If you want me to tell you how to do salsa dance, do not expect an easy answer. Salsa dancing is fun, but it is never for the faint of heart (or it is fun precisely because it is not for the faint of heart). Expect to break into a sweat.
Expect to feel your body challenged to do feats it has never done before. Expect your mind and spirit to be asked to take risks.
If you want to be a better dancer or salsa dance, you need to prime your body to have the shape, strength, and stamina for it. Thus, you need to invest in healthy lifestyle practices to help you make this happen and never forget how to maintain your dance etiquette.
If you want to learn to dance, understand that the lessons do not start and stop on the dance floor.
Enter a salsa dancing club, and WOW, you will see how it is a multi-sensory experience: it is all about every detail— from the lights to the music, to the smell, to the feel of your body and your partner’s body, to the energy of the crowd.
This is such a cool experience!
So it pays to look at the discipline of salsa dancing holistically. What you rehearse on the dance floor as well as what you do outside of it all impacts your every performance.
Here are some of the best practices that will prime you and your body to be better at salsa dancing:
You will learn:
– The right mindset
– A healthy body for salsa dancing
– Sleep matters
– Manage your stress
– The holistic way
The Right Mindset
When things are not going according to plan, when the music is not playing as it should, a good dancer knows how to dance to her own rhythm when the moment calls for it. Would you agree with this statement?
Well, this is true because of a simple thing called having the right mindset. Let me explain how your mindset is vital for salsa dancing but first, what is it or why does it matter?
Why does it matter?
The way I choose to interact and encourage my students affects their attitudes toward learning a new step. I realized a long time ago that having a positive mindset is the difference between a student giving up because they are “not good at dancing” and a productive struggle to learn a new step.
Now, here is the thing…
A growth mindset is not only about effort. In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or are not the best—it has all been wasted.
The growth mindset allows people to value what they do regardless of the outcome. They tackle problems, chart new courses, and work on important issues.
This is the main reason and only reason, in my belief, is that having the right mindset is a matter not only for salsa dancing or salsa dancing lessons but for everything you do.
What does a mindset mean?
A mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself. As a result, this influences how you feel, think, and behave in any given situation.
There are two basic mindsets: fixed and growth
In a fixed mindset, you believe your abilities are fixed traits and cannot be changed. You may also believe that your talent and intelligence alone lead to success, and effort is not required.
– Either I am good at it, or I am not.
– If I do not try, then I will not fail.
– Anytime you want to give up.
With a growth mindset, you believe that your talents and abilities can develop over time through effort and persistence. The people with this mindset do not necessarily believe they can become Einstein or Mozart because they try.
They do, however, believe that everyone can get smarter or more talented if they work hard at it.
– I can learn to do anything I want.
– You can ask for help to face your worries head-on
– The more you challenge yourself, the smarter you become.
Example to fix the mindset
Many people, I mean, I think everyone has specific fixed mindset triggers in our personal life. My mother used to tell me when I was growing up, “How can you get lost in the darkness with a light in your hand?”
So, allow me to write a couple of examples to help you correct your mindset, and with each example, you will find a helpful tip for supporting the shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Fixed Mindset: I am either good at something or I am not.
Growth Mindset: I can improve my skills with effort and practice.
Tip: If salsa dancing is where you are showing signs of a fixed mindset, you can correct that by selecting one dance skill, not three, to improve.
Help is available in many forms like online videos or taking an additional lesson in a group or private environment.
Fixed Mindset: When people give me feedback, it feels like criticism.
Growth Mindset: I appreciate when people give me feedback. It helps me to learn and grow.
Tip: Okay, feedback is a positive action. Criticism is a negative action. Who determines that knowing? YOU. So, be mindful of what you give power to.
As soon as you realize this fact, find ways to implement the feedback you receive. This makes it easier to link feedback with progress and growth.
To stay in a growth zone, you must identify and work with your fixed mindset triggers. By doing this practice, you will benefit from learning to recognize when their fixed-mindset “persona” shows up.
In time you have learned to talk back to it, persuading it to collaborate with you as you continue to pursue your challenging goals.
Remember, a growth mindset will always help you accomplish any salsa dancing skill you want to master, and of course, this will help you live your life to the fullest. Opening yourself up to new experiences, lessons, emotions, and failures, you become the best version of yourself.
You are living your unique potential.
A healthy body for salsa dancing
As a dancer, you know that salsa dancing is physically demanding. Do you agree? Avoiding any injury can be, most of the time, hard work to do when you are salsa dancing.
I have always considered our body the instrument; you do not want it to break! You must learn to take care of it!
So, let’s begin with…
While taking salsa dancing lessons or rehearsals and watching dancing videos are a form of exercise, the more serious dancers incorporate other forms of training and physical activities to maintain their peak physical condition.
Whether it is Strength Training, Yoga, Pilates, barre workouts, or even good old stretching or walking around the neighborhood, the right fitness plan can keep your body in tip-top shape.
Quick question… Have you heard when people talk about a “dancer’s body”?
If so, I am sure they are referring to a long and lean body. It is often associated with slimmer frames. The term describes a specific look.
However, dancing is not limited to body types. Dance can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their shape and size. But not only that, the benefits you get by dancing or taking a salsa dancing lesson are crazy.
Think about it: weight loss or maintenance, increased heart health, stronger muscles, improved endurance, increased bone strength, improved self-esteem, better balance and coordination, better sleep, anxiety and stress relief, and my favorite of all, improved mood and energy.
Ladies, if you want to try to get a dancer’s body, here is something you can add to your workout routine.
Start with doing Pilates.
It is my understanding that Pilates develops long, lean muscles in the arms, legs, and glutes. Doing Pilates regularly will help you get the shape and strength you are after.
Do not forget that Pilates will increase your flexibility so you can move as fluidly as someone who dances, AND it is also great for strengthening the core, which translates to better balance, a taut midsection, and a toned back.
Do 30 minutes or an hour of cardio everyday
To get into this kind of shape; you need to be at a healthy body weight. If you are not already there, regular cardio can help.
Sometimes cardio alone does not get you there, but the other component of this factor is making sure that your diet is healthy. Make sure your diet consists of fresh and raw foods and whole grains.
Avoid eating things that come from a package as often as possible as they are usually empty calories. I think this one is pretty straightforward.
If you want to be lean and toned, your routine should be strength training. I read an article saying, “Women can physically not bulk up” (read Women and Weightlifting), so there is no reason to steer clear of weight training.
If you want to stay lean, use light weights and high repetitions.
Use a weight that is light enough but hard to complete the exercise by repetition number 18-20 instead of 8-15, such as when you are trying to build strength. Remember, lifting heavy has a longer-lasting benefit of helping you stay lean.
Always remember to have fun during the process of reaching your personal goal.
Work hard and have fun. It is vital to get a good amount of rest. Do not make the mistake of thinking that dancers should be in high-energy mode all the time. You need your downtime as much as you need your movement.
Make sure you enjoy a good, deep sleep every night. Trust me, cultivating good sleeping habits is essential whether you are a dance student or a seasoned professional.
Eat for Performance
Someone once told me that ‘Dancers is like poetry in motion.’ I thought at that moment, that he had one too many drinks, but while they may make all the moves look easy, the fact is that dancers are highly skilled people.
You need to ensure they are putting the proper fuel into your bodies so you can perform well in rehearsals, dancing socially, or performing on stage.
Whether young or old, it is vital to understand that your body needs a proper balance of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins to power the workouts that come with rehearsals and so forth.
Everybody needs calories. But if you plan to salsa dance all night long, you must be well fueled for that. A huge challenge is not ingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy demand of dancing but consuming fewer calories.
So, How many calories should I be consuming?
• An easy estimate of caloric needs during heavy training for a female is 45 to 50 calories per kilogram of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds).
• The caloric needs of a male are higher at 50 to 55 calories per kilogram of body weight.
Keep in mind that these are average estimates. Each individual has different caloric needs based on a variety of factors.
If you are somewhat sedentary or older, your calorie needs are likely toward the bottom of the range. If you are physically active, pregnant, or breastfeeding, you may be closer to the top.
Yes to Carbohydrates
If dogs are man’s best friend, well, energy from carbohydrates is a dancer’s best friend because carbs break down into glucose and quickly fuel muscles. Without glucose, it compromises a dancer’s skills and strength, and the feeling of muscle fatigue would take over.
Not a good feeling if you perform a few times in a single night.
For example, the night before a big competition or performance, focus on a nice, balanced meal full of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. The theory of “carbo-loading” before a big day is ineffective, so hitting that big plate of pasta may not make your dancer feel any better come morning.
On the day of a competition or performance, the focus should be on complex carbs with some proteins and healthy fats. Carbohydrates fuel the muscles and the energy boost necessary to turn it into a great performance, so supplying them with fresh fruits, oatmeal, whole grain toast, and peanut butter will help you perform.
Now if you are only thinking about what to do in a more relaxed environment like classes or rehearsals, refueling energy stores with carbs will also be important. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include whole-grain pasta, rice, beans, whole grain bread, and fresh fruit.
Your Little Tiny Micronutrients
People in general, including you dancers, frequently forget about obtaining key micronutrients, otherwise known as vitamins and minerals. This is especially true for the water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin B – C and the fat solute vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Let’s explore the reason to pay attention to this group of vitamins.
B vitamins are a part of energy production. They do not give the body energy, per se, but they are used in the body to make energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. B vitamins are also helpful for making red blood cells.
Vitamins A, C, and E play a role in cleaning up damaged muscles that are overstressed and overused, while vitamins D and K play a role in healthy bone metabolism. Compromise your intake of these vitamins, and you will compromise your performance over time.
Calcium is a mineral used for bone growth. The most important years of bone development are the first thirty years of life — which happens to be the prime years for dancing. Low bone density results in increased chances of bone stress fractures.
Iron is also a vital mineral for dancers since iron is what our bodies use to carry oxygen to the blood. Of course, we use oxygen to help our bodies produce energy.
As you can see, understanding that your bodies need a proper balance of food and vitamins will help you salsa dance the night away and be at your utmost best.
You know how important it is for everyone to get quality sleep. It is essential for athletes, which includes you as a dancer, to achieve peak performance and physical recovery.
Sleep is a critical element in overall conditioning to meet the physical and mental demands of a sport like salsa dancing. When a dancer does not get enough sleep, their physical performance and mental fortitude are affected negatively.
This brings on the simple question:
How many hours of sleep should a dancer get? Well, let me tell you what I know.
How many hours of sleep should a dancer get?
I learned that an individual needs about 7–9 hours of proper sleep. But, as a dancer or athlete in serious training for a competition and stressing their muscles and burning energy, you would need at least 9 – 10 hours of sleep per night to recover adequately.
Every time I go to the gym and do the heavy lifting during my workout, I can relate to sleeping more is needed. In my case, 8 hours of sleep is not enough.
Dance is an athletic activity that requires intense practice and can be competitive. Every day, dancers condition their bodies to perform the skills required, like athletes. Salsa dancing requires stamina.
But if you take private dance lessons or attend group classes, getting proper sleep provides restoration for the body and mind and sets the stage for optimal performance, so you have that edge.
Let me give some reasons I consider a dancer to cultivate a good night’s sleep.
Avoid injuries = Stay sharp.
One of the benefits of sleep is that it reduces the risk of injuries when you are dancing at the club. Think about the difference between salsa dancing after 8 hours of good sleep compared to dancing with only 3 hours of sleep.
With a lack of sleep, your body will feel it and be more prone to injuries.
The 3 R’s ( Restore, repair and rejuvenate )
We understand that sleep allows the body to restore the structure, if you will, of the muscles, fibers, and ligaments. Do you agree?
It is during the later stages of sleep, or deep sleep, when most muscle repair occurs, and the body releases growth hormones that promote this repair.
So if you are losing sleep, your muscles will probably not recover as well from the stress of your daily workouts and could be more vulnerable to injury, so sleep as a dancer is vital in your daily life.
Manage your stress
Some pressure — and a bit of stress — is good to push a dancer to their best. But an overwhelming amount of stress will never be a good thing — dancer or not.
When you perform as a dancer or enjoy a fun night out, stressful events can happen. The music player may be faulty; your partner may be experiencing an “off” day; you realize your shoes are too uncomfortable for the dance, and so on.
Learning how to salsa dance can be hard but learning how to manage delays and distractions is also important to be a better dancer.
When things are not going according to plan, when the music is not playing as it should, a good dancer knows how to dance to her rhythm when the moment calls for it.
Speaking of managing stress, Do you know what the death of a good dancer is? Click this link to find out
Chronic fatigue is detrimental to your health, well-being, and performance potential. While a professional dancer’s schedule can be difficult to manage, you owe it to your mind, body, and soul to find moments to breathe.
Okay, let me give you some ideas on how you can break the cycle of being stressed out.
Here are a few ideas:
– Maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
– Eat balanced frequent meals and snacks to maintain blood sugar (this supports energy levels).
– Consider meditation apps.
– Journal to help detangle your most stressful days.
I am trying to tell you that YOU need to listen to your body more often— and REST!
Symptoms of fatigue are your body’s way of communicating its needs. Taking a step back is OKAY. Refuel with nourishing foods and prioritize your mental and physical well-being.
My non-professional advice here is simple: put on your dance shoes and dance!
By “dancing it out”, you are not only releasing your frustrations and anger but the stress and worries with every move.
The Holistic Way
The holistic way
I have always believed there is no exercise better than dance. The act of salsa dancing or dancing, in general, can be the ideal combination of aerobic exertion, mental transcendence, and social connection all in one.
If you have neglected dancing, you are missing one of life’s easiest paths to joy and experiences.
As a side bonus, vigorous dancing can burn up to 100 calories every 10 minutes and be an intense cardiovascular workout… dancing connects your mind, body, and spirit.
AND it also makes you a more confident person if you let it.
But first, this is the holistic approach to prime your body:
Find Your Energy
This is the time you need to find the vibe to take steps on the floor or stage in a calm, relaxed, and confident way. If you do not have it, you need to figure out what will help you get there.
Or it can be any variety of things you may say to yourself like: ‘This activity I am about to engage in is something I love. Experiment in rehearsal to find out how different approaches affect you and once you find that thing, stick to it.
For me, it is knowing that I will have a great time with friends.
Less Is Always More
I do not know about you but making daily decisions can be tiresome. ‘Do I wear this for salsa dancing?’ ‘How do I get ready for my salsa dancing lessons?’ Should I drink a glass of wine before dancing?” All you are doing is mentally fatiguing yourself beforehand, and then when it comes time to go on, there’s nothing left.
I have always done a quick pre-routine that becomes automatic for me before going out dancing.
Here it is:
1. I play my top five salsa songs that get me pumped for the evening.
2. I get clothes ready for dancing and get ready for the night.
3. On route to the club, I repeat my little mantra mentioned above.
4. When I arrive at the club, I say hello to my friend and people I have not seen in a while.
That is it… simple.
Your Mental Practice
The excitement to show off a new dance step is crazy sometimes. You have mentally practiced this step to the point that you know you will kick it out of the park on the dance floor. Have you done this in the past?
I still believe this is something to do, but you have to be careful because by doing this, there is no real feedback. The kind of feedback I am referring to here is the humankind, the kind that matters most.
So, stick to the right practice to help you learn new steps faster.
I often emphasize physical health and fitness, and mental health is as important for dancers. It is common to see dancers in constant motion both mentally and physically, and of course, without rest, they run the risk of getting injured or sick.
Sleep, though sometimes difficult to find the time for, is vital for memory, energy, and concentration. After a good night’s sleep, you get the most out of class or rehearsal with the focus and power to perform at your best.
So, breathe and stay relaxed.
When it comes to salsa dancing and how to prime your body… remember, less is more. Pick one section or two and try to implement the resource I created for you here today.
To prime your body for salsa dancing, do the following:
1. Understand the mindset.
2. A healthy body is good for salsa dancing.
3. Sleep matters.
4. Learn to manage your stress.
These are as vital as having a solid foundation for salsa dancing. Practice and determination will always be your best friend!