SALSA Top Tips from Tip Top Teacher – Ben Chai

Ben Chai - Salsa Top Tips from Chris Penhall Salsa DiariesI have a belief that if you are committed to learning anything at all in life – that is absolutely anything – and you are willing to meet all the challenges head on and not succumb to despair and discouragement, then you will always reach your goal.

Any dance, for example, Salsa, can be a bit like that. Learning the basic steps, meeting salsa snobs, getting your leg kicked by someone who hasn’t learnt dance etiquette can all add up to some of the challenges. Take it from someone who once had 100 left feet and lived in beginners class for six months after all his mates had gone up to intermediate.

However, as you will see on the plus side, in many of the articles on this site, dance will open up a whole new fun-filled social scene for you, so persevere.

One of the great dance secrets

One of the areas I’d like to cover in this article is one of the great but simple secrets of being a truly marvellous and fun dancer.

When I first started out, people would say phrases like “Feel the music”, “Be the music”. “I am the music”. Being a musically and rhythmically challenged person, I didn’t really know what on earth they were going on about. When I asked for further explanation, they couldn’t elaborate. I had learned the moves, I could dance in time, I could make up my own combinations, the people I danced with told me I was a good lead….but I felt something was missing. Yes, I know, I know, it sounds like I’m a dance geek, but let’s be frank – we’re all geeks about something in our lives – being a geek is about being passionate right!

Copyright Ben Chai ©2005. Written specifically for Christine Penhall’s website.

Ben Chai is a freelance media consultant. He is a radio broadcaster for Radio Wey and has produced several innovative and creative webcasts. In addition, he has been the editor-in-chief for magazines such as Dancevine, Learning Technologies and Backoffice.

Ben Chai can be contacted on or searched for in Google.

Beyond The Count
(1-2-3. 2-3-4)

Let’s return to the phrase “be the music”. When you are out dancing you will meet a range of dancers. The ones I’d like to focus on are the quirky almost showy dancers who you may felt have a certain “je ne sais quoi.”

What is it? Well, you will find that every so often they skip the count in favour of the music. What??? Heresy????? No! Think fun. Think going with the music. Think doing more than just 1-2-3. Not meaning to shock you but there is some great music out there which also skips the count and worse plays at a faster or slower count than it initially began at.

These dancers are “feeling” or “being” the music. This is the core of dance….not just learning some great combinations or great footwork, but knowing when and how to use those moves and footwork with the music. So, for example, if the music suddenly stops, they will stop; if they feel a crescendo building up in the music, they will make their dance with you build up; if they hear the “hits”, they will do moves that accentuate on the “hits”.

How do you know when these breaks, hits, crescendos, allegros, Mercedes (sorry my bad joke) are coming? Several ways:

You know the track. Yes, you’ve heard it often. It’s one of your favourite pieces of music.
Much music repeats, so even if you missed it before you know what’s coming.
After a hearing a lot of music, you will genuinely be able to feel what’s coming… a bit like predicting the end of a film.

Whether you’re learning tango, rock and roll, blues or salsa, add this to your dance repertoire

and really make the music come alive for your partner.