A lot of students that come in to my classes often ask me, "Do I have to move my hips when I dance?" "How much do I have to move my hips when I dance?" "Do guys also have to move their hips when they dance?" It sounds funny every time I hear it, as if the hip movement police is going to come get you if you're not shaking it enough. It's really important to address this so that you don't look silly next time you’re out salsa dancing at the club with your friends.
Usually it's a non-Latin guy with a Latin girlfriend in class that is asking these questions. Latin women put pressure on their men to "shake it" when they are dancing, making remarks about how stiff they are, and how they need to loosen up and move their hips more.
Also, it's the movies' fault for portraying salsa dancing as some hip movement shaking contest. The people "dancing" in these movies seem to be wiggling, twisting and shaking EVERYTHING a whole lot!
The short answer is yes, guys and girls do move their hips when they dance, but it's not so simple as just shaking them about. The hip movement that occurs when dancing is supposed to look natural, not forced like in the movies. The hip movement happens because you’re alternating the bending of your knees. The same happens when you walk — your hips move because you’re bending and straightening your legs.
Imagine if you saw someone trying to move their hips when they walked, really focused and determined to shake their hips when they stepped. It would look completely silly and not attractive at all! The rule of thumb is: if you feel like you’re "trying" to shake it and forcing yourself to move your hips, then it's too much.
So what do you do? Stand up straight with both feet close together and legs straight. Now bend the right knee without bending the left one. Tadaaa! Your hips just moved. Now, straighten the right leg and bend the left knee and your hips move to the other side. If you keep this up, you will get your hips to move naturally. Practice that exercise. The key is to not force your hips to move but to focus on the bending of the knees. Your hips will start to move naturally little by little.
Master this little exercise so you can impress your friends at the next salsa party you go to! You're going to be moving like a natural in no time :)`