Art was my first life passion; as a child I would spend endless hours drawing anything and everything. Pencil, Pen and Charcoal was what really moved me as a child; I just loved the contrast between light and dark. Once I entered secondary school I started to formally learn more about art and added painting and more colours to my arsenal.

I have been thinking about resurrecting this life passion and was recalling how I progressed in art to an extent that I achieved an A*. The learning process was interesting and being Salsa obsessed I couldn’t help but draw parallels.

My Art Education

My formal art education happened in three main phases:

1. Understanding the fundamentals РThis is where I started looking at primary colours; how to mix them together to create richer colours and which colours fit together and complement each other. I also started to understand spacial composition and how to manage a canvas.

2. References –¬†After understanding the fundamentals our teachers gave us several different pieces of art to replicate. Pieces from Van Gogh, Monet, Salvador Dali, Da Vinci and other less known artists. This allowed us to practise and refine our fundamental skills through replicating various styles. The aim was to expand our horizons.

3. Experimentation – During my later formal years our teacher would create a scene and then encourage us to use our skills to produce our own art. At this point we were allowed to choose which ever tools we wanted and to use with which ever style resonated with us the most. Our instructors’ only job at this point was to give suggestions and guide us in our own creation.

For me this learning process gave me the tools, gave me the inspiration and then allowed me to develop on my own.

Comparisons to Salsa

I have always believed that the Salsa is a mix between art and science. In this section I will present how I see the ideal learning process for Salsa individuality.

1. Understanding the Fundamentals – Salsa fundamentals vary between schools. I broadly cover this in terms of Music, Individual Movement and Connected Movement. Understanding this is equivalent to learning about colours or different combinations in art.

2. References – Once you understand your fundamentals it is good to look at how other people are applying their fundamentals and take them as a reference point for your own dancing. Working with many teachers of different styles will give you a broader understanding of what is available. Chances are, there is not a single style out there which matches you 100% so we will look at others for inspiration and try to adopt what we can.

3. Experimentation – Once you have your fundamentals set and have explored your fundamentals through copying various references it is now time to explore your own dancing. We don’t have a bowl of fruit or a naked model in Salsa but we do have an infinitely rich scene in terms of Salsa music; an amalgomation of rhythms and influences from around the world. We also have our Salsa partners who are on the same journey as you and provide a mirror for your learning experimentation. At this point I believe that the teachers’ job is just to guide and give advice.


As with all my blogs I want to share my views and my opinions in order to tease the mind, spark off ideas and help drive your own dancing.

Why not question yourself…

Have you spent time understanding fundamentals of the dance? How narrow are your fundamentals? Have you learned multiple reference models to enrich your own palette and mind? Have you reached the stage where you are experimenting and bringing something new? Are you too busy copying and trying to perfect a single referenc model?

Many will disagree with me (which is great) but I see the first two steps as the science of Salsa and the final stage as the true art form in Salsa. Salsa Art is not for everyone. Is Salsa an Art for you yet?

Toan Hoang

Written by Toan Hoang

Toan Hoang has been dancing Salsa for more than 10 years and was the co-founder and managing director of TNT Dance in London; A dedicated and holistic Mambo school, that thrives on innovation, and hopes to develop and inspire the next generation of instructors and performers.

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