Ai mami! How to be a salsa siren

HIPS AND SALSA. A tribute to femininity, this model is wearing a stunning pair of Jorjet shoes by Burju Shoes.

It happens to me every time I watch an amazing salsera swivel and stride her way across the dance floor: I’m completely hypnotized. Watch the video below and you’ll see what I mean. Of course the effect is much more potent in person, but you’ll get the idea.

See what I mean? I can tell you that almost none of the spectators are looking at the dude she’s dancing with. Anyone who’s looking on is just in awe of her commanding presence… This incredible woman who is confronting the world with a “Here I am!” attitude and a sexy splash of femininity. Women want to be her and men want to be with her. With an energy like that, she can conquer the world. (By the way, those are my dance instructors, Joel Dominguez and Maria Palmieri of Joel Salsa. They’re inspiring on so many levels!)

DYNAMIC DUO. Joel and Maria give some of the most popular salsa lessons in NYC. Learn more at

[The “salsa siren” [is]…ready for anything…She is a force to be reckoned with and she is not afraid to show it!]

The “salsa siren” in my mind is a woman who owns the salsa dance floor. She’s graceful, coordinated, sexy and she’s having a blast. Although she’s being led by her partner, she gives the impression of being totally in control. She’s ready for anything. She’s the center of attention, although she’s oblivious to the spotlight and she’s certainly unaware of the spell she’s casting on everyone. She’s too happy with herself to care what others think. She is a force to be reckoned with and she is not afraid to show it! What woman wouldn’t want to embody all of that?

SHOES AND MOVES. Burju Shoes at the Shoes and Moves fashion show, 2013 Houston Salsa Congress.

CENTER STAGE. Spin City Dance at the 2010 Sydney Salsa Congress. Photo by JC Photography.

SAUCY SALSERA. Photo by Hazel Hankin.

Competition video above. Same deal—aren’t you just entranced by the celebration of femininity?

I took the video above after class one night. I just love it because it’s a great example of what Joel and Maria are always demonstrating—they’re so in sync with one another. It’s kind of a visual finish-each-other’s-sentences kind of relationship. Just phenomenal to watch them in action.

SPOTLIGHT ON STYLE. Ana Masacote is wearing the Triple Threat shoe by Burju Shoes.

DANCING LIKE THE STARS. Adolfo Indacochea and Tania Cannarsa dancing at the Frankfurt Salsa Festival 2013.

DANCING LIKE THE STARS. Adolfo Indacochea and Tania Cannarsa dancing at the 2013 Frankfurt Salsa Festival.

WOW THE CROWD. Performance by Griselle Ponce and Eddie Torres. Photo by Hazel Hankin.


As I strive for siren status, I’m finding that there are a lot of parallels between being a beautiful dancer and leading a beautiful life. I’ll share some of them here.

Be dedicated—practice makes perfect.

This one is self explanatory, but definitely worth mentioning. Two different dancers might tell you they’ve been dancing for a year, but one is far more advanced. Why? I think you know the answer. And the concept of practice applies to every aspect of life.

Surround yourself with positive thinkers and you’ll have a great time.

Especially when you’re a beginner, salsa is only fun when you’re dancing with upbeat, positive people. It’s horribly discouraging to dance with people who get angry with you because you can’t do a complicated step. The same goes for life—keep positive company and you’ll always feel encouraged and excited. And as an extension of that, be positive yourself! No one wants to hang out with a grump.

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Advertisement for Burju Shoes.

Don’t be a limp noodle.

“Spaghetti arms” is a term used to describe a female dancer’s arms if they’re too relaxed. In other words, she’s not properly incorporating her arm muscles into her movements. When a guy tries to lead her into a turn, she goes every which way instead of executing a controlled, graceful spiral. Don’t be so influenced by others that you can be misguided or pushed in any given direction. Stick to your convictions and you won’t get dizzy, on the dance floor or in life.

Believe in yourself—confidence is sexy.

The confident dancers walk out on the floor and BAM! you know you’re in for a treat. They don’t even have to start dancing before you know that they own the floor. They aren’t necessarily the dancers who can do dozens of spins in a row, but that doesn’t stop them from making every step sizzle. They know that the best way to get others to appreciate you, respect you and believe in you is to do the same for yourself.

Be yourself.

“Ladies styling” is the term used to describe all the fancy little touches that women add to their salsa dancing. Great female dancers are always adding their own flavor by rolling their hips, swirling their arms and tossing their hair. Punctuating each step with personality makes the dance much more invigorating. The same is true of life. Diversity is what makes our world so supremely exciting to live in, so be yourself and others will be inspired by your unique style.

FLOORED. Exhaustion after a night of hardcore dancing! She’s wearing the Trionyx shoe by Burju Shoes.

Don’t be afraid—just go for it.

It was my third or fourth private lesson with Maria and we were both doing the same steps, but she looked like an Amazon goddess and I looked like a giggling school girl pushing my glasses back up my nose. She said that the only difference was that sometimes I appeared to be holding back, like I was afraid of falling or messing up. Maria told me she’d had the same reluctance early on and then she realized: The fear wasn’t keeping her from making mistakes, it was just preventing her from being the best and most powerful dancer she could be. So don’t let fear dominate your life. Go forward with purpose and determination and your life will go smoothly all by itself.

Give it all you’ve got.

Take every step with feeling! You can do the salsa basic step like you’re just walking around or you can do it with energy and flair. If you don’t put any effort in, you’ll just look like a mindless robot. If you give it 110%, the basic step can turn heads. In life, the same applies: You get back what you put in. Put your best, most energetic and most enthusiastic foot forward and almost anything is possible.

Note: Although this post is littered with fab photos from Burju Shoes, I don’t dance in Burju because they don’t make a vegan shoe! Unfortunate, because their shoes are stunning. But although I’m not vegan, I try to limit the animal products in my life.

You can learn more about Joel and Maria at and

Did you enjoy this post? Want to share more life lessons you’ve learned from dancing? I’d love to hear from you below!

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