Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.
I'm a professional salsa and Latin dance teacher that's been dancing salsa since 2005. I've probably danced with hundreds of guys at a more than a dozen different salsa clubs, and I've trained a ton of men to dance salsa successfully with their wives, fiances, girlfriends, and friends. My focus is on getting men to dance with women in a way that is safe and comfortable for both parties, and results in a pleasant and rewarding dancing experience for everyone involved. Here is a list of the top 10 common mistakes many men make when going out dancing at a salsa club. Carefully read this list and try to make sure that you don't make any of these mistakes and you'll be getting more second dances with those salsa ladies!
Mistake #1: Not Knowing How to Dance Salsa
You can't fake salsa, and yes women will know if you can dance or not. If you are just there to screw around and hit on women, you will end up frustrating the women that do know how to dance and probably not get a second dance with them. If you’re serious about salsa, you have got to put in the time and effort to learn it, there’s no shortcuts with dancing! There are group classes at the start of an event to help you get started if you don’t know how to dance, but don’t expect to a pro after a one hour group class. I recommend you take private lessons and group classes outside of salsa clubs to learn how to dance salsa well.
Mistake #2: Yanking Your Partner Around
Being jerked around is not how most women plan to spend their salsa evenings. Don’t be that guy who yanks and pull his partner around on the dance floor. This is really bad to do because you will leave your partner with a sore arm and shoulder and in a bad mood. Shoulder injuries are very common in dancing, especially when a woman dances with a guy who uses excessive force and makes her shoulder move in a way that is painful and uncomfortable. Definitely no second dance with those ladies either.
Mistake #3: Dead Fish Hold
You know how people describe a limp handshake as a “dead fish” or “limp noodle”? Well, having a really loose or limp grip on your partner while dancing fast salsa is almost as bad as having too strong of a hold. The reason why is because you signal what moves you want your partner to do through your hands and dance frame. If you have a really loose hold, it’s hard for your partner to understand exactly what it is that you want them to do. This means that whatever woman you are dancing with is going to have to focus extra really hard to figure out what you’re trying to do. In addition, having a loose frame makes it easy for your partner to accidently slip away while dancing. Once again, you’re going to end up with an unhappy partner and no second dance.
Mistake #4: Inappropriate Touching
Your hand will occasionally graze across your partner’s back, waist, or am as you dance different moves in salsa. This is okay. But, what is not okay is deliberately feeling up your partner and trying to touch her chest, butt, upper thighs, and other “boyfriend only” areas. “Feeling the music” or “feeling the beat” is not an excuse for inappropriate touching. Don’t be the slimey guy who rubs his partner constantly while dancing with her and tries to put his hand where it’s not supposed to go. That’s creepy and women don’t like that. You’re definitely not going to get that second dance doing this.
Mistake #5: Dancing Sweaty
Dancing with a sweaty person is super gross and disgusting. Okay fine, it’s like 60-100% revolting dancing with a sweaty guy, especially if his arms are all sweaty and he ends up rubbing them across my face with them as he turns me and I get SLIMED!!! AHHH!!! DISGUSTING!!!! SO GROSS! I literally have to run to the bathroom and wash my face off and get some paper towels to get that nasty sweat off of me! Guys, I know that there’s a certain group of women who dance super sweaty and it’s disgusting, I’m not going to excuse that, just say that this is a rule that applies to both genders. Bring extra clean shirts with you and change in the bathroom or in your car if you parked nearby. It’s going to go a long, long, long way with helping you get that second dance. All else equal, wouldn’t you rather dance with a dry person, than with a really sweaty one?
Mistake #6: Getting drunk
Being drunk while salsa dancing just looks sloppy because your coordination has gone to crap. In addition, you’re more likely to make mistakes and have poor technique, resulting in your partner being yanked and pulled around, most likely off-beat too. Plus you might get extra handsy while dancing drunk and feel up your partner; not cool. Definitely not going to get a second dance doing that.
Mistake #7: Too Much Cologne/Body Spray
I’ve danced with guys who smelled like they poured out the entire bottle of cologne onto themselves. Dancing with those guys was terrible because I honestly felt like I was being suffocated and couldn’t breathe because the smell was overwhelming. All you need is one spritz, max two. Don’t overdo it! A little goes a long way because your body heats up when you dance and releases the scent even more. Plus you’re in really close proximity, less than three feet away at any given time, so you really don’t need that much. We shouldn't be able to smell what cologne you're wearing from across the room. So don’t punish your partner’s nasal passages if you want that second dance.
Mistake #8: Getting Angry When a Woman Turns You Down
A surefire way to make women not want to dance with you is by getting angry, pissed off, and deeply offended whenever a woman turns you down for a dance.
It is important to remember that when you ask a woman to dance with you, she has a right to say "no" for any reason, and you have to straight up accept that.
Guys that freak out and make a big deal when a tells them "no," essentially guarantee themselves that that "no" is going to be permanent. What I mean by that, is sometimes a woman's feet genuinely hurt and are tired from dancing a dozen songs in a row and she just wants to sit down and take a break. When she tells you "no," that doesn't mean "VILE CREATURE, BE GONE FROM ME AND NEVER DISTURB MY PRESECENCE EVER AGAIN!" What she usually means with her rejection is "No thanks, not right now, but probably later."
You have to understand that a lot of "no's" are just TEMPORARY, as in wait 20-30 minutes, maybe an hour, and come back and ask her again. Heck, if you took her rejection like a gentleman, she might even come and ask you herself to dance with her later. So don't risk a potential future "yes" by acting like an angry psychopath in the present and giving her a reason to not ever want to dance with you.
Mistake #9: Interrupting Someone's Date
Use common sense and body language to determine if a woman is on a romantic date before you go ahead and interrupt her evening by asking her to dance. Usually, women who come with a guy and subsequently stay by his side the entire evening and kiss/hug/hold hands with him, are not too interested in any other men that night. Some guys get really jealous and upset if their date dances with someone else besides him when they're out together. Unless you are friends with both the man and the woman, you should probably stay away and find someone else to ask.
Mistake #10: Correcting/Teaching Your Partner
Unless you're a trained dance professional and you've been hired to do a class, don't go around teaching people how to dance at salsa club. You're really not going to make any difference or progress with someone in a noisy nightclub over a 3 or 4 minute song. If you don't like the women you dance with and think that they're doing everything wrong, it's probably because you're leading them incorrectly, they aren't familiar with whatever move you're trying to do, or both. So calm down and accept the fact that you're going to have to dance with people "as-is". If you can't handle that, I recommend getting a paid professional dance partner to put up with your bullsh*t.
If you focus on being a good leader and creating a fun, safe, and comfortable dancing environment for you and your partner, you will be sure to start getting those second dances!
© 2016 Anya Brodech
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on December 25, 2019:
Barrington Williams II on December 23, 2019:
I like your articles a lot! I am a beginner and have interest in becoming more comfortable in Salsa. These are good points of reference along my journey. Thank you very much!
Jacob on November 22, 2019:
About Mistake Number 10, it's became a little bit more lenient nowadays , due to that the follows know that the leaders are only trying to help them on their way of learning. I can see 100% where you are coming from with regards to correcting a partner etc as everyone dances Salsa differently, however, I am an Intermediate and like to give useful advice and even, at times, demonstrate how a specific hold or direction can benefit themselves during social dancing and they've learnt a lot more and some have even thanked me for helping them. So I, unfortunately, have to disagree with Mistake Number 10 and say that this can actually benefit both the lead & follow as it is providing helpful assistance to beginners who are learning Salsa. Sorry if this offends or insults anyone, this is just me trying to get across that teaching a partner with less experience can actually be beneficial :)
Ale on March 05, 2019:
I been a bit drunk before, I still get follows asking me to dance
allen on March 01, 2019:
All great advice. A way to pull all this together is "learn how to show real consideration to other people".
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on September 24, 2017:
If you're in a social dancing situation, I recommend toning/tightening/firming up your own frame in order to pick her up and give her a little bit more support and to use a stronger lead. You can't correct her tone/frame/energy in one 3 minute song in a crowded club, so just grin and bear it and then don't dance with her again because it's not something you can fix for her, she has to do it herself and to be honest, it's not your place to go around correcting women you dance with in salsa clubs who are there just for her.
If it's a girlfriend/wife/romantic partner/close personal friend that you dance with regularly and have some kind of relationship with, then you can gently address the issue when you're taking a break/not dancing and explain to her that her frame is too loose and that it makes it difficult for you to lead her. She needs to stand up straight, pull her shoulder blades in and slightly tense up her arms so this way they move in syn with the rest of her body and there is no delayed reaction between your lead and her response.
If you are committed to dancing with this woman, you can also try signing up for private dance lessons with a professional dance instructor who can work with her one-on-one and tell her from a professional perspective what she needs to change/improve in her frame/posture/hold. This is something that is best explained by someone who know what he/she is doing and is trained to address this issue in a way that doesn't offend/upset/confuse the person being corrected.
Hope this helps.
Naro on September 22, 2017:
I came on this page looking up how to handle dancing with *women* who have 'dead fish hold'. 'Cause that's also not gender specific!
Tara on July 09, 2017:
It often gets uncomfortable for follows who are still fairly new and in the early learning process when leads go wild pulling out all the stops and advanced moves, and she's left feeling lost and put on the spot. It gets a little overwhelming and isn't particularly enjoyable. Yes, he may be a phenomenal dancer, but one is the with the feeling she is being danced "at" rather than danced "with" as he's not attempted to relate to her; this leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the "social" aspect of social dancing.
Dave on July 08, 2017:
Thanks for the article. It helped to hear some basic mistakes that men make. I am a total beginner and I am bringing my date to a beginner salsa night. I am excited!
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on June 25, 2017:
I agree with you that women being sweaty is not sexy either, but I've danced with guys who were literally soaked in sweat and dripping their sweat onto me and it was really gross. I suggested changing a shirt so this way he's not rubbing his sweat all over his partner
Josip on June 14, 2017:
I agree with most of it.
Altho some of your comments sound really surpreficial.
Changing shirts?? Really? Like women don't get sweaty and men don't feel or smell their sweat?
When you dance you sweat. It's unpleasant but not genders do it. It's human nature :)
In a real Latin culture no girl will be an ass if the guy is not good dancer as long as he is respectful with her. She will be understanding and playful with him but not annoyed from it.
Arjun on June 13, 2017:
Really? You mentioned "second dance" a few times, why do you think guys are so need about getting second dance? And as if girl is doing a favor. Lol.