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Salsa Dance

original article from wikipedia

Salsa is usually a partner dance form that corresponds to salsa music. In some forms, it can also appear as a performance dance. The word is the same as the Spanish word salsa meaning sauce, or in this case flavor or style.

According to testimonials from musicologists and historians of music, the name salsa was gradually accepted among dancers throughout various decades. The very first time the word appeared on the radio was a composition by Ignacio Piñeiro, dedicated to an old African man who sold butifarras (a sausage-like product) in Central Road in Matanzas. It is a song titled Échale salsita, wherein the major refrain and chorus goes "Salsaaaaa! échale salsita, échale salsita". During the early 1950s, african and Cuban and other Latin-American rhythms that traveled from the islands (Cuba and Puerto Rico) to New York during the migration, somewhere or Puerto Rico. Salsa is one of the main dances in both Cuba and Puerto Rico and is known world-wide. The dance steps currently being danced to salsa music come from the Cuban son, but were influenced by many other Cuban dances such as Mambo, Chá, Guaracha, Changuí, Lukumí, Palo Montel, Rumba, Yambú, Abakuá, Comparsa and some times even Mozambique. It also integrates swing dances. There are no strict rules of how salsa should be danced, although one can distinguish a number of styles, which are discussed below.


Steps Edit

A dip is a fairly advanced Salsa move.

The basic movement occurring in the dance patterns of the various salsa styles is the stepping on the beat of the music. Salsa is best grouped in pairs of 4-beat patterns counted "1-2-3-...-5-6-7-...". The leader starts on count 1 by stepping with the left foot. On count 2 and 3, they step with right and left, respectively. On count 4, the lead pauses or makes an optional tap with the right foot. On counts 5, 6, and 7, they step with right, left, and right, respectively, again followed by a pause on count 8. As a standard, every step must be taken with full weight transfer. The follower part is identical, but shifted by 4 beats, so that as the leader's left foot steps forward, the follower's right foot steps back. In most styles, the leader starts with the left foot and the follower starts with the right foot regardless of the pattern about to be danced.

Basic step Edit

The term "basic step" normally refers to a forward-backward motion. On counts 1, 2, and 3, the leader steps forward, replaces, and steps backward. On count 5, 6, and 7, they step backwards, replace, and step forward again. The follower does the same, but with forward and backward reversed, so that the couple goes back and forth as a unit. This basic step is part of many other patterns. For example, the leader may dance the basic step while leading the follower to do an underarm turn.

The following variants of the Basic step may be used, often called breaks:

  • Forward break: Starting from either foot, step Forward, Replace, In-place, counting 1,2,3 or 5,6,7.
  • Back break: Starting from either foot, step Backward, Replace, In-place, counting 1,2,3 or 5,6,7.
  • Side break: Starting from either foot, step Sideways, Replace, In-place, counting 1,2,3 or 5,6,7.

Other common steps Edit

  • Underarm Turn (or Outside Turn): similar to the "arch turn" in swing and many other dances, follower turns clockwise
  • Inside Turn: follower turns counterclockwise (to her left)
  • Leader Turn: lead turns right, often the partners separate
  • Spot Turn: either, or often both, partners turn 360° counterclockwise remaining in the same spot
  • Open Break: a variant of the "side break" basic, similar to "promenade breaks" in Rumba, etc.
  • Cross Body Lead: follower is led to opposite side of lead, exists in other Latin dances such as Cha-cha-cha
  • Cross Body Lead (Casino Rueda): couple in embrace essentially rotates 180° counterclockwise as a whole, swapping positions
  • Enchufla: a kind of arch turn where the couple rotates clockwise as a whole, often followed by a cross-body lead

On One and On Two Edit

Salsa danced according to the above description is called Salsa on One, or briefly, "On One", because the break step is on beat 1 of the 8-beat pattern. This is by far the most common count used in Europe and North America.

If the break step occurs on count 2 or 6, it is called "On Two". There are three main variants of this:

  1. The "Power 2", "Palladium 2" or "Ballroom Mambo" style. The Power 2 basic is simply the On One basic danced one beat later.
  2. "New York Style 2" or "Eddie Torres Style". The ET2 basic step starts on beat 6 with the leader breaking forward on the left foot, replacing on 7, and pausing on 8. Then on 1 the left foot steps slightly back, ready for the break step back on the right on 2, and the left replacing on 3. 4 is a pause and 5 is the right foot stepping slightly forwards ready to begin again at 6.
  3. "Puerto-Rican 2". This is exactly like the Eddie Torres 2 except that the leader breaks forward on 2, not 6. the salsa is a very upbeat dance

Be aware that some Ballroom classes will teach a basic which involves a sideways shift in weight from one leg over to the other on beats 1 and 5 so as to "forcibly" emulate the "latin hip movement". This gives rise to a light zigzag deformation of the basic step pattern and as a result the Ballroom 2 is sometimes considered to be separate form of on2.

Eddie Torres Style is so called because it was widely formalized and popularized by Eddie Torres whose clear teaching style and production of instructional videos opened up access to Salsa for many New Yorkers. It is not claimed that he invented the style.

Some consider dancing "On Two" to work more closely to the clave rhythm, the fundamental rhythm of salsa music.

Dancing on 2 means that the break step synchronises with the accented slap of the tumbao pattern played on the conga drum. For this reason it is said to be more punchy and rhythmically oriented, whereas on 1 is more melodically oriented.

Salsa styles Edit

There are many characteristics that may identify a style. There may be different step patterns, different timing of steps, particular movement on the dance floor (ex: slot, circular), dancer preference of turns and moves, attitude and others. The presence of one or more of particular elements does not necessarily define a particular style. For example, many styles can be danced "On One" or one style may be danced "On One" or "On Two". The following are brief descriptions of major "recognizable" styles.


Miami style Edit

On 1 or On 2 it danced on both beats 1,2,3 and 5,6,7


Cuban style Edit

Cuban-style salsa is danced with the stepping of the "one" with the "contratiempo" of the "two" – the latter is often referred to as "on two". 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. 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 too and is referred to as Dile que no. This move becomes essential in the more complex 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.

Colombian style Edit

This style is common in Latin-American countries and parts of Canada. The leader and follower do most of the movements in a tight box step, breaking back in each bar. It normally starts with a side step on beat one, then a tap on beat two, break back on three, and replace on four; the next bar is like the first but starting with a side step going to the opposite side. A switch to the normal basic is possible, but it looks like one is dancing "on 3" and keeping the tap on 2. This style is sometimes called "Cumbia Style" and in fact it fits very well with modern salsa-inflected cumbias (the pause in the bass line is the same as the pause in the basic step) included in the sets of bands and DJs that play for this style. Besides cumbia, this style is also influenced by swing and Cuban style. As such, in many patterns the leader and follower turn around each other, although not as much as in the Cuban style. A unique step is a side break by the leader after the follower has already been led to break back to the opposite side, creating a little accented "tug" on 3. In several parts of Colombia, salsa is danced with very limited or no turns, often nearly chest to chest and the legs of the leader almost interlaced with the legs of the follower in a more sensual fashion, being this the "Coast" style opposite to the "Cali" style described before. This difference is named basically because the two main "centers" of Salsa in Colombia.


Los Angeles style Edit

The Salsa LA style is perhaps the most glitzy and glamorous of all Latin American dances.  As a result, it is considered more of a ‘show’ than dance by many dance patrons. This particular form of Salsa can be traced back to the Cubans migrants in the USA, who borrowed many elements from the Mambo and the Swing dance styles . Salsa LA was developed by brothers Francisco & Luis Vazquez, Rogelio Moreno. and the little brother Johnny Vazquez. But many others have also been credited for its propagation in America.

The Salsa LA is a lot more complicated than the Cuban Salsa. The most distinctive difference is the ‘in-line’ pattern of dance as opposed to the circular motion in its Cuban counterpart. This means that the dancers always come back to the same virtual line they started on. The linear style is perfect for crowded clubs. Variations can also be seen  in styling, relaxation and flow of movement. The essential aspects of this dance style are ‘forward/backward’ basic and ‘cross-body’ lead. Salsa LA is also called Salsa On One, which means that the lead dancer steps forward at the first beat of the music.

Salsa LA focuses more on music, sensuality, theatricals and aerobics. The energy levels are tremendously high and explosive. Because of its Hollywood flavour and high commercial appeal, this is the preferred style on popular TV and can be seen on shows such as “Dancing with the Stars”, and “So you think you can dance”. One can watch the dancers using insanely speedy footwork to high tempo Salsa songs. The Salsa LA dancers also use a lot of dips, drops, flips and other tricks which make for a fantastic watch! The execution is snappy and quick.  Salsa On One has also integrated other types of dancing such as hip-hop, ballroom and jazz which is both technically challenging for the dancer and entertaining for the viewer.  No wonder, Salsa on One is very popular in Europe and around the globe!

Developed in recent years (some say between 1993 and 2000), this is a style of salsa much influenced by Hollywood and by the swing & mambo dances, thus being the most flashy style, which is considered "more show than dance" by many. 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.

New York style or Eddie Torres style Edit

The "NY Style" is a combination of the "On 1" and "On 2" systems. The timing of the steps are on the 1-2-3,5-6-7 as in "On 1" but the breaks (where the body changes direction) occur on the 2 and 6 as in "On 2". NY instructor Eddie Torres developed this step pattern around the late '70s and the '80s, and its definition is quite clear as he is still alive and his followers are keen to keep the style intact. This is their description of the step: Description of "On Two" on salsanewyork.com There are many "socials" in NYC or nightclubs that dedicate on playing only mambo or salsa.

The style has proliferated around the world to places like Japan, Korea, India, Israel, Germany, Holland, Canada, Hawaii, Poland, Romania, UK, Curacao, and more.

Leaders in the On2 style are Eddie Torres, Frankie Martinez, Karisma Dancers (Victor Mayavonex), BASo, Magna Gopal, Shaka G. Brown, Ismael Otero, among others.

Power 2 / Palladium 2 / Ballroom Mambo Edit

This style is similar to Los-Angeles style, but it is danced "On Two". The basic step timing is 2-3-4,6-7-8 with the breaks on 2 and 6.

It is important to note that although this style is also known as dancing "En Clave", the name is not implying that the step timing should follow the rhythm of the Clave as in 2-3 or 3-2. It only means that you take the first step (and break) on the second beat of the measure.


On Clave Edit

This does indeed follow the 2-3 or 3-2 pattern of the clave, e.g. for the 2-3 clave the leader steps forward with the left on 2 and with the right on 3, then does the other 4 steps of the basic on 5-8 (synchronizing with the clave on 5 and 8). It's a traditional form and it's less known/used outside some countries.

Puerto Rican style Edit

This style can be danced as "On One" or "On Two". If danced as "On Two", it is always danced on count 2, and not on count 6 as in Ladies-style NY. There is a Salsa Congress in Puerto Rico where salsa groups all around the world attend and perform.


Rueda style Edit

Main article: Rueda de Casino. In the 1950s Salsa Rueda (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. In the Philippines 2005, a growing interest among young Filipinos led to a fusion of salsa and community dance, later called Ronda de Salsa, a dance similar to Rueda but with salsa dance moves that were choreographed locally and in Filipino names. Among the popular calls in Ronda were: Gising, Pule, Patria, Dolorosa, Lakambini and La Antonio.Salsapower Editorial: Ronda de Salsa

Salsa Styling Edit

Incorporating styling techniques into any style of salsa has become very common. For both men and women shines, leg work, arm work, body movement, spins, body isolations, shoulder shimmies and rolls, and even hand styling have become a huge trend in the salsa scene. There are lessons dedicated to the art of salsa stylin'. Hip hop, jazz, flamenco, belly dancing, ballroom, breakdancing/pop and rock,Afro Cuban styles, and bhangra have all be infused into the art of styling.

Shines Edit

Normally Salsa is a partner dance, danced in a handhold. However sometimes dancers include shines, which are basically "show-offs" and involve fancy footwork and body actions, danced in separation. They are supposed to be improvisational breaks, but there are a huge number of "standard" shines. Also, they fit best during the mambo sections of the tune, but they may be danced whenever the dancers feel appropriate. They are a good recovery trick when the connection or beat is lost during a complicated move, or simply to catch the breath. One possible origin of the name shine is attributed to the period when non-latin tap-dancers would frequent Latin clubs in New York in the 1950s. In tap, when an individual dancer would perform a solo freestyle move, it was considered their "moment to shine". On seeing Salsa dancers perform similar moves the name was transposed and eventually stuck, leading to these moves being called 'shines'.

One legend tells that a Tango dancer with dirty footwear participating in a competition within which presentation scored highly decided to "shine" his shoe quickly whilst dancing. Other competitors thinking it was a new piece of complex footwork (as is common in tango) deployed there variations on the theme. These so-called shines gradually became more varied and influenced other danceforms.

External linksEdit

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