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The Key Steps to Salsa Dancing: Basic Choreography Explained

The Key Steps to Salsa Dancing: Basic Choreography Explained

Influenced by styles like mambo, the cha-cha, and African styles, salsa dancing has taken over the globe.

Salsa dancing is all about rhythm.

Salseras and salseros move to the beat of the music, taking determined steps and moving their bodies to make it all look effortless.

Today, we share the basic salsa dancing steps every new salsera and salsero need to know.

Counting to the Music

Before you learn the steps, you need to learn the music.

Salsa songs have a basic rhythm to them. Start by counting a song’s beats per measure. Salsa songs have 4 beats.

When dancing basic salsa steps, you use two measures or 8 beats.

Useful tips for beginners to count the music include:

  • Starting off with slower beats with clear percussions, helping you hear the music.

  • Clapping to each beat from one to eight.

  • Listening to songs such as Los Nemus’ "Cuera Maraca y Bongo", Frankie Ruiz’s "Cosas Nativas". Or Jimmy Bosch’s “Slow Salsa”.

As you listen to the music, clap to get the rhythm. You won’t be moving your feet to each beat, however, as basic salsa dancing involves pauses on the 4th and 8th beats.

Clap on beats one, two, three, and don’t clap on the 4th beat. Clap again for beats five, six, seven, and pause on beat eight. And so on.


Once you’ve got the clapping down, move your feet to the rhythm of the music. Stand and march your feet to the clapping rhythm. Step when you clap, and pause when you don’t.

Dancing to the Music

Now that you’ve got the basic count down, it’s time to move to the music.

To learn the basic salsa dancing routine, create numbered cards and place these on the floor. These will help you move around according to the following placement:

  • Card #1 is where you start from. Place it in the center of the floor.

  • Place #2 one foot ahead of #1.

  • #3 should be one foot behind #1.

  • #4 goes one foot behind #3.

Once you’ve got everything laid out, proceed with the following steps:

  1. Start off with both your feet on card #1.

  2. On the first beat, keep your left foot on #1 and move your right foot on #2.

  3. Shift your weight on the second beat from front to back. Emphasise the movement by swinging your hips.

  4. On the third beat, place your left foot on card #3. Your weight should be on the ball of your foot as you do this. Stay in this position during the fourth beat.

  5. While you don’t take a step on the fourth beat, you should shift your weight from the ball of your foot to its heal.

  6. Move your right foot to #4 on beat five.

  7. Swing your hips on beat six.

  8. On beat seven, move your right foot back to #1. Don’t take a step on the eighth beat.

And there you have it: the basic salsa routine. You can perfect these moves by joining professional instructors’ classes today.

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