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Turn or Hairbrush? Salsa Technique Explained


Today I’ll tackle a common point of confusion among beginner follows: the difference between a turn and a hairbrush.

As a lead, making these movements clear is essential to ensure smooth, enjoyable dancing, especially when you’re leading beginners.

Let’s break it down…

The Difference in Intention

Turns (horizontal plane):

Imagine a vertical axis running through the follow’s body, from head to toe:

  • To initiate a turn, the lead needs to draw a circle or halo around this axis, moving the follow’s hand on a horizontal plane and around their axis or head.

Hairbrushes (vertical plane):

  • Instead of moving the follows hand on a horizontal plane, a hairbrush uses the vertical plane, i.e. neutral territory (no turns being signaled).
  • The movement goes straight up and over the midline of the follow’s body, release their hand just above their head and let the follow finish the movement.

Combining Turns and Hairbrushes

You can also combine turns and hairbrushes in your dance. Here are two examples (see video for demo):

  • Turn followed by a hairbrush: After a turn, place your hand on the follow’s shoulder to block them from turning again, then smoothly transition into a hairbrush, up and over their head.

Tips for Clear Communication

  1. Prevent guesswork: be as clear as possible in your lead signals: horizontal plane for turns, vertical plane for hairbrushes.
  2. Stay close to your partner for more precise control.
  3. Adjust to your partner’s level: if you think they might mistake a hairbrush for a turn, you can always block their shoulder with one hand to make the lead clearer.

Final Thought

Now that you understand the difference between leading and following turns and hairbrushes get some practice in at the next social.

Being clear which plane you’re using—horizontal vs. vertical—will be game changing for sending clear signals and having smoother dances.

If you want to dive deeper and progress your dancing faster check out our online salsa and bachata programs here – or try them free for a week right here.