Salsa (dance): Wikis


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Salsa dancing

Salsa is a syncretic dance genre from Cuba, as the meeting point of European and African popular culture. It later spread to Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean Isles. Salsa is essentially Cuban with deep Afro-Cuban beats, and additional musical influences from Son, Guaguancó, Rumba. Salsa was later improvised to regional rhythms such as Boogaloo, Pachanga, Guaracha, and Bomba.[1]

Johnny Pacheco,[2] creator of the Fania All-Stars, who "brought salsa to New York",[3] with members including Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Roberto Roena and Bobby Valentín, says "Bueno, la Salsa es y siempre ha sido la Música Cubana",[4] meaning "Well, salsa is and has always been Cuban music."

Salsa is normally a partner dance, although there are recognized solo forms, line dancing (suelta), and Rueda de Casino where groups of couples exchange partners in a circle. Salsa can be improvised or performed with a set routine.

Salsa is popular throughout Latin America, and also in the United States, Spain, Japan, Portugal, France, Eastern Europe and Italy.

The name "salsa" is the Spanish word for sauce, connoting, in American Spanish, a spicy flavor.[5] Salsa also suggests a "mixture" of ingredients, though this meaning is not found in most stories of the term's origin. (See Salsa music for more information.)


Basic movements

Dancing Salsa in Mexico

The basic step of all styles of salsa involves 3 weight changes (or steps) in each 4 beat measure. The beat on which one does not step might contain a tap or kick, or weight transfer may simply continue with the actual step not occurring until the next beat, some individuals may insert an actual pause. The option chosen depends upon individual choice and upon the specific style being danced. One of the steps is a "break step" a little bit longer than the other two. Different styles of Salsa are often differentiated by the direction and timing of the break step ("on 1" or "on 2" for example). After 6 weight changes in 8 beats, the basic step cycle is complete. While dancing, the basic step can be modified significantly as part of the improvisation and stylings of the people dancing.

As a salsa dancer changes weight the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Caught in the middle are the hips which end up moving quite a bit--the famous "Cuban hip movement."

The arms are used to communicate the lead in either open or closed position. In open position the two dancers hold one or both hands, especially for moves that involve turns, or putting arms behind the back, or moving around each other. In closed position, the leader puts the right hand on the follower's back, while the follower puts the left hand on the leader's shoulder.

In some styles, the dancers remain in a slot (switching places), while in others the dancers circle around each other.


Salsa steps.

Music suitable for dancing ranges from about 150 beats per minute (bpm) to around 250 beats per minute (bpm), although most dancing is done to music somewhere between 160-220 bpm. Every Salsa composition involves complex African percussion based around the Clave Rhythm (which has 4 types), though there can be moments when the clave is hidden for a while, often when quoting Changüí or Bomba. The key instrument that provides the core groove of a salsa song is the conga drum. The conga drummer slaps (high pitch) on the 2nd beat of each measure and strikes twice with an open tone (often on a 2nd lower pitched conga) on the 4th beat (see salsa music).Every instrument in a Salsa band is either playing with the clave (generally: congas, timbales, piano, tres guitar, bongos, claves (instrument), strings) or playing independent of the clave rhythm (generally: bass, maracas, güiro, cowbell). Melodic components of the music and dancers can choose to be in clave or out of clave at any point. However it is taboo to play or dance to the wrong type of clave rhythm (see salsa music). While dancers can mark the clave rhythm directly, it is more common to do so indirectly (with, for example, a shoulder movement). This allows the dancing itself to look very fluent as if the rest of the body is just moving untouched with the legs.

Salsa styling

Incorporating styling techniques into salsa has become very common, for both men and women: shines, leg work, arm work, body movement, spins, body isolations, shoulder shimmies, rolls, and even hand styling have become a huge trend in the salsa scene.

Salsa styles

Salsa's roots are Cuban, but salsa is open to improvisation and thus it is continuously evolving. Dance styles are associated with the original geographic areas that developed them. There are often devotees of each of these styles outside of their home territory. Characteristics that may identify a style include: foot patterns, body rolls and movements, turns and figures, attitude, dance influences, and the way that partners hold each other. The point in a musical bar music where a slightly larger step is taken (the break step) and the direction the step moves can often be used to identify a style.

The basic styles are:

1. Latin American Styles, originating from Cuba and surrounding areas and then expanding to Colombia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the rest of the Latin states; also heavily influence "Miami" style which is a fusion of Cuban style and North American version.

2. North American Salsa, (sometimes referred by Latin Americans as "American Salsa"). Two types of Salsa with distinct tempo differences; Los Angeles Salsa which breaks on the first beat "On 1" and New York Salsa which breaks on the second beat "On 2". Both have different origins and evolutionary path, as the New York Salsa is heavily influenced by Mambo and Jazz instrumentations in its early growth stage.

Cuban / Casino (Cuba and Miami)

Original movements from Son and Rhumba, it is danced in Cuba, Miami and Nicaragua, but also popular in Europe and China; there are many dedicated small communities all over the world often organized to dance casino.

Cuban-style salsa (also called Casino) can be danced either on the down beat ("a tiempo") or the upbeat ("a contratiempo"). Beats 1, 3, 5 and 7 are downbeats and 2, 4, 6 and 8 are upbeats.

Cuban-style Salsa is danced in three points which makes up the circular motion as male and female dancers face each other in intricate patterns. This is disctinctive from the North American styles which is danced in a slot and linear positions.

An essential element is the "Cuba step" (also known as Guapea), where the leader does a backward basic on 1-2-3 and a forward basic on 5-6-7. Usually the fourth beat is not counted but is taken into consideration as the "Cuban Tap". The follower does the same, thereby mirroring the leader's movement. Another characteristic of this style is that in many patterns the leader and follower circle around each other.

The cross body lead is an essential step in this style and is referred to as Salida Cubana or as Dile que no in Rueda de Casino Dancing. This move becomes essential in the more complex caca derivative of Cuban Casino leading to the many moves of Rueda, or wheel dance. Here multiple couples exchange partners and carry out moves synchronized by a caller.

Rueda de Casino

In the 1950s Salsa Rueda or more accurately Rueda de Casino was developed in Havana, Cuba. Pairs of dancers form a circle (Rueda in Spanish), with dance moves called out by one person. Many of the moves involve rapidly swapping partners.

There two main types of Rueda de Casino:

  1. Cuban-style - "Rueda de Cuba" (Original type of Rueda, not so formal)
  2. Miami-style - "Rueda de Miami" (Formal style, many rules, based on a mix, hybridization of Rueda de Cuba and Salsa Los Angeles-style )

Major Rueda de Casino groups are:

1. -- based in Santiago de Cuba, with principal world-renowned choreographer Yanek Revilla. 2. Cuban All Stars -- based in Santiago de Cuba 3. Luceros del Son -- Havana dance group, specializing in "hat rueda" 4. Rhumbanana -- based in Seattle, USA 5. Salsa Racing -- based in Miami, with principal choreographer Henry Herrera, foremost innovator of Miami-style Rueda.

Cali Salsa Style

The Colombian city of Cali is also known as the "Capital de la Salsa" (World's Salsa Capital); it's one of the few cities where salsa is the main genre in parties, nightclubs, and festivals in the 21st century.

The elements of Cali Salsa Style is the strong infusion of Colombian rhythms particularly Cumbia and Boogaloo. Dancers do not shift their body weight greatly as seen in other styles. Instead, dancers keep their upper body still, poised and relaxed while the feet execute endless intricacies.

A major difference of Cali or Colombian salsa is that the dancers do not execute Cross-body Lead, or the "Dile Que No" in Cuban salsa.

Every year Cali holds Salsa festivals such as "Encuentro de Melomanos y Coleccionistas", where experts of salsa history, lovers of this genre and music collectors meet in a famous park in Cali. Salsa is also well recognized and celebrated in December, when festivals are held every year.

New York Style

Original evolution from the 1960s Mambo era when Cuban music is introduced to New York due to influx of Cuban dissidents and migrants, the New York Salsa (NY Salsa) has its own evolutionary path as old Mambo (Mambo Tipico) is fused with New York jazz and swing to create a new salsa genre. In New York, the dance is strictly On 2, although dancers around the world often integrate elements and repertoire from New York into their dancing On 1.[citation needed]

On 2 timing emphasizes the conga drum's tumbao pattern[citation needed], and encourages the dancer to listen to percussive elements of the music. Advocates of New York Style consider this to more accurately reflect the Afro-Cuban ancestry of the music[citation needed].

Many also refer to this style as "Mambo" since it breaks on beat 2 of the measure, though there are other dance forms with a more legitimate claim to that name. See (Mambo.) Mambo has been taught in ballroom schools throughout the world since the 1950s in which the music was originally Cuban in origin. For years ballroom competitions have featured Mambo as a competition dance. N.Y. style salsa therefore, has dominated Mambo and Salsa competitions over the years, although other styles are gaining respect and are sometimes danced as alternate competition categories.

The etiquette of New York style is strict about remaining in the "slot" and avoiding traveling.

New York style tends to place a greater emphasis on performing "shines" where dancers separate and dance solo for a time, suspected origins from Swing and New York tap.

New York style dancers are typically very serious about the musicality and timing of their dancing. To satisfy their tastes, "socials" are often held that cater to almost exclusively playing "salsa dura" (lit. "Hard Salsa")[citation needed]. This is mid-to-up-tempo salsa with an emphasis on percussion and band orchestration rather than the vocals.

The longest-running social in New York is the Jimmy Anton social, which is held every first, third and fifth (if there is a fifth) Sunday of the month.[citation needed]

Los Angeles Style

L.A. style is purely danced on 1, in a slot. It traces its evolution from the Salsa explosion of the 80s and 90s with Latin migrants and commercial growth of Salsa music in the west coast. It is strongly influenced by the Mambo, Swing and Argentine Tango styles of dancing. L.A. style emphasizes sensuousness, theatricality, aerobics, and showstyle. The two essential elements of this dance are the forward/backward basic as described above, and the cross-body lead. In this pattern, the leader steps forward on 1, steps to the right on 2-3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left). The follower then steps forward on 5-6, and turns on 7-8, while the leader makes another 90 degrees counter-clockwise. After these 8 counts, the leader and follower have exchanged their positions. Most LA Style dancers are not particular on the quick-quick slow rhythm seen on NY Style or Latin American style.

Major LA Style pioneers are Albert Torres, Laura Canellias and Joe Cassini rightfully deserve much of the credit for the early development and growth of L.A. Style Salsa.[citation needed] Later, such dancers as Alex Da Silva, Edie Lewis, Joby Martinez, Thomas Montero, Rogelio Moreno, Josie Neglia, Liz Rojas,Tropical Gem,Maximo Rea, Francisco Vazquez and Janette Valenzuela are often credited with developing the L.A. style of Salsa Dancing as we know it today.[citation needed]

See also

Salsa dancing


  1. ^ Waxer, Lise A. (2002), The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia, Wesleyan University Press, pp. 93–94, ISBN 978-0-8195-6442-9 
  2. ^ "Johnny Pacheco". 2000/2009. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Fania All-Stars". Music of Puerto Rico. 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Johnny Pacheco define la palabra «Salsa»..." (in Spanish), YouTube, March 1, 2007, Retrieved February 18, 2010
  5. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000,, retrieved February 18, 2010 


Pietrobruno, Sheenagh (2006) Salsa and Its Transnational Moves. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc.

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