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Is Doing Salsa Shines A Colossal Waste Of Your Time?

We’ve all been through the issue of shines before. Is doing salsa shines a colossal waste of time?

If you were hoping to hear from me that a salsa shines routine is the way to make you a better dancer, well, it is not.

I know there are some people you respect and admire in the dance community because they can burn up the floor with funky, sexy, playful salsa shines and stay in timing with the musical. Needless to say, their talents go beyond just turns and shines patterns.

Do I hate salsa shines?

If you’re thinking “I hate shines!” well then, allow me to tell you how you’re missing out on a great opportunity to step up your game and have more fun, especially if you are the kind of dancer who likes to perform on stage.

There are a time and place to execute shines, and that is when you are dancing in front of people as a performer.

Latin dances, salsa dance to be more specific, is driven by partner connection. Partner connection is the essence of the dance itself. This is something salsa dancers can agree upon.

Let’s begin with salsa shines definition.

What is the shines definition

Salsa shines is a term used to describe the footwork performed when dancing solo. They are also quite often used when an instructor warms up a class before starting, and widely used when performing a dance routine.

Over the past couple of years, I began to hear a trend among the beginners after going to dance studios, and even some intermediate dancers.

“I’m a beginner and I’m finding it a bit frustrating that the school spends so much time on shines. I’m not looking to prepare for performances, I just want to learn salsa so I can dance with a partner. Other than covering the basic turns, why spend half the class time on shines when we could spend that time on partner work? Why is that?“

Sadly, I agree with that. Doing salsa shines for beginner is a colossal waste of time and should not be enforced in the early part of their development. Even if you are in an intermediate level class and the dance instructor is going through this complex variation of shines that you may or may not particularly like or care about, you may end up spending more than half of hour of your lesson on it.

I would like to think that every teacher is different though, and some will not spend that much time, if any time on shines, especially at the beginner level.

Or, if they do, they will be salsa shines for beginners that you can easily pick up because
a. they are teaching them properly
b. you can relate to them and/or like the style of the dance instructor.

So, What is the smart way to approach shines?

salsa dancers, smart approach

If I teach any shines at all to the students who are in the early stages of dancing, I use a small group of shines they can relate to and that will fortify the necessary motion needed for a particular step or style development.

If you’re still new to salsa, I recommend you first focus on perfecting your Essential Salsa Step before moving on to attempting these Salsa shines. Click this link to get you started.

This is the salsa shines list I use just to get beginners started on the right path: Crossovers, Flare, Grapevine, Side Tap, and Suzy Q.

Remember, if you are a dance instructor here, the main aim of beginner classes should be to develop leading and following skills in order for new dancers to survive salsa socials.

Wasting half the lesson on shines causes the dancers to not remember the ”partner work” aspects taught in the second half of the class; plain and simple.

In order for people to remember “partner work” taught in class, it is stating the obvious to say that spending sufficient time teaching it and dancing to the music in class, are a must.

If you happen to be a beginner student, these are the things you need to know before signing up for lessons with any dance school in order to quickly learn how to dance.

What are some of the reason people avoid salsa shines routine?

why people avoid salsa shines

I have found that these three things are the core reasons why some people might not want to learn shines, in general. Yes, these reasons can be challenging, but they can be easily accomplished by a simple step and making a minor shift in your approach to them.

Let’s begin.

I can’t remember what I learned from class.

This one is a very common feeling because of some of the complexity of shines when you are learning them. Avoiding practicing what you hope you never have to use doesn’t help at all. Except you can’t avoid it because all you need is …. Practice. Learn here on How to practice the right way.

I don’t know when to do it.

If you haven’t yet developed an ear for musicality, what you do and when you do it might just be totally random and safe. So, at first you try it “whenever,” even if it isn’t particularly appropriate musically. Remember, you have to start somewhere so be like Nike…Just Do It.

I feel uncoordinated dancing on my own.

For those who didn’t grow up listening to Latin music and dancing with your family at gatherings, Latin movement may not be natural. The right mindset is knowing that you have the coordination because, believe it or not, you have already been doing it ALL ALONE by means of walking, jumping, turning around, or even changing direction in a flash without thinking about it. Right? right!. Check this article to help you create routines.

What are some benefits salsa shines?


I know that in order to improve my dancing, I need to practice consistently. If you didn’t know, then you’ve learned something new today!

It’s easy to practice during a private lesson or a group class. You have a partner to work with, be it your teacher or another student. But practicing on by your own is just as important.

I want you to remember this:

“Never, never stop because your dancing success comes from you” 
Ricardo R

Here are some benefits of doing salsa shinies, On1 or On2.

timing for salsa dancers

You and I know that dancing is about connection.  Whether we’re talking about partner connection or musical connection, it’s always important to connect to the rhythm and pace of the music. This is a core part of dancing.

Now, learning to match your footwork, whether you are doing shines or dance steps, to the beat of the music is a fundamental skill that you typically learn before you attempt dancing with another person.

Practicing salsa shines routine will help you drill solid timing and develop the skill of connecting with the beat of the music as you move your body to enhance your body motion to a desire outcome.

Learn to do some salsa shines and applying to the timing of the song and a well coordinated execution of them and you are on your way to smooth dancing.

how to get balance on salsa dancing

Again, when doing “partner work,” many new dancers, and even some experienced dancers, depend on their partners for balance.

And while you may think I’m talking about followers, this goes for you leaders as well! If you find yourself struggling with spins and turns (which are tough to master) or keeping your balance during “partner work,” it’s time to take control of the situation and practice this stuff on your own.

Take advantage of the your “solo time” to practice some salsa shines at home, or practice a little at the club on the sidelines, to help you remedy this situation. By practicing shines that incorporate turns into a routine, you will enormously improve your dancing, in general.

how to get agile on your dancing

Dancing is such a beautiful interaction between two people, and if they are great dancers, it is more likely they will make it look easy. But until you try it yourself, you don’t realize that it takes a heck of a lot of balance, centering, clear intention and the skill to change directions quickly, when needed.

Whether you are doing salsa shines for ladies or men, or you are learning more salsa shines On 1 or On2, practice a footwork combo that incorporates quick directional changes. You’ll see how quickly you become an agility champ! Shines will give you the edge you are looking for time and time again.

On the flip side, it’s also challenging to take slow and controlled steps. Learning to adapt to the different speeds and moods of music takes focused practice. Keep focused on footwork that helps challenge your ability to move at different speeds in ways that are controlled and on time.

In reality, HOW do your steps becomes more important? How you transfer your weight? How do you coordinate your body with your step? So, not only is it a no-no to be late for class (don’t get me started..), but don’t arrive late to class with the intention of missing the footwork warm-up because you’re missing out on an important element of your dance training!

routine to get your own style

Some of the most musical dancers in salsa, bachata, and cha cha are not only comfortable doing shines, but they are also liberated by it. Salsa music has such a variety of sounds, instrumentation, moods, and flavor. Experimenting with shines on your own can give you the opportunity to explore the nuances of each song without the added challenge of leading or following.

Sounds like the trombones, the trumpets, the baseline, the percussion, the piano, the vocals, the breaks, etc. will give you an arsenal of opportunity to play with, but understand it takes time to master moving to those musical elements.

Pick a few shines and create your own salsa shine routine to go along with the melody. So, work on YOU, and you’ll have much more to give to your partners once you are comfortable and allow it to develop your style of dancing.

It may be intentional, or it may sneak up on you one night at the club. Style is part of musicality and every experienced salsa dancer has developed his or her own flow that they express both within “partner work” and when they seize opportunities to do it on their own.

salsa dancers are confident

One of the greatest benefits of learning to do salsa shines is overcoming your fear of “partner work” and dancing on your own!

Dancing is, and always will be, a mental challenge, and a physical one, too. Gaining confidence to dance on your own is like taking the training wheels off your bike, so to speak. Once their off, the world is yours for the taking, socially speaking!

​Put that all together and you’ve just stepped up your dance game both technically and artistically. Challenge yourself by taking a footwork class taught by an instructor with great musicality and great teaching ability – whether salsa, bachata, or cha cha – and you are set!

Let me make sure you don’t forget the following: Doing shines “on your own” doesn’t mean you forget about your partner! On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to groove together without actually holding on to each other.

You have both hands available, you can move around each other freely, you can play with hair, jackets, arms, legs, drops… And, when you can both connect to each other AND the music without a physical lead/follow, it can feel pretty awesome.


Becoming a great dancer is about using your skills to perform well consistently on the dance floor, and to execute your skills with any partner with the proper connection.

A sure-fire way to help accomplish this noble goal is employing shines. Learn to do or create your own salsa shine routine to apply it On1 or On2. Any salsa dancer knows how to reap benefits like:

  • The application of footwork in relation to the timing of the song
  • Getting better control and agility from the shines
  • A greater understanding and application of the body position for a natural weight transfer

Just to mention a few…

These benefits feed and magnify each other. You will feel good about being able to continue moving forward once you make the decision to incorporate it into your dancing.

Enjoy the journey to becoming stronger, being able to stay balanced in a dance move, and controlling momentum when the movements get fast. This will give you confidence.

When the opportunity presents itself to show off your shines, don’t hesitate to do it. Nike says it well.. Just Do It!

Happy Dancing!

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