Salsa Classes Singapore: Hook & Tension

On hook and tension in salsa classes

.. where to start? I’ve only been attending salsa lessons at Xenbar for half a month and already I’m discovering two-thousand-and-one fundamental techniques which I have never heard of, in parts of my body I never knew could move. And above all – you guessed it – stuff I haven’t been doing right. It’s been a long and trying, and oftentimes frustrating, journey. It has also been an extremely rewarding experience as each new attempt at improvement finally bears fruit.

The hook is an extremely important part of salsa. It’s the fulcrum on which the “connection” between a man and a woman is formed on the salsa dance floor (sort of like the role of the coconut or palm trees on a Bollywood beach..). It is the main mechanism by which the man leads the lady into a myriad of moves, both complex and simple. It is particularly crucial, however, in the execution of advanced moves like the hammerlock or cross-body-lead turn. I see the hook as an extension of the body by which the lady may be steered to accommodate the man’s whims and fancies, in the same way that a bull may be led by its nostrils (I always laugh at myself when comparing my moves with this image!). it is therefore crucial for the lady to develop a good hooking technique which allows her to accurately interpret and follow the man’s directions while still giving his hand enough free room to maneuver itself into different hooking positions.

From personal experience, I have found it particularly challenging to maintain just the right amount of tension in my hand when executing the 1001 different types of moves. I am still picking up and fine-tuning details such as trying to give tension only on the 1 and 5 counts, while leaving the hand relaxed at other times and yet still maintaining the proper hook-hold. I have found salsa to be much more flexible and less of the mere push and pull action that I had previously envisioned it to be. It is however much more difficult to master and engage proper fundamental techniques within such a wide range of interpretations and styles!

As is all too often mentioned by many a weary salsa teacher, the lady has to keep adequate and appropriate tension in her hand in order to let it act as a steering point for her. This has been strange for me as I have encountered people on the dance floor who have asked me to give less tension, and others who ask why I am coming all the way here to hold up “fish hands”. And, of course, there are those who remain silent and simply reply upon query that my tension is quite just so. I have come to discover that there really is a whole world of people out there with different notions of how to dance salsa “the proper way”. It is obviously impossible to please them all at first meeting; it is every good dancer’s job, however, to accommodate his or her partner and adjust his own moves to her preferences.

It is clear that I still have a very long road to travel. With perseverance, and with diligence in attending classes, I am sure that I will become aware of more of the requirements needed to advance toward mastery, As I continue to acquire this awareness, and along with plenty of practice, I am sure that whole new universes will soon (or at least, sometime) be opened up to me.

- Candice, 19 January 2007

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Starlinn Actfa DanceSTARLINN CHOO YANQING joined the SFDF program in 2004 while studying in NUS, training 12 hours a day; she completed her SFDF, Diploma & IHDC courses in 3 years, using her teaching income to finance her classes in Diploma & IHDC. In 2008 she pursued her IMDC Dance Business & is now doing her 3 years IPHDC Dance Product Research. While pursuing her IHDC she was already traveling around the world for assignments. more


Bianca Actfa DanceBIANCA enrolled in the SFDF course after A-levels. Within 6 months she was dancing as a backup dancer for MTV. She has also traveled to many countries like Germany, UK, Taiwan & Hong Kong to teach & perform, & was offered a position to dance in a few Musical plays. 


 Libin Actfa DanceLB, a masters degree holder working for a MNC, decided to do a career switch after he completed his SFDF. He then worked as an International Sales Manager in dance products, an international artist & dance instructor. He is the Singapore Bachata Champion 2008 and the 1st runner up in the Asia Salsa Championship behind Serge and Polina from Russia in 2010. more


manfred Actfa DanceMANGGOH was one of the elite few selected for the Mediacorp Dance Academy in 2000. He graduated from NTU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and used to work as a Project Manager in the IT Industry. He passed his examination & evaluation for SFDF and is currently doing his Diploma & IHDC. more


maricel Actfa DanceMARICEL, a professional dancer from the Philippines, joined SFDF in 2009. In less than a year, she has performed at the Esplanade Da:ns Festival 2009, Salsa Cruise Asia 2009, & has also been to China to teach & perform. In 2010 she was offered a full time dance instructor job in Singapore. She has since gone on to set up a dance studio in the Philippines and comes back periodically to upgrade her skills.


rachel Actfa DanceRACHEL an undergraduate in NTU joined the SFDF in 2010 and was offered to open a dance studio in China.  She has taught and performed in Guang Zhou, Shen Zhen, Hong Kong, Singapore.


 derrick actfa danceDERRICK has over 20 years of dance instructor experience with more than 30 types of dance. He was granted an exemption from SFDF after taking an examination & evaluation and signed up for the diploma & IHDC simultaneously.


tamil actfa danceTAMIL, a professional dancer & teacher actively involved in competitions & performances for Hip Hop, Bollywood, Indian Dance. He was teaching dance in secondary school and choreographing for SYF. He joined the IHDC program to further his training as a dancer & teacher in 2009.  Since joining the IHDC, he has taught, performed & competed in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan.


brenda actfa danceBRENDA joined the SFDF when she was 13 years old and was hired to teach and perform both locally and overseas after 6 months. She was also financing her own dance study while teaching private dance classes.  Under the SFDF, she was the 1st runner up in the Asia Salsa Championship 2010 and Singapore Bachata Champion 2009.  She was given opportunities to teach in Malaysia, Hong Kong, China.

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