How a White, Stiff, Basketball Player from Finland Became a Star Salsa Dancer, Dancing With Ease Even With Some of the Best Salsa Dancers in the World.

My Salsa Story

When I was growing up, I was a basketball player not a  dancer. In fact, I remember often laughing at some of the dancers in our high-school as I thought dancing was meant to be only for girls.

However, after moving to United States, I happened to hear some salsa music. And something about the music simply captured my soul.  As I then one day happened to see some beautiful dancers dancing to this captivating music, I was sold. I wanted to learn to dance too.

I only had one problem. There were no instructors in the city I was living in at the time. Luckily, however, I happened to meet couple of natives from Central America whom knew few of the basic steps. Excited about learning salsa, I asked them to show me some steps.

Before I started I was nervous and worried that I was just going to make a fool out of myself. I was also little worried that learning the dance would be hard for me, and it turned out that I was right.  I quickly realized that I had no talent whatsoever for salsa dancing. But I was determined I wanted to learn it. It took me months just to hear the rhythm of the music. My basketball movements was just so ingrained in me that trying to move my body in a different way was like trying to bend a steel bar.

I remembered how my Dad used to jokingly tell me that for sure I could never be a dancer because I was so stiff. He used to be a world-class marathon runner, so as I was growing up he was often giving me tips and advice on stretching and endurance training to help me on my basketball career. That time making fun of my inflexibility.

But learning to move my body in a new way was not my only problem. It also did not help that I had no musical ear when I started. In fact, I had almost flunked music class twice, once in third grade because I never learned to play the flute and another time in seventh grade because my teacher told me I had the worst singing voice in the whole school. So with no dance or musical talent I embarked on learning salsa.

Believe me when I say that I have yet to witness a worse dancer in my the salsa classes that I have taught.  I remember practicing my ability just to shift weight from one leg to another  for weeks. Also, learning to hear the salsa rhythm seemed like an insurmountable task in the beginning. And for almost two years I did not even realize that you are supposed to be counting the music.

So how did I, from those humble beginnings, become a great dancer able to lead even some of the best salsa dancers in the world with poise and confidence.

Well, before I share my salsa success secrets with you, I know you may still doubt the truth of my story, so by luck I was able to recently dug deep in some of my old CD’s and I find a short dance clip of me dancing way back in April 23rd in 2004 in an event for international students in our University.

Count the music and notice how I am not even on the right count :).

To see the video, use link below:

Well, at least even then, I had my fans and friends to support me, as you can hear my friend cheering me up in the end :).

If you are saying to yourself that, well it was not that bad, or that it did not look all to way that horrible. Well, what you don’t know is that at this point I had already been practising dancing for almost  two years. Most people would probably have just given up at that point. Because I have yet to witness  anyone who still can’t keep the rhythm after two years of practicing :).

So how in the world did I go from being a stiff, white, basketball player who was not even able to keep the rhythm to become a confident salsa dancers able to dance comfortably even with the best salsa dancers in the world.

Before I tell you my secrets,  see me dancing below with famous professional salsa dancer Shani Talmor (who used to be a partner to one of the founders of LA style salsa Johnny Vasquez and who is now a partner of the most well-known salsa dancers in the world Ismael Otero) in San Francisco last November of 2008.

To see the video, use link below:

Ok, so here are my 5 salsa success secrets that you can also apply to achieving anything else you want in your life:

1. Set your intention for what you want
Unless you know what you want and where you want to be, you will never get anywhere. I knew that if I simply visualized my self
to become a great dancer, one day it would happen, no matter how far fetched and unbelievable my  dream and aspiration seemed at the time. I simply visualized myself become a great dancer and little by little that dream started to become a reality.

2. You have to believe that you can do it.
I am sure you have heard that before. But it is true what Henry Ford said long time ago: “If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, either way you are right”. As you are setting your intentions,  visualize your end goal in a way that seems like you are already effortlessly doing what you want to be doing or have already achieved what you want. Feel how good it feels to have already succeeded in what you want to accomplish, be, or have.  As I was setting my intentions I simply visualized and imagined how good I felt as a great salsa dancer, as if I already were a fantastic dancer, even thought I was just starting out.

3. Be humble and willing to make mistakes.
To learn anything new, you have to become open to learning. And you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. For example, I went and performed in the international student event, knowing that I was going to mess up and not be perfect. But I was willing to take the risk and allow my-self to make mistakes knowing that every mistake that I made would bring me closer to become a great dancer as long as I would be willing to learn from them.

4. Find great instructors, coaches, mentors, or teachers
When ever I travelled to out of state like California, I always searched for the best instructors to teach me private lessons. I find out where the best instructors taught lessons in the clubs and went to every lesson that I could. When I had a chance to go to a salsa event, I would take all of the different salsa workshops that I possible could. When I was home and could not do any of the above, I ordered numerous salsa DVD’s and video tapes. There is simply no substitute to learning from a great teacher, coach, instructor, or mentor on your path to accomplishing greatness in any area of your life.

5. Practise and Take Action
I practised, practised, and practised. When ever I visited a city with a salsa club, I went to dance every night I could. Not only that, I made sure I would dance every song during that night. Even when I only knew a basic turn and crossbody lead, I would simply repeat my moves in as many different ways as I could. After the song, I would thank my patient follower politely :), and go ask the next lady to dance. I would  simply repeat my same old moves with my new follower 🙂 until I became very comfortable and proficient in my moves. Each time I learned a new move, I would then simply add that move to my repertoire and repeat that move the entire dance night.

Because there weren’t any dancers in Monroe, I started a salsa community to teach others to learn salsa, so that I could have someone to practise with. As, we got some dancers, I started inviting some of the best salsa instructors from nearby cities like Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston as often as I could to do workshops because I knew it would not only help our salsa community, but it would help me personally to become a better dancer.

So there you have it. I promise you if you apply these five secrets in any area of your life, only the sky is the limit for you!
You can have, do, and be anything you want in! Believe in your-self and become the light that shines the way for others to believe in themselves as well!

Wishing you much success in everything you do in your life,

Mikko Kemppe

P.s. If you would like to receive more of my personal success tips, advice, and inspiring stories, in other areas of my life or to receive my FREE e-book on Purpose Driven Success, to take my FREE meditation course, or to subscribe to my FREE health secrets, visit my personal success coaching web-site:
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9 Responses to “How a White, Stiff, Basketball Player from Finland Became a Star Salsa Dancer, Dancing With Ease Even With Some of the Best Salsa Dancers in the World.”

  1. mikkokemppe Says:

    Hi Everybody! Thanks for reading my blog! Please leave me some comments! I would love to hear from you.

  2. Fred Blaise Says:

    Hey Mikko!!

    Man, I was watching your videos, and thinking that you’ve come a long way to be a salsa pro 😉 My wife says that you are actually pretty good 🙂 (Still better than I anyway ;))

    I may be planning a trip to Louisiana next April (2010, during crawfish season) to show my wife where I’ve lived, and be glad if you could hook up.

    Keep up the good work!
    Take care

  3. Mikko Kemppe Says:


    Thanks Fred. Well, I would say that for a white guy from Finland not bad :). Thanks for the comments.
    Is your wife a dancer? All of the best for you guys,
    and yes of course look me up when you are coming this way. Who knows, hopefully I’ll get a chance to come to France soon too!


  4. Guiel Says:

    I think what caught my attention to you (other than being a WHITE boy dancing really good)was your passion for it. You love dancing and that made you have passion for it. People honors people for doing what they love because they do it with passion and its always good. You did it for self gratification for all those years thinking you had no talent for music, and become so good at something so beautiful like dancing. Do you “love” or do you love how you “feel” once you have done it? That is what everyone is after. I think the real challenge is to, not be taught how to dance, or to be inspired by somebody who loved what it does, but to just DO IT!!! And you did it.
    Thanks for believing in yourself and helping many others get that passion for salsa or just feeling good about themselves.
    God is with you.


  5. Richard Says:

    Hey Mikko, you have a great story for your success in life yet you still have the bulk of your life ahead of you. You have much to teach others in many aspects. It is counted a pleasure to have taken lessons from you. I have had a short absence from dancing but will return, and Salsa will be on the top of that list to return to. Good luck in all your endeavors and may God bless you to a passion as well.

  6. Krista Says:

    Hey Mikko, I thought your story was facinating. I love the way you described how the music touched your soul. I can so relate. I want to get better at salsa and need to make more time to come to your classes with kim. Well you are a wonderful dancer! See you soon.


  7. Nelson Says:

    The first video reminded me of many people that learn steps but have no rhythm. The second video made me smile and made me feel that I too, can become an extraordinary Salsa dancer. I am an average dancer that has several truns and steps that i do over and over again. Would love to take lessons, but I am only here for several weeks on a business trip. Congrats on your growth as a Salsero!

  8. Sepi Says:

    Hi Mikko,
    I came across your “humble beginnings” video on youtube and when I looked at the channel I recognized you from the SF Salsa Congress. I remember you stood out as an amazing dancers – a great lead with great musicality. I also remember that I asked you to dance and you were very friendly and introduced yourself.
    I wish all good dancers would post videos of their beginnings. It’s very inspiring. I also appreciate that you our sharing your experience and advice without trying to sell a dvd or anything.
    This is really a good story for learners as well as teachers. I’m definitely going to share it.

  9. Sepi Says:

    Oh by the way: In the link on the youtube video, the m and the l are switched in html

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