Guide for Beginners
Welcome to the Boston Salsa Scene!
This is a document in progress. Please send me your
additions, suggestions, or experiences.
#1 Question: Do I need a partner?
Heck No! Never once have
I been anywhere where it was required. By some magic
usually there is a pretty even ratio. Just show up!
In fact, it's a great way to meet people in a very unpretentious
setting. People are there to dance.
do I start?
My personal suggestion for your first venture out is to go
to a club where they offer a drop-in beginner class, and take
it. Don't be late! The basic steps is always explained
at the start, and if you don't get that, your going to have
a tough time.
At a club lesson you'll also very quickly be introduced to
some people who are also new at it, learn the basic steps,
and get a feel for what all the craze is about. Maybe
organize a group of friends if you're unsure of yourself,
but all of the places are VERY FRIENDLY. Salsa is a
fantastic multicultural experience, but the bottom line is
people are out there to have a good time!
If you have two left feet and no clue,
I suggest taking the "Salsa for Gringo's" class
at (which I teach). It's designed as a level 0 "Salsa
Prep" class where we go over the basics of dancing,
in addition to just Salsa. This class is ALWAYS a fun
time! Show up a little early, have a drink, and then
we'll get you dancing. Wear comfortable shoes, with
non-rubber soles if possible. You don't need a partner
but BE ON TIME! The beginning of the class is the most
Click the banner for more info on where the class is offered.
If you got your feet somewhat sorted out at the Gringo's
class, or even if you didn't, go out and check out some of
the regular beginner lessons. My experience is that
many beginner lessons teach the basics of Salsa but don't
get comprehensive about a lot of the basics of dancing
in general that make a big difference. So you have
to try it for a while.
Salsa Night at
An Tua Nua, Wednesdays
In trying out a few of these, you'll meet some instructors
and talk to people that can give you their opinions about
what they like because there's a lot out there. Moreover,
you'll get a sense of what instructors are out there and what
to expect from their classes. Some instructors you will
find yourself learning a lot from, and some not so much, depending
on how you learn. i.e. Find the instructors you click
best with--don't just stick with what you know.
What about studio lessons?
Studio lessons are more intensive and you will learn quicker
than in a club, but the key is to first get the basics and
also find an instructor you like before you spend the money.
That's why I recommend the clubs a few times first.
Studio lessons usually run in 4-8 week blocks, and incorporate
a curriculum, so you need to go the entire session to get
the most out of it. They usually run about $10-$15/hr
for however many hours for the whole session, and meet once
per week. Most instructors offer different levels at
varying times, so start with beginners, and after that take
the intermediate, etc. Some instructors will let you
drop in on the sessions but it costs more than paying for
the whole thing in advance.
Visit the Lessons page for listings
of where to go.
What does it cost to go out?
When you go out for a night of dancing, you should plan to
spend at least $20 as an obligatory rule of thumb and perhaps
$30. Why? Well, nightclubs are businesses that depend on patronage.
$20 includes cover, a drink or two or some bottles of water,
coat check, and maybe parking. When patrons come in, beg the
cashier to be let in free, don't spend any money at the bar,
and go home, that's like sneaking into a movie. You can do
it, but it brings down the quality of events that we as Salsaeros
can have because the clubs are businesses. The DJ's
and staff have to get paid, the rent on the building and the
insurance has to be paid, the owners and promoters have to
get something, and all the advertising, marketing, and promotions
have to be paid for. It's the unfortunate truth. So, please,
SUPPORT THE BAR when you go out. If you don't like to drink
alcohol when you dance, buy water, juice or soda, and tip
generously. Seriously, the bar revenue is what allows the
dancing to happen.
Cover charges in Boston are on average about $10, and lessons
usually $2-$3 extra. Some places offer "frequent dancer"
cards, or online discounts which will save you a few bucks
if you're on a tight budget.
What about alcohol?
Many people, especially as they get better, don't like to
drink in the clubs when the dance because their dancing gets
sloppier. Well, that's okay if you're a serious professional
dancer and nothing else, but my take on it is this:
- It's a party! Have a few! Who cares how perhaps slightly
sloppy you dance. You can always hang with Fred Astaire
the next day.
- If you're worried about how sloppy you dance, have
another drink. I find you actually get slightly better
because you're more relaxed and less self-conscious.
- Of course we're not talking about getting blotto here...
But, some people don't like to drink which is fine. But...
please support the bar! Buy a soda or juice or water or something.
What do I wear?
Salsa dancing is pretty athletic and you will break a sweat.
So wear loose clothes that breath! That is the main
Clubs: some have dress codes, but generally if you dress
up a little, you'll be fine. Guys, generally slacks
and a nice shirt with collar will get you in anywhere.
Jeans and t-shirts shirts should be avoided, particularly
on weekends. No sneakers or athletic wear.
Ladies, dressy jeans are popular but not recommended.
For one they aren't ideal to dance in.
BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY, dress festively! After all,
this is a party! Dressing a bit for it will make you
feel more like you're a part of it. And you want to
look good out there anyway! I find that the more I dress up,
the better time I have. Ladies, pull out that sassy dress
you never had the courage to wear. Guys, the GQ look is always
good, or a guayabera (a Cuban dress shirt). Or some tropical
look if it's summer. Have fun with it!
Also, be prepared to check your coat. Most clubs try to maintain
a cleaner look, so if there's coats everywhere it takes away
from the atmosphere. It also leads to people taking the wrong
coats and even can be a fire hazard.
What about dance shoes?
Dance shoes will help you! Don't just rush out and
buy them, but ask around and get recommendations. Guys
are pretty easy. Ladies, with heels particularly, you have
to really find some that fit just right.
Shoes run about $80-$120. They have leather soles,
either plain leather or suede. Suede is better to dance
on but problematic since you can't wear it on the streets.
They have special brushes to maintain them. A lot of
people will bring their dance shoes and change, but be discrete
about it. You don't want to bring your stinky shoes
in a grubby Stop-and-Shop bag! You can wear plain leather
around, but it does wear out.
If your shoes do wear out, don't throw them away. Take them
to a cobbler and they can resole them, etc. for a fraction
of the cost. Plus you don't have to break in new ones.
You'll also see "jazz shoes" which are fancy sneakers
with split heel and toe. They are really comfortable
for studio lessons and practicing but generally aren't what
you would wear to the club.
Shoes in Central Square (Cambridge),
Dancewear (Mass Ave, Boston)
- Patterson's (Burlington)
- for shoe repairs: Jimmy's Shoe Repair, 42 Prospect St.,
Cambridge (Central Square) They know dance shoes.
"Nobody asked me to dance"
One of the most enjoyable things about Salsa is dancing
with a lot of different people. Many dancers I know in fact
try to do exactly that, but it's not always easy to approach
people. So if you want to dance and you're not, the best thing
to do is to make yourself "available" for dancing.
- Don't sit behind a table, but stand at the edge of the
- Smile, make eye contact, don't keep your arms folded.
That's a naturally defensive behavior. Body language counts.
- If you have a drink in your hand, keep it by your side
and be ready to put it down. Again, you want to be open,
don't use your drink, arms, other people, or furniture as
a protective barrier of sorts.
- Ladies, if you have a purse, put it down. You can't dance
with a purse. Sorry! Its best to just bring your ID and
cash in a pocket, and if there's a few other things, bring
them in a small purse that you won't be concerned about
if you leave it somewhere.
- If you're with a group of friends, keep your circle loose
and open so that people can pull you out of the group.
- ASK SOMEONE! Ladies, guys alike, if you want to dance
with someone, just ask them!
"I'm intimidated by all the
Don't be. We were all there once and we're interested
in growing the Salsa Community. Ask the good dancers
to dance, they will. One or two songs certainly, you
can't ask for the whole night! Guys, ask the ladies,
ladies ask the guys. The more you dance, the better
you will get. The more you dance with people better
than you, the faster you will learn!
The basic rule: IF YOU WANT TO DANCE
WITH SOMEONE, ASK!
"I'm not getting any
Are you dancing a lot? Some people tell me they are
taking all these classes but aren't getting better.
It turns out they never go out dancing! If you are trying
to become the world's best dancer before you'll be seen out
there, forget it! You gotta dance! What's the point
of taking all these lessons if you don't go out to the clubs?
Are you taking any lessons? Occasionally I meet people who
won't take them for one reason or another. That doesn't make
Also, get some music and listen to it a lot! Once you
can feel the music you'll dance much better and with more
Finally, it's not about how good you are anyway, but if you're
having a good time and meeting people. Don't worry about
Get ahold of a Salsa mix in the "Latin" bin at
your local record shop. There's a ton of them, like
"Salsa Hits 200x". Some DJ's also have mixes
they'll sell you. Crank it up!
Alternatively, stations on the AM dial in Boston play some
Salsa, and there's also a ton of internet stations.
I am not a collector of music and don't speak Spanish, so
I kind of gave up looking for the tunes I like, but if you're
into it, ask the DJ's when you hear what you like. Much
of the stuff you want is available online, for example here: