Salsa Timing for Beginners
There are two core concepts that differentiate salsa from other latin dances: timing and rhythm.
Salsa timing refers to the counts, or beats, of the music that you step on and salsa rhythm refers to the body movement you create between each step.
Types of Salsa Timing
1. Basic salsa timing
The counts of music you step on are 1-2-3, 5-6-7.
It takes 8 beats to do your basic step but notice how there is no step on 4 or 8?
That’s because the rhythm of the movement is quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow. Counts 4 and 8 are used to draw out your body movement and create the “slow” parts of the rhythm.
Using counts 1-2-3, 5-6-7 you can dance salsa in a couple ways…
2. What is dancing “On 1”?
When someone says “I dance salsa On 1” it means they start dancing on the first beat of the bar of music – “the 1” – the first count.
When dancing On 1 you start dancing on the 1, and your break steps (steps used to change directions) are on the 1 and the 5.
Dancing On 1 is the most common salsa timing used around the world, but it still depends where you live. Ask around to other dancers or studios what’s most common timing in your area.
3. What is dancing “On 2”?
When someone says “I dance salsa On 2” it means they start dancing on the second beat of the bar of music – “the 2” – the second count.
When dancing On 2 you start dancing on the 2, and your break steps are the 2 and the 6.
It’s important to know there are various ways of dancing On 2, but the most common way, popularized by Eddie Torres in New York, is what we’ve just told you: step on counts 1-2-3, 5-6-7 with break steps on 2 and 6.
Dancing salsa On 2 is often called “mambo” because it has roots in the original mambo dance which was danced on 2.
4. Is the style of dancing On 1 different than dancing On 2?
Let’s make a distinction…
There’s a difference between Timing and Style:
Timing refers to which counts of music you step on.
Style is a visual aesthetic that you give your dancing.
If you dance on 1 or on 2 you can dance the exact same way and do all the same moves, you just change where your steps are with respect to the 8 count of music.
Learn more about The Difference Between Dancing Salsa On 1 and On 2 here.
In our online Salsa Course, all lessons are taught on 1 and on 2 timing so you can choose which ever you like, or learn both!
The different styles of salsa is another topic entirely.