Salsa isn’t just a topping at Mexican restaurants—it’s also a spicy dance technique that originated right here in New York. When an influx of Cuban immigrants came to America in the mid-twentieth century, they brought the mambo with them, and the ballroom dancing style soon took on characteristics of other Latin, Caribbean and Afro-Cuban dances, creating something entirely new: salsa dancing. NYC is one of the best places to find dance studios to learn the fancy footwork, hip sways and spins of the social dance, so sign up for these dance classes for adults and steal the spotlight the next time you go out dancing at a bar.
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The best salsa dancing classes
Head several blocks south of Spanish Harlem to the Upper East Side’s premier adult arts learning center for a 15-session class taught by Latin dance and music aficionado Jose Rosario. In the Level I class, dancers will learn the terminology, fundamental step patterns and concepts of salsa and how to apply them to the fast-tempo music. More experienced students should take Level II, where the fundamentals are matched with more complicated moves.
Famed choreographer Alvin Ailey believed anyone could learn to dance, so it's fitting that the Ailey Extension would gain a reputation as one of the friendliest all-inclusive spots for adults to learn to move in the city. An instructor from the Baila Society leads a class through the basics of the seven most popular figures (dance turns) of the style and the fundamentals of shines (fancy footwork done separately from the partner). The teacher also imparts valuable lessons in the culture and history surrounding the dance—and proper partner etiquette for when you take your moves to the club.
This dance academy, operating mainly out of the East Village's Peridance Capezio Center, is dedicated solely to salsa. Movers and shakers of all levels can find classes to fit their needs: If you’re just starting out, there are beginner’s courses, but if you’ve got the basics down and feel you need more help with your shines, spinning, styling or partnering, the society offers specific classes for all of those, as well
Conveniently located in Midtown, this studio caters to a large community of salsa and Latin-style dancers. With a primary focus on the On2 style of salsa—the style popularized in New York with an emphasis on the second beat of the music as opposed to the first (or On1)—the classes range from basic to intermediate and occur throughout the week. For those looking to spice up their repertoire with other forms of Latin and Afro-Latin dance, the studio also has cha-cha and Afro-Caribbean classes.
The city’s self-proclaimed largest ballroom and Latin dance studio gives beginners an insight into the Cuban origins of salsa with a combination salsa and mambo class that teaches both On1 and On2 steps. Students eager to put their new moves to the test should head to the two-hour Tuesday night Salsa and Merengue Party, where the teacher/DJ spins Latin music and dancers incorporate not only those salsa turns, but cha-cha, bachata and merengue, another Dominican style.
Founded by professional and competitive Latin dancer Joel Dominguez, this studio is dedicated solely to teaching salsa and bachata (a partner dance from the Dominican Republic). The salsa boot camp is an eight-session course that covers the fundamentals and the common turn and shines. Experienced students can drop in at their leisure to take the weekly all-level classes on footwork and techniques.
Nieves’ two locations, in East Williamsburg and the Bronx, go beyond the usual class time to offer two-hour classes—and a true workout. During each session, the first hour is dedicated to learning the correct patterns and techniques, sharpening your every step so that during the second hour (the fun half), you can bring your attention to listening to the music and your partner. Each level is a three-month cycle, which means that in a year you’ll be groovin’ at an advanced level.
Learn how to follow the percussion beat at this Astoria dance studio’s salsa On2 classes. During the two-hour beginner and intermediate classes, students incorporate musicality, express themselves through their feet and learn to lead and follow. For serious salseras and salseros (female and male salsa dancers), private lessons are available to get you to a competitive performance level.