We're in the process of writing a comprehensive Beginners's "Guide to salsa". Until then here are a few tips from John and Andy:
* Check out your local clubs (you'll be more inclined to carry on if the class is close by)
* Ask about lessons. What style? Is it a course that progresses?
* Will you have the same teacher each week?
* Is the teacher fully qualified?
* Does this class have dancing afterwards? (important to 'bed' in the lesson)
* Is there more than one class a week at your level? (It is usually better to do it twice a week)
* Do they have loyalty deals? (the more you come the cheaper it gets)
* You'll probably be completely confused for the first 4 weeks - don't worry this is normal!
* You'll probably won't be able to tell one song from another to start with - don't worry this is normal!
* Persevere to go twice per week for 6 weeks. On week 7 you'll amazingly find you can start to 'hear the beat' in the music
* 'Brain Training' - run through the routine in your mind every day after the class till your next visit
* Take every opportunity to practice after the class. Don't rush off. Don't be embarrassed.
* Practice 1-2-3 ...5-6-7 forward and back between lessons. It's all about getting comfortable with the basics
* All you need are the basics *in time to the music*. Don't worry about not knowing fancy turns - it doesn't make you a 'boring' dancer
Where is the beat? Help! ...I can't follow the music!
Salsa music has 3 or 4 people playing percussion all at once. Confusintg or what? It is much more difficult to find 'the beat' than 'normal' pop music.
Some salsa songs are much easier than others to dance to. Some 'jazzy/experimental' ones are nigh on impossible for a beginner.
Try to listen for the 'Clave' (the sticks that make a sharp 'Tack' sound) and dance just to that. The 'Clave' is maybe the simplest beat. So as a guy that means on the first beat of the clave you stick your lelf foot down going forward.
Not all soungs have someone playing Clave, though. You can also listen for the Cow Bells (they make a Cow Bell sound ;-)) and are usually easy to follow if they are being played.
Other percussion instruments include Maracas, Drums, Piano, and a 'Scratchy washboard thing'. Try to 'pick out' ONE from the melee and dance to that one beat. You don't want to just follow wahtever sounds loudest - as you'll drift from dancing a bit to the piano, onto drums, then something else ...and you'll get lost.
Remember Salsa = 'layers' of percussion one 'on top of' the other. Try to unpick the SIMPLEST (not necessarily the loudest) layer and dance to that (Hint: usually the 'Clave')
It is entirely to be expected that you 'get lost' many times during a song as a beginner. The trick is not to worry and be able to start again, picking up the beat.
If you worry about losing the beat too much this will make you too tense. Is better to lose the beat then muddle around for a bit but be able to START AGAIN (in time to the music) without worrying - (guys forward on that left foot 1-2-3...) - rather than dancing the song with clenched teeth counting out loud 123 ...456 over and over ;-)
...so you need to just be able to listen for when the '1' is ...as that is where you can start off again (in time to the music).