How to Prepare for Your First Salsa Competition

If you have an upcoming salsa competition and you have no idea what to do in terms of preparation, then here is an ultimate guide to help you get through the D-day. This guide is specially designed for first timers and therefore it includes the very basic things which can be easily overlooked. However, this guide can also be useful to other salsa dancers who have an upcoming salsa competition.

Tips for beginners or newcomers

Photo from wikimedia

Always look happy

Every time you are up on stage dancing, whether it is a rehearsal or the actual presentation, always remember that you are dancing. Dancing is fun and it is supposed to be felt, experienced and enjoyed. Therefore, every single time that you are dancing learn to forget about all your troubles and everything else. Never worry about the fact that you might miss some steps and get others wrong. Just get yourself in the mood, feel the rhythm and move your body like you were born to dance!

Fake it

The best thing about salsa is that it has one basic rhythm which is the typical 1-2-3, 5-6-7. All you need to know is that, whether you are doing coupling or the singles routine, styling mostly (if not at all times) comes in the 5-6-7 bit. And since this basic rhythm always repeats itself, it is very easy for you to overlook a false move. For example, if you forgot to make a turn at 5-6-7, you can always just catch up from the next 1-2-3 and move on from there. When you miss a step or make a false move, just act like it was part of the whole routine, keep smiling and move on. Don’t let your lack of confidence betray you and don’t make your mistake so obvious. In fact, whatever happens, never stop dancing.


It is normal to feel pressured to dance your best especially if you are trying to impress someone in the audience. However, also keep in mind that there are other couples dancing too. It is normal to feel like everyone is watching you but trust me that is not usually the case. Just act as if you are in your room practising with your partner. Take a deep breath and relax. Turn off any noise from the audience in your mind and just relax.


When it comes to salsa (or ballroom dancing in general), timing is everything. You have to know establish a rhythm even before the routine comes in. During a competition, judges are notoriously known for keenly waiting for first timers to get the timing wrong. Do not let them catch you in the act. No matter how strange or weird you might be looking, getting the timing right can make the judges write you down. Therefore, always try your best to not come in late on your step. The thing about timing that makes it so important in salsa is that getting the timing wrong can largely affect your rhythm since going too fast on a slow rhythm will make you look ridiculous while going too slow on a fast rhythm will make you mess up everything while trying to catch up with the song.

photo from flickr


Always keep in mind that every time you are on stage, you are making a presentation. Therefore, do the best you can to represent yourself (and your partner) in the best light possible. Whenever you start feeling a little inadequate (it happens sometimes), just remember that not everyone is talented enough to take part in a salsa competition. Make good use of the stage and avoid just staying in one position or one spot throughout your routine. Smile from start to finish and act like you know what you are doing even if you don’t. Still, on presentation, try to make eye contact with the judges whenever possible but let it be natural not forced. Remember you also want to maintain the chemistry between you and your partner.

Final Words

The points covered in this guide might appear to be too basic but they might not be that obvious to some dancers especially the newcomers. It is also important to avoid imitation as much as possible. It is good to be inspired by the world’s best salsa dancers of all time but try as much as you can to establish your own style of dancing. Imitation might not come out as graceful as when you are just being yourself. Keep practising and once you become more comfortable with yourself, you will find your own signature moves and styling. Also, imitation always leads to you feeling inadequate and we don’t want that on the day of the competition now do we? For the professional dancers and pros, your list of preparation for salsa competition is coming up soon. In the meantime, please feel free to share with us how you prepared for your first salsa dance competition.


Miriam Ndemo


Miriam is a salsa enthusiast who generally loves ballroom dancing. She is also a freelance writer and a dance instructor at a local school. She likes dancing, smiling, swimming, traveling and making new friends. Therefore, please feel free to contact her and send her your feedback or comments in the comments section below and she will be glad to interact with you.


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