What Should Women Wear to Salsa Lessons?

Updated on February 2, 2017
abrodech profile image

Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.

Salsa Dancing is a Physical Activity

I'm a professional dance teacher and have attended my share of group classes and private lessons, so I know what I'm talking about. Let me start out by saying three things about dancing salsa:

  1. Salsa dancing is a physical activity and you should treat it as such.
  2. You warm up when you dance and move around, and cool off when you stand still
  3. Wearing the right shoes makes your dancing easier, especially when you spin around

If you are a beginner and new to dancing, you probably won't be doing anything complicated on the first day, so don't freak out, you'll be fine.

What Happens When You Wear the Wrong Clothes?

When you wear the wrong clothes:

  1. It takes time away from your dancing and distracts you/your partner
  2. It increases your risk for injury
  3. It makes dancing uncomfortable/inconvenient for you/your partner
  • You ending up having problems that take time away from your dancing, such as having to readjust your clothing that keeps sliding down, riding off, or slipping off
  • You distract your partner/other people by wearing something overly sexy/provocative
  • You risk tripping or falling by wearing something too long that gets caught on your feet
  • You risk ripping/tearing/snagging your clothing
  • You risk trapping your partner in your clothing (yes, really!)

What Clothes You Should Wear

For private lessons and group classes in a dance studio, your top two priorities should be function and comfort, because your primary purpose is to learn how to dance. Obviously, you can still look good, but you just want to make sure that what you're wearing is practical for dancing so you don't run into any of the problems mentioned above.

During salsa group classes and private lessons, you'll be warming up and cooling down, so it helps to dress in layers.

For salsa dancing, women can wear any of the following clothes:

  • Dresses (around knee length or a little bit shorter)
  • Skinny jeans, jeggings, or leggings (nothing baggy/flaring open at the bottom)
  • Cropped pants or capris (but no culottes)
  • Shorts, preferably dressier ones that are mid-thigh or knee length (no Daisy Dukes please!)
  • Short-sleeved or sleeveless tops (made of a light-weight, breathable material)
  • Cardigan or sweater that buttons up, zips up, or ties in front (with no hood or pockets)

For dance class, whether it's a private lesson or with a group, you want to wear something that is practical for dancing
For dance class, whether it's a private lesson or with a group, you want to wear something that is practical for dancing

What You Should Not Wear

The following list of clothing items will give you problems if you wear them to your private salsa dance lesson or group class:

  • Long Dresses/Pants: Tripping hazard for you and your partner
  • Tight Short Dresses and Skirts: Will ride up as you dance and move around, so you'll constantly have to be pulling them down in order to avoid showing everyone your underwear
  • Polyester/Synthetic Shirts or Tops: They don't breathe and you'll get hot super fast
  • Tops/shirts with big baggy sleeves or large armholes: All of the extra fabric makes it difficult for your partner to hold on to your back and you risk of trapping your partner's hand/arm by mistake when he accidently sticks his hand in there while reaching for your back (it's happened to me before and was super awkward).
  • Shirts/Sweaters with Front Pockets: Risk of trapping/catching your partner's hand in your pocket (also happened before and hurt my partner's hand because it got caught in there while I was spinning around)
  • Partially Zipped/Buttoned Sweaters/Jackets: Baggy space in front also presents a risk for trapping/catching your partner's hand (can you see a pattern here?)
  • Baggy Pants/Jeans with Flared Bottoms: Poses a tripping hazard. It's surprisingly easy to get your foot caught in your own pant leg while you're dancing and trip or fall down (I know because it's also happened a couple of times to me).
  • Warm/wool Sweaters: They warm you up really fast when you're dancing, so make sure you're wearing something underneath so you can take off your sweater or you'll melt
  • Strapless Dresses and Tube Tops: You will constantly have to pull them up because they keep sliding down when you dance, super annoying
  • Backless Tops: Too sexy for class usually, plus your back will get all sweaty if you get really hot and your partner will have to touch it (gross)
  • Crop Tops/Bralettes: Unless it's 80 plus degrees and super hot outside/in the studio, I'm going to say that crop tops and bralettes are too sexy for class usually. And if you're single or going to class by yourself, you probably don't want random guys touching your bare waist, do you?
  • Short-Shorts/Booty Shorts/Daisy Dukes: They can ride up as you dance and give you a wedgie, (not fun), plus they're a little too sexy for class

Ladies practice ballroom/latin shoe. Perfect for practicing in class with plenty of support.
Ladies practice ballroom/latin shoe. Perfect for practicing in class with plenty of support.

What Types of Shoes Are Best?

Generally, women should wear shoes that are either flat or with a small heel (2 inches high or less). You want something with a smooth bottom that doesn't have a lot of grip/traction (so avoid gym shoes) or else you'll risk twisting your ankle and/or hurting your knee when you spin around.

Since you're moving and spinning around a lot, you don't want to worry about your shoes slipping off, so make sure you wear something that securely attaches to your feet.

For your first private lesson/group class, you can wear street shoes that you already own, and then down the road consider getting "real" dance shoes, especially if you'll be dancing regularly.

Some Regular Shoe Options For Women Are:

  • Dressy Sandals with Straps: Either flat or with a small wedge heel. Just no thong-style sandals because they will be too loose and you risk ripping out the thong strap.
  • High-heeled Shoes with an Ankle Strap, T-Strap or Mary Jane Strap: Make sure that they have some kind of strap(s) that keep the shoe on your foot, and avoid slingbacks or backless heels because they'll make dancing difficult. The heel should be no more than two or three inches high, or else you'll have balance problems when you spin and your feet will hurt and get tired quickly.
  • Leather Booties and Booties with a Smooth Bottom: Either flat, or with a heel of three inches or less. Just make sure they're not heavy winter boots or you'll be clunking around. Also, no UGG boots.
  • Spectator Shoes: As long as they have a smooth bottom

If you want to get "Real Dance Shoes", here are some options:

  • Dance Sneakers/Jazz Shoes: This flat shoe is similar to a gym shoe, but with more flexibility and a slippery bottom. It's perfect for long workshops or just to wear for practice in the studio. Personally, I recommend the "Salsette 1 Jazz Sneaker" by Sansha because they are super comfortable and easy to move around in because of the suede bottom, and with the removable insole, you can put it in your own shoe insert for additional arch support and cushion (like I do) and your feet won't get tired, even if you wear them for 3-5 hours in a row. Plus if your feet get swollen because you had a salty dinner the night before, or because it's really hot, you can easily loosen the laces so they can fit you comfortably and not squeeze your feet. I recommend these to my female students who have arch problems and can't wear high heels because their feet hurt, and I also recommend them to my female students who have trouble staying balanced while dancing in high-heeled shoes. In addition, these shoes come in a range of sizes, which is perfect for my petite female students who have very small feet and can't find adult women's dance shoes in their size.
  • Ladies Ballroom/Latin Practice Shoe: Similar to a men's dress shoe, but with a heel. Not very sexy looking, but comfortable and practical for standing for long periods of time, especially if you have problems with your feet. Heel up to two inches high.
  • Ladies Latin High Heeled Dance Shoe: More ankle support than a regular high heeled shoe, limited arch support, but very flexible sole. Securely attaches to your foot and is good for spinning around and going out dancing in. Heel up to three inches high.

My Favorite Comfy Dance Shoe!

Are Accessories Okay?

Jewelry and accessories are perfectly fine to wear to dance class, you just don't want to wear anything that will get in the way of your dancing.Generally, you want to avoid wearing long dangly necklaces and earrings because it's easy to get yourself or your partner caught in them, You should wear necklaces that are shorter,

Necklaces: You want to avoid wearing long dangly necklaces because it's easy to get yourself or your partner caught in them, You should wear necklaces that are shorter, that lay above your breasts. Personally, I love wearing statement necklaces because they look really nice, but don't get in the way of my dancing.

Rings: Wedding/engagement rings are fine. Flat, simple rings with small stones are ok. Avoid big or chunky rings because you can scratch yourself or partner with them, or get them snagged on your clothing.

Bracelets: Small close-fitting bracelets are ok, either on an elastic or with a snap/clip on closure. Avoid bangles because they slide around a lot and can come off when you're dancing. Watches are ok.

Earrings: Small stud earrings are ok. Wear long dangly chandelier earrings are your own risk, especially if you have longer hair, so they don't get caught in it.

Statement necklaces are an easy wear to dress up your outfit, without worrying about your jewelry getting caught in your hair or clothing when you spin/move around
Statement necklaces are an easy wear to dress up your outfit, without worrying about your jewelry getting caught in your hair or clothing when you spin/move around

Final Thoughts

Remember that you're there to learn how to dance and have fun, not to be the most fashionable or sexy person in the room. At the beginning, it is better to be a little bit more conservative with your fashion choices, so this way your clothing doesn't get in the way or give you any problems, and then over time as you get used dancing and become more familiar with what to expect, it will be easier to dress and accessorize yourself.

© 2016 Anya Brodech

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    • abrodech profile imageAUTHOR

      Anya Brodech 

      11 months ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

      Hi, thanks you for your feedback. I'm not saying that you're not allowed to dress sexy, I'm just saying that dance class isn't intended to be your personal fashion show. It's distracting not only to male students, but female ones as well, other students, and it can make it difficult for them to pay attention. You also might give off the impression that you're just there to look for a date and are not serious about actually learning how to dance, which may not be your intention, but it can lead to unwanted reactions from others. Ideally, everyone should mind their one business and leave each other alone, but people are people. I know because I went through a phase of wearing sexy clothes for dance classes when I was still learning how to dance and all the guys kept staring at my chest or giving me creepy compliments which ended up taking away from my own learning because they made it difficult to pay attention since I kept having to fend off their adcances. This is why I recommend saving the super sexy stuff for when you go out dancing or on a date. Obviously, these are not hard and fast rules, but rather general suggestions for those who are new to dancing so that they can feel comfortable and avoid feeling awkward in class. If you prefer to wear certain clothing because it goes with your personal style, etc. go for it.

    • profile image

      Nothing Should be “Too Sexy” 

      11 months ago

      Anya, women should be able to wear whatever they want, whenever they want. It’s one thing to wear clothing that will deter your progress in salsa or get in the way of movement, it’s another to wear something that *might distract* another dancer. It’s not a woman’s job to cover up so men can be better dancers. It’s a man’s job to keep his libido under control regardless of his surroundings. I have a salsa class tonight and I’m going to wear the sexiest top I have because I want to.

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