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Solo Dancing: The Unique Things You Need to Know

This article has everything you need to know about shines and solo dancing.

If you’re new to salsa shines, a form of solo dancing in which you freestyle a series of basic salsa steps without a partner,  I’ll show you how to get started.

And if you have been doing it for a while? I’ll reveal some principles that I use be cleaner and look like a pro while you are doing it.

Let’s begin…

This is something we have all been through when we first started to dance, including me. If you haven’t noticed, since salsa music is rich with changes in rhythms, it is likely that the person you are dancing with will let go of you from time to time and do a solo dance.

You might find yourself left stranded on this “musical island” all alone (well, you’re NOT alone). Meanwhile, your partner seems to be enjoying the salsa shine so much it doesn’t seem like he or she is coming to rescue you anytime soon.

So, you find yourself wondering what to do or how to move your hands or your feet. Let me tell you, this is a very normal feeling when you are in midst of the dance…

So, what to do with solo dancing?

Well, there are tons of videos that can help you with this little solo dancing problem. The hard part is finding the one that speaks to you. I know, I’ve been there myself before.

You need to understand this is going to take some time and practice, but you can quickly get over this awkward time on the floor. You can do some very simple salsa shines like Suzy Q, such as sidestepping, tapping, left turn and right turn (demo).

These are the most basic salsa shines (you probably already know some of them) that you can do during the solo section of your dance. There are many, many more salsa shines out there that you can do, but as a beginner struggling on the floor, its best not to overwhelm yourself.

Do not put pressure on yourself with styling and body movement just yet. Allow time and practice to define your natural styling first. This will give you a more comfortable ‘baseline’ as a starting point.

What are the things to keep in mind when you are practicing?

A good thing to keep in mind when you’re learning anything worth learning is – patience.

Now that we have introduced the first three foundational things to keep in mind when performing  solo dancing, which are weight transfer, body mechanics and hand motions, it’s time to apply the next group of principles to make you look good on the dance floor.

These principles helped me tons right before I was offered the opportunity to become a ballroom dance instructor.
These are the three core principles you can use to see some improvement to your shines within a month or so.

These are three things to keep in mind when you are practicing shines during your solo dancing.

Now, let’s get into how I can help you master this new, but so controversial, skill in your dancing by using these three core principles of solo dancing.


Do Your ABCs

Solo Dancing and Salsa Shines. A B Cs

I am pretty sure that you must have seen some people doing their basic step and wonder how they look so beautiful doing just a basic! Well, It’s because of their body movement, their flow, and their rhythm. But most importantly, it’s because they truly understand the basic step.

Make sure to do your basic with full weight transfer and intent. Keep your upper body relaxed and let it move naturally in reaction to the weight transfer.

Believe me when I tell you, practicing just your basic group of shines for two songs (one slow and one fast) daily for about ten days will make a HUGE difference in your overall dancing. It’s so simple and yet powerful. All you have to do is try it.

It is hard to build anything on top of a shaky foundation. Right? Right!

Doing your basic step gracefully also counts as shines. You can do one or two basic steps in between shines and still pull it off, but try to challenge yourself by mastering shines without any basic step.


Social Time

Solo Dancing and Salsa Shines. Social Time

When it comes to social dancing, specifically solo dancing, you need avoid dancing while thinking too hard all the time. Shines should come to you naturally without having to think about it or look tense.

Muscle memory is a good way to get shines steps looking solid. So, the trick here is to pick one and practice it over and over again. Rehearse it every day to one whole song. BUT, most importantly, do it at social events or when you’re dancing at the club. 

Always try something new to help you get out of your comfort zone and make your dance look and feel more natural. So, the best way to do this is by picking one shine per social event and do just that throughout the night when appropriate. Remember that your basic step, right turn and left turn all count as shines, too.

Yes, you might think it’s boring, but imagine what will happen after four weeks. You will be able to do four or more shines that come intuitively to you without having to think about them. Mix them up in sequence, add a little variation, and voila! You have salsa shine sequence for every song.


Somebody Is Watching Me Effect

Solo Dancing and Salsa Shines. Somebody is watching

You may be surprised to know the people are watching you dance. They are watching you because they want to dance with you, NOT because they want to see if you can or cannot do perfect shines.

The majority of our awkwardness on the dance floor is caused by thinking that people are watching us and that we will look stupid to them if we don’t do crazy, awesome shines. But if you just look around, you’ll see everybody is busy either enjoying the music or worrying about their own moves.

The only person who is looking at you, hopefully, is your partner (assuming they are not too busy worrying about themselves).

So, relax! In order for you to look like a pro, all you have to do is put in some serious time doing your basic steps. As you are doing them, relax your arms and upper body and smile, even when you’re just practicing.

You CANNOT speed up the process of becoming a good dancer by struggling at it. Just do the beginner shines mentioned here until they come naturally to you and work your way up from there.

Always maintain a relaxed body language because your body moves a lot better when loose and those arms look best when they move naturally without any unnecessary tension.

These are the first three core principles to get you started as you’re doing shines. Don’t overwhelm yourself with styling and body movements as a beginner. You can always add styling and variations after mastering these basics.

Once you have the first 3 core principles under control, you will come to realize how much fun you can have when you are dancing at a social event or club. You will gain the ability to break out your own solo moves when the opportunity is given to you. It’s priceless!

Salsa music provides a lot of opportunity for solo dance. This can also be a scary prospect if you are just being introduced to it, and ESPECIALLY if you are used to clinging to your partner like a life raft when you’re dancing.

Shines in solo dancing, are well worth learning and add to your arsenal of dance moves for a number of reasons. They show that you are confident enough to dance without a partner, allow your companion to express themselves in new ways, and generally increase the variety in your movements.

Solo Dancing: The Unique Things You Need to Know

How to turn you into a true shiner?

Let’s take a look at how to turn you into a true shiner, one step at a time.

#1 First the Obvious, Learn Some Salsa Shines!

This one is simple. Start with something easy like your right and left turns, Suzie Q, sidestep, and tapping. Break it down and practice until you feel confident you could pull it off if the opportunity presented itself.

Any salsa teacher worth their shoelaces has at least a few basic salsa shines they can teach you or you can always look at instructional videos on YouTube.

#2 The Intro or lead-In into Solo Dancing

I am going to give you this information, whether you are the leader or a follower.

Leaders, it is your job to find the right place to execute the shines while dancing. The best salsa shines placement is during an instrumental solo in the music.

95% of the time, this the perfect opportunity where shines are expected to take place. The easiest way to start a shine is to simply release the hold.

But you can make it look more natural if you lead a free spin, like a hand toss turn, and avoid connecting afterwards.

Followers, it is your job to keep an eye on your leader at all times, if possible. This is the fastest way to understand what the leader is asking from you and for you to know what you can do at any given moment.

If the leader disconnects from you and doesn’t reach for your hand again, that means it’s go-time to do salsa shines!

Here is when you take control of your dancing and begin to show off your shines, in a solo environment.  Keeping it short, sweet, and sexy is one of the secrets of salsa shines.

#3 During Go Time!

Leaders, dancing is a partnership. Always stay close to your partner during the shines. You don’t want her thinking you’re leaving her on the dance floor!

Maintain eye contact to make sure she’s enjoying herself during her shine. If she starts just dancing the basic step, take that as a signal that she doesn’t want to shine right now and reconnect as soon as you get the chance.

Followers, the same applies to you. Stay close to your partner while you shine. Embrace the moment and show how fun is to have control over your dancing for a moment.

Go ahead and play with any salsa shines you’ve learned so far, and switch to the basic step when you want to reconnect. This is the simplest and more effective way to reconnect with your dance partner.

#4 The Master Plan: Exit Strategy

Leaders, good things must come to an end. The simplest way to reconnect is by using the basic step. The best way to reconnect smoothly is from a cross body lead. This is the go-to step to master.

Seamlessly try to catch your partner on the first beat of the step (either the ‘1’ or the ‘2’), stepping closer to her and offering your left-hand low, while placing your right hand on her shoulder blade. You may have to time the moment carefully, especially if your partner is still shining.

Once you make the connection, send her out from a cross body lead into a double right turn… and done!

Followers, sometimes we need to give away freedom for control, I am just saying. Regardless of whether you want to continue shining or not, when your leader offers you his hand again, it’s time to finish up. Make sure your stepping is ready so you can transition smoothly back to the connection from the basic step or for the cross body lead.


Everyone talks about salsa shines or solo dancing from a tactical standpoint. From how you need to break it down to where you need to go to get the information. However, very few people talk about the major principles you need to have in order to get a greater understanding of it.

If you don’t follow the above principles, you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and creating a shaky foundation that doesn’t get any positive results for your solo dancing.

And you do salsa shines without taking the above principles into account, you’ll find that your salsa shines might not be impressive to your dance partner or even the people watching.

PS. Click in this link If you want to learn more about how to practice the right way.

Happy Dancing!
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