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Inside vs. Outside Turns for Salsa and Bachata

Understanding Inside and Outside Turns in Salsa and Bachata

Imagine this…

You were at a park and your friend asks, “What did you see?”

You: “I was walking down the path and saw people walking these four-legged animals. They were furry, had long noses, and were wagging their tails.”

Instead of giving this long description, you’d just say, “I saw some dogs.”

Lesson: use a name when it exists! It’s a shortcut.

Similarly, when explaining movement in dance, having names for everything helps students, teachers and partners clearly communicate.

So, let’s clarify the difference between inside and outside turns in both salsa and bachata.

Inside and Outside Turns in Salsa

In salsa, we use the lead as the reference point to classify if a turn is “inside” or “outside” Here’s how:

Line of Dance and Rails

In salsa, the line of dance is for the follow, while the lead has one rail on the right and one rail on the left. Think of them like railroad tracks.

When doing a cross body lead, the lead steps off the line of dance (the middle line) to open the path for the follow to walk across. The lead does this by getting on to the right rail.

Inside Turn

Using the lead as the reference point, an “inside turn” occurs when the follow executes a cross body lead with 1.5 turns towards the lead (turning to the left).

Outside Turn

Conversely, an outside turn happens when the follow does a cross body lead + 1.5 turns away from the lead (to their right).

An Alternative: Inside and Outside Turns in Bachata

If the lead is directly in front of the follow (like in bachata), the terms can change:

  • Inside Turn: follow’s arm moves across her body during the turn.
  • Outside Turn:  follow’s arm moves away from her body during the turn.

This way of naming the turns is commonly used in bachata but may be applied in salsa in some cases or in some schools.

That said, the most common way of understanding inside and outside turns in salsa is what I mentioned in the previous section.

Bonus: How to Double Your Moves

Want to double your moves in Salsa? Here’s a quick tip:

Use Both Rails

Most beginner leads dance on the right rail, but you can also learn to dance on the left rail. This essentially doubles your move set.

Use the Reverse Cross Body Lead

When dancing on the left rail, perform a reverse cross body lead (see video above).

Inside and Outside Turns from the Left Rail

  • Reverse Inside Turn: follow does inside turn like normal, but lead is on the left rail.
  • Reverse Outside Turn: follow does outside turn like normal, but lead on the left rail.

By practicing moves on both sides, you effectively double your repertoire without learning entirely new steps.


Understanding inside and outside turns will enhance your dance communication. If there’s a name for something, you should know it.

It’s easier to say “inside turn” than “cross body with 1.5 turns to the left for the follow starting on ___ count. “

Whether you’re dancing salsa or bachata, knowing these naming conventions will help you improve faster and have more fun on the dance floor.

If you enjoyed this, I highly recommend watching my video on seven inside turn variations.

For deeper learning and faster progress, check out our online salsa program here. You can even try it free for an entire week here.