of your steps match the music? If so, your footwork is right!

The importance of timing 'in the hands'. If you get to the level of completely freeing your footwork, your awareness of the salsa timing needs to be even more developed. You need to coordinate your actions with your partner in order to execute the figures, and, if you are a guy, you need to lead properly. Now you do not have your regular footwork to rely on for such coordination. Here is where you need to always be aware of what beat you are on. For example, right turns are often lead on beat n5, if you dance 'On 1'. Your lead needs to start on beat n3 or 4 to make it smooth. XBLs are initiated on beat n2, if you dance 'On clave'; the woman walks in front of the guy on beat n6. In order to lead these actions you always need to know what beat you are on. Your brain needs to know this automatically, because you may be fully immersed in executing a figure. This is where timing needs to become second nature to you. But not only in your feet, in your hands too!!

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