Expert Latin dancer shares secrets about her salsa dancing success

Melissa Treolo

Take it from one who knows, and who has tried to salsa dance with not-so-great results, it takes a certain amount of grace to be able to salsa like an expert. Looking like you were born to dance the night away and your hips just have a mind of their own is key, but how do we get to this pinnacle of salsa success?

At a recent salsa night at Jul’s Cocktail Club, I ran into someone who may be able to answer this question.

Key Gatewood, from Florida, is rather mesmerizing when she takes to the floor and sashays effortlessly across it with her dance partner. The 29-year-old insists she hasn’t taken any classes but that her expertise comes from years of going out and dancing to the music she loves.

After watching her dancing prowess for several minutes while I was still struggling to even remain upright on the dance floor, let alone salsa dance, I knew she was the one to talk to. And, once I gathered my courage and timidly made my way to her table to ask for a few pointers, she was more than willing to impart her wisdom of salsa dancing over to me. She says there are a few simple rules you must follow.

Rule #1: The music will guide you but there are also a few things one can do to at least look like they know what they’re doing on the dance floor.

“Follow the beat and feel the music and it really should just come naturally. This is what I do when I’m dancing: I’m right-handed so after every first step my right foot moves to the back. Also, after every turn I make a sexy pose.”

Rule #2: Pick a good partner.

“It’s really up to the guy because they’re leading. So the better the partner I pick to dance with, the better I can dance,” said Gatewood.

Rule #3: Salsa is all about skirts.

“If I got to a salsa bar you will never see me with jeans or pants on. I always wear a swingy skirt, no matter what color.

Rule #4: If you don’t like salsa music, you won’t be good at dancing to it.

“If you really like salsa, your body will get into moving to the beat automatically. But if you don’t like salsa, you’ll never learn what its all about. Just feel the music and get into the beat and you should be fine.”