Latin Dance Steps

Rachel Hanson
Latin dance couple

Learning Latin dance steps is a fun activity, leading to hours and hours of social fun. Whether you have a partner or not, Latin dancing is a great social activity.

Latin Dancing Classes

The best way and usually the most fun way to learn any type of dance is to sign up for and attend a dance class with an instructor who specializes in the specific form of dance that you would like to learn. In large cities and suburbs, it is very easy to find Latin dance classes, but sometimes classes can be quite expensive. In addition, more rural areas of the country may not have many options for classes. However, there are other ways to learn Latin dance steps than just in a class.

Video Resources for Learning Dance Steps

The Internet provides a wealth of learning opportunities for things such as dance. Watching demonstration and instructional videos online can help solidify your knowledge of steps that you have learned through written descriptions. For the best results, work your way through the basic Latin steps below, and then watch as many videos of each type of dance as possible. The combination of the step descriptions plus the videos often provides results almost as good as attending a class.

Basic Latin Dance Steps

While many more advanced steps exist, it's always best to start with the basic step executed in each style of Latin dancing. Once you've mastered the basics, you will be better able to interpret the advanced steps and turns that you see professionals doing as part of the dance.

Cha-Cha Basic Step

The basic step is done to the rhythm 'one, two, three-and, four', or counted in cha-cha classes as 'one, two, cha-cha-cha'. What this translates to are two slow steps (one and two), two quick steps (cha-cha) and a slow step (cha) on the fourth beat. The steps taken for the man (or lead) are as follows, and the follower's steps are the mirror opposite:

  1. Beat one: Step forward/left on your left foot
  2. Beat two: Bring your right foot to join your left one
  3. Beats three-and: Step quickly on your left, and then right, foot
  4. Beat Four: Take a slow step on your left foot

It's important to note that the next four count will start with your right foot instead of the left! Each four count will alternate the starting foot because the number of steps is uneven (five).

This basic step has infinite variations by changing where you step on each beat. Small turns or just back and forth movement are the most common ways to do it. Watch an in-depth lesson on YouTube.

Rumba Basic Step

The rumba counting rhythm is 'quick, quick, slow', which refers to three counts of the four beats in each measure of music. How this combines with the dance steps is that no actual step is taken on the first beat. Then, three steps are taken on the remaining three beats of the measure. In essence, you will need two counts of four to complete the basic step.The rumba step is a box step, in which the man starts with his left foot moving forward, and the woman starts with the right foot moving backwards. The following steps are for the lead, and the follower's steps are the opposites:

  1. Step forward with your left foot
  2. Step to the right with your right foot
  3. Bring your left foot to the left side of your right foot
  4. Step your right foot to the back
  5. Step to the left with your left foot
  6. Bring your right foot to the right side of your left foot

For a slowed-down demonstration of the rumba basic latin step, watch this rumba video.

Salsa Dance Step

The basic salsa dance step is very simple to learn. The full step will take two measures of music to complete, with steps occurring on 1, 2, 3, and 5, 6, 7. On beats four and eight, you stand still--of course, it won't look as if you are standing still once you get the moves going. The basic step for men (women are opposite) is:

  1. Step forward with your left foot
  2. Place your weight back onto your right foot
  3. Bring your left foot back beside your right foot
  4. Step backwards with your right foot
  5. Place your weight back on your left foot
  6. Bring your right foot back beside your left foot.

This video of the salsa basic step is an excellent learning resource.


Regardless of the type of Latin dance steps you would like to learn, the process is quite simple if you take it slow. Listen to the music when practicing as well as at other moments during the day so that you pick up the rhythm in the music. As with all dance forms, practice makes perfect, and you'll be performing these steps smoothly in no time. Then you can move on to more advanced steps in salsa, rumba, or cha-cha, as well as other Latin dance forms.

Latin Dance Steps