Wherever you are at the moment in your Salsa journey, it might help to improve your learning process if you try to look at it as if you are learning a new language. You will recognise these following stages as you work your way up from complete beginners to the higher levels:
Steps = Words/Vocabulary
Early on in your salsa learning, your instructor introduces you to basic steps and patterns. You are given words and and you use these words to make up a sentence. First you will learn on how to pronounce it correctly and also understand its role (noun, adjective, adverb etc.). You will need enough words to then make up a paragraph.
Social Dancing = Making Conversation
Social dancing is like a conversation with your partner. First you will need to know the basic grammar to be able to converse. Then when you are exposed enough to the language use, and when you have spoken to different people from different backgrounds, you will start to get the colloquial words, the slangs and the different nuances of the words, so you can converse better. You are making a conversation with your partner, sometimes it’s just small talk, and sometimes you get on really well and turn it into a pleasant flowing chat.
Musicality = Poetry
Getting really good with musicality is where you hone the artistry of your dancing. It’s like writing poetry. You are essentially using the same words, but in a more artistic form. Every poem is different. You’re hitting the accents in the music with some flair, while still engaging with your partner, and you own the dance.
It requires different skills for social dancing as opposed to performing for an audience. It’s like different skills to make small talk, to converse, to debate. Social dancing requires some form of connection and interaction and there’s an amount of unpredictability in it, it is interactive. Performing is like writing a short story or a book, or delivering a talk, or becoming a stand up comedian, you’ll have a different kind of interaction with the audience.
Try looking at it this way and hopefully you’ll realise that knowing an awful lot of moves and casually putting them in random orders are not indications of good dancing. Keep on dancing and keep on learning are the keys to keep on getting better!