Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.
As a professional ballroom dance teacher, I've been going out salsa dancing in nightclubs, restaurants, and dance studios for the last 7 years. I've come up with a list of 10 common mistakes that I've seen other women make (including myself) when they first start out dancing salsa in a social setting.
This list is pretty straightforward and will explain to you what to expect when going out salsa dancing in a nightclub and how you can avoid making these common mistakes so you can have a good time out dancing by yourself or with your friends!
1. Wearing the Wrong Dance Shoes
Wearing the wrong type of shoes at a salsa night will give men the impression that you're only there to party and probably don't really know how to dance.
- Men who know how to dance are smart enough to figure out that giant 6" stripper stilettos, flip-flops, and heavy winter boots are terrible for salsa dancing. This means that you probably won't be asked to dance very much, but you will get a lot of guys hitting on you and asking to buy you drinks because they won't think that you're interested in dancing since wearing the wrong kind of shoes can make it difficult to keep your balance and move easily as you dance and spin around during the song.
- Salsa, bachata, and other Latin dancing is best done in shoes with a low/small heel, less than 3 inches high. Shoes with a 4-inch heel or more will make it hard to stay balanced during spins and will make your feet hurt and feel tired very quickly.
- Ideally, your shoes should have some kind of straps that securely attach them to your feet so they don't come off or get loose when you move around. Mary Jane or T-strap style shoes are best.
2. Wearing the Wrong Clothes
If you wear something really tight, short, strapless and/or very low-cut you can risk having an "accident" that exposes some private part of you while dancing and you'll have to keep pulling and tugging and fixing your clothes the whole time that you're dancing which can be very annoying. I've exposed myself a couple of guys accidentally because my tube top slid down and he saw half of my bra while I was dancing with him. I've also had my short skirt or short tight dress keep riding up all night and had to pull it down every thirty seconds, which got in the way of my dancing and annoyed the guy because I kept having to let go of his randomly to fix my top or skirt to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.
Wearing clothes that have an open back can discourage some men from dancing with you because they know that your back gets all sweaty and moist when you get hot dancing, and they get grossed out at the idea of having to touch it while dancing with you.
Wearing really warm clothes and/or long sleeves will make you really hot and feel like you're melting, which is not fun.
A knee-length short-sleeved or sleeveless dress is usually a good choice because you can look sexy without overheating or risking wardrobe malfunctions while dancing.
A Note on Sexual Harassment
I also want to take a moment to say that there is still a lot of sexual harassment that takes place at salsa clubs and there are unfortunately men who will judge a woman by her outfit/physical appearance and view it as an invitation for sex, even if the woman is not interested in him and has absolutely no intentions of hooking up with him or anyone else. I've had some horrible experiences with guys saying nasty stuff to me or trying to touch me inappropriately, even though I was minding my own business and definitely not "asking for it."
If you are ever sexually harassed and made to feel uncomfortable or threatened by another person, make sure you alert security, the bartender, manager, or any other staff member working at the event and immediately tell them there is some man trying to sexually harass you by saying inappropriate stuff or touching you inappropriately or anything else that you don't want him to do.
If you are worried about someone following you outside or out to your car at the end of the night, ask a trusted friend, security guard or event worker to escort you back to your car. If you go outside and realize someone is following you, turn around and go back into the club and report the incident if you are very close to the entrance still, or catch up with another group of people walking and tell them what's happening and ask them to walk you to your car, or call 9-1-1 if you are far away/alone.
You should never be made to feel unsafe or threatened by another person. If you are repeatedly subject to unwanted advances at a particular club/venue, make sure you speak with the manager and tell them to do something about it. If they don't take action, stop going there and go somewhere else.
If you see another woman being harassed or made to feel unsafe/uncomfortable, make sure you check in with her and see how she is doing, or ask security to intervene.
3. Getting Very Drunk
It's okay to have one or two drinks while you're salsa dancing, but just remember to drink in moderation. Being very tipsy or drunk is a terrible idea for salsa dancing because your dancing will become sloppy, off-time, and uncoordinated. You also increase your risk of accidentally losing your balance and falling down while dancing. Don't be that person.
Getting very drunk is also dangerous because someone could try to take advantage of you while you're intoxicated. There are a lot of sleazy guys out there. If you have too much to drink and don't feel comfortable, call a friend/trusted person to come pick you up, or order a taxi/Uber/Lyft to take you home and consider asking security to wait with you until your ride comes if you are worried that someone will try to bother you.
4. Crashing Someone's Date
If you are out dancing but didn't come with a partner and are looking for someone to dance with, make sure you don't accidently crash someone's date. What I mean by that is a couple comes to dance together and only with each other, they won't be interested in dancing with other people. If you see a guy who is glued to some woman's side ALL NIGHT LONG, don't bother with him because he's clearly not interested in dancing with any other women. I suggest you look for guys who rotate partner in between songs and don't just dance with one woman all night long.
5. Dancing With the Drunk/Weird/Creepy guy
If a guy is drunk, do not dance with him, because it will not end well because....
- He will be very sloppy, bump into other people, jerk you around, and hurt your arm when you dance with him.
- He might try to feel you up, put your hand down his pants, kiss you, or do something else inappropriate.
So if a drunk guy asks, just say NO, thank you.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of guys who are only there to hit on women, get phone numbers and hook up. Usually, those guys are the ones no one wants to date; but they persevere and don't give up. They will usually try to feel you up and/or say sexually inappropriate things to you while dancing.
If you don't like a guy and he makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut feeling and just say "no." Remember that you don't have to say "yes" every time to every guy.
6. Being Picky and Saying "No" Too Much
Unless you're out on a date and only plan to dance with one person for the rest of the night, you should try and dance with as many different guys as possible. So if a nice, normal-looking guy asks you to dance, you should try and say "yes." Being super picky and only dancing with guys who meet all 20 checkpoints on your wishlist is gonna result in you sitting out on the side most of the night.
Earlier I said that you should avoid dancing with weird/creepy/drunk guys because you should never dance with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, violated, harassed, or disrespected in any way.
However, the point that I want to make here, is that there are a lot of great guys out there, who treat women with respect and come there just to dance and not do anything sexually inappropriate. This means that if you say "no" to every normal guy that you don't know, haven't danced with before, etc. then you are going to miss out on a lot of great dancing opportunities.
Even if the guy isn't the best dancer, it's still good to meet new people.
Keep in mind that a lot of guys aren't great at the beginning, but then after a few months of classes and lessons, they turn out to be really good dancers, so don't go around burning bridges because you might regret it later.
7. Not Asking Men to Dance
Don't be afraid to ask guys to dance with you.
This is really good to do if you are at a new club and not a lot of people know (if any), so this way you can start drawing attention to yourself as other guys watch you out there, and you'll get their interest and start getting asked to dance more as the night goes on.
Usually, men will say "yes" when you ask them to dance unless they're busy drinking a beer and watching some crucial moment in the game on tv there, in which case, come back later.
There are nice guys who know how to dance well. If a guy looks normal and dances well with other women (aka no creeping), then open yourself to the possibility of new partners and ask him to dance with you. If it doesn't go as well as you hoped, then hey, at least you tried.
8. Coming at the Wrong Time
Find out when the event is and try to show up at the right time.
Usually, about half an hour to an hour after the group class ends and/or social dancing begins is a good time to show up.
- That is a good time because people will have come and started dancing so you'll have partners, but they won't be super hot and sweaty and gross from dancing a lot.
- Coming late at the end of the night you will have missed out on good dancers because a lot of people could have gone home already. Also, everyone will be super sweaty and gross.
- However, you don't need to show up super early because you will end up sitting out on the side waiting for everyone to show up.
9. Dancing When You're Sweaty
Nobody likes dancing with someone sweaty—it's gross.
I've had a lot of male dancer friends complain to me about women who are really sweaty and/or smelly and how gross it feels to hold them.
- To avoid this situation, wear light-weight breathable clothing, and consider bringing an extra top if you feel that you will get really hot and sweaty, so this way you have something dry to change into.
- If you're already out, consider drying yourself off with paper towels in the bathroom, or drying your shirt under the hand dryer so it's not so wet.
10. Not Knowing How to Dance
If you don't know how to dance, don't show up at a salsa club and expect guys to teach you.
Take lessons or classes beforehand so you at least know the basics and understand how to turn correctly. It's very frustrating for guys when women show up and assume the guys will teach them everything they need to know in five minutes or less.
Some guys might be nice and explain a little bit to you, but most men don't know how to dance the women's role and are honestly not looking to teach someone from scratch. It takes more than one song to learn how to salsa, so don't get upset or frustrated that you're not a professional after 3 minutes.
You don't need to be a professional or dance salsa for 10 years in order to have a good time dancing. What is important though is that you get yourself set up right for dancing by wearing the right kind of shoes and clothes, staying clear-headed, avoiding weird guys, but being open to new possibilities and opportunities with other partners.
At the end of the night, what counts is that you had a good time. Regardless if you're a beginner or have been dancing for some time and are feeling frustrated, I hope that these tips will help you make the most of your salsa evening wherever you are!
© 2016 Anya Brodech
Anonymous on November 03, 2019:
Not all Salsa clubs are potentialky dangerous. Those incidents you mention can happen to anyone in a bar or any social setting other than Salsa. I'm a life long dancer and instructor and can dance in any shoe type. You just need to practice good balance. Also, if the crowd is mature and classy, you will not need to worry and will usually have an enjoyable time. In my humble opinion.
Edwin Aybar on May 18, 2019:
Notice that the section on clothing isn't in order to avoid being sexually harassed, but in order to be able to dance better! Great little article. I have to shake my head as to how easily some people can be offended. These are tips on how to make your experience better.
To touch on the point about harassment, it has to be said that "we" don't teach men anything, it's parents (especially fathers) who little boys will imitate. So "we" can't do anything about the problem at large; not even PBS infomercials will be effective in stopping a man who wasn't raised right and has anti-social or psychopathic disorders. The *best* solution is for people to be cautious and be able to look after and defend themselves if necessary. Women are strong and can take care of themselves/fight back, especially in a social environment. Practice raising your volume and voicing your displeasure, and should the need ever arise I guarantee you that as soon as you do, 10 guys will be around you, confronting whatever guy touched you inappropriately. I've been in a couple of situations like this, and trust me, the men in whatever group you're in will be more than happy to help. Not wanting to make a scene? A slap is always a good old-fashioned way for a lady to make a point to a creep who's touching you inappropriately. You do that on a dance floor and walk away, and the psychopath will stop.
I thought this article was great advice.
Yes on April 03, 2019:
@No, the author never says you shouldn't wear something because it is too sexy. She says that you shouldn't wear something that will get in the way of your dancing. This is sound advice.
She doesn't, for example, say not to wear super short shorts, but she does say not to wear a super short dress/skirt. I can tell you from firsthand experience that wearing a tight, short skirt means that you will be miserable from constantly trying to tug it into place. She also warns against tube tops, because they fall down.
The other part of this is wearing something that won't result in sweat on your partner. That's not anything to do with sexism--it's common courtesy. I know a lot of men that bring spare shirts to change into when they get too sweaty. It is simply polite.
To the author: these tips are all great advice for any social dance. The bit about staying aware of potential creepy guys is especially important for salsa, and it's good that you included it. Bravo
Pamela on February 09, 2019:
Your list was great and I had to laugh at the 'sweaty is gross' comment. Sometimes it just can't be helped...I was dancing at a club in Cuba where everyone was dripping because the AC just wasn't cutting it. It's hard to hold onto your partner in those conditions too.
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on December 18, 2018:
Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful!
Maria on December 16, 2018:
I find this article very useful. I am going to a new place where salsa dancer will be there. Thank you for sharing your tips.
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on November 26, 2018:
This article is meant to be as factual and accurate as possible based on my own personal experiences going out salsa dancing regularly to dozens of different clubs/venues over the last ten years, as well as what I've had other teachers and dancers tell me about their experiences, as well as my students.
I'm not trying to be degrading to women. I am unfortunately describing the reality of the situation in most salsa clubs I have been to, in Chicago as well as in San Francisco and San Diego.
There has actually been a rise in sexual assaults around San Francisco salsa/bachata clubs because men are becoming increasingly aggressive and bold in making unwanted sexual advances towards women. We actually had a meeting about it in my studio last year and all of the teachers and promoters from the Bay Area attended it and discussed the issue, so this is a very real thing.
I write this article based on what I see happening around me and what I see happening to my friends.
There are a lot of guys around who are sexual predators because they look around for women who are new or don't know what they are doing and use it as an opportunity to come on to them. I have seen at least a dozen men turn into sleazy monsters at the first sign of a clueless woman who has never been to a salsa club before and doesn't know how to dance and they try to turn this inexperience and lack of knowledge to act inappropriately around her thinking that she doesn't know better.
I am just trying to teach women how to stay safe because unfortunately there are a lot of issues regarding sexual assault and dating violence both within the club as well as outside of it. It's never the woman's fault for getting attacked by a man, but unfortunately there are a lot of misogynistic perverts out there who will use any excuse as an opportunity to harass or attack a woman.
There is still a long way to go in terms of making the dance community a safe place for women again.
No on November 15, 2018:
This article is degrading to women on so many levels. You teach women how to behave and what to wear in order to avoid men touching you inappropriate. What women choose to wear is never an invite to be inappropriate or never tells you she wants to get groped. Please don’t write this, the problem has to be solved from the root, teach men never to touch women without their consent, not the other way around.
peckdaddy on September 17, 2018: