History of Salsa Dance
with sensuous style, the passion and energy flowing about the dance
floor as salsa dancers take to the scene is so contagious that you may
certainly long to feel the liveliness they emit. Salsa is often a
partner dance that usually moves to the beat of salsa music, but also
has performance merit in its own right.
Derived from the Spanish word for
"sauce," the dance is aptly named for the flavor or "spicy" technique it
centers upon. With room for both partners to strut their stuff, this
method of dance is becoming increasingly popular throughout dance
institutions and afternoon school programs across the United States.
In a world where leg and arm work, mesmerizing movement, isolated body
positions, shoulder shimmies and rolls serve as romantic, passionate
displays of emotion, salsa dancing works with music designed with two
bars consisting of four beats. Generally, the patterns of salsa dance
highlight the use of three steps during the four beats with the skipping
of one beat. Often, the skipped beat represents the natural shifting of
weight from one foot to the next. As you start to feel the rhythm of
salsa music, an intricate exhibition of percussion may showcase 120
beats per minute, while some of the fastest tunes include close to 180
beats per minute.
Brief History of Salsa Dancing
Over the years, the sounds of salsa and the steps of the dance migrated
to the U.S. as early as the 40s, where further cultivation took place in
the New York City Latin population during the 1960 and 70s. Cuban and
Puerto Rican communities throughout Latin America and the United States
are responsible for shaping most of the steps we see today. The culture
surrounding salsa also takes cues from the styles of mambo and rumba.
The typical instruments accompanying salsa dance includes the thumping
of congas, blaring trumpets, cowbells, timbales, and claves.
Understanding the Steps
When beginning to explore the basic steps of salsa, you should know that
the dance patterns follow various steps to a musical beat. In salsa,
4-beat patterns are used, which are counted in the following manner:
"1-2-3-...-5-6-7-..." The leader will start on the first count by
stepping with the left foot. During counts 2 and 3, the leader will then
step with the right and left. When count 4 is reached, the leader will
pause or electively tap the right foot. On counts 5, 6, and 7, the
leader will respectively step using the right, left, and right once
more. A pause falls on the eighth count. As a rule of thumb, each step
is completed with full weight transfer.
As for the follower, they will initiate the same role, but their
movements are shifted by 4 beats. This means when the leader's left foot
is forward, the partner's right foot should step back. Many salsa styles
show the leader starting with their left foot, while their partner
begins on their right.
To familiarize yourself with some of the common steps of salsa, you
might want to inquire on the Underarm Turn (also known as the Outside
Turn), where the follower turns clockwise. The Spot Turn has one partner
or both performing a complete counterclockwise turn (360 degrees), while
remaining in their same spot. When performing the Windmill, the leader
will guide their partner by using both hands instead of relying on their
Exploring Salsa Dance Styles
A variety of salsa dance styles are seen across the globe; all of which
hold their own characteristics when it comes to movement, step timing,
step patterns, turns, attitude, and style of dress. With Cuban salsa
dance styles, this approach is met with an "on 1" or "on 2." A vital
element regarding Cuban style is known as the "Cuba step" (or Guapea),
which involves the leader completing a backward basic on 1-2-3 and a
forward basic on 5-6-7. The follower will also do the same, which
results in a mirroring effect of the two dancers. Some Cuban style salsa
dancers will also incorporate circling around one another within their
For a flashier salsa dance method, the Los Angeles style dates back to
the later part of the 1990s to the early 2000s. Many 90-degree turns are
utilized by the dancers, which have often received criticism for putting
on more of a show than really dancing. But what do you expect? This is
Hollywood we're talking about. Additional salsa styles to note includes:
New York (showing directional changes during breaks); On Clave
(following the 2-3 or 3-2 pattern of the clave); Puerto Rican; and Rueda,
which hails from Havana, Cuba and involves dance pairs within a circle.
Dancing Tips for Salsa Enthusiasts
As you begin to explore the beauty and zeal of salsa dancing, there are
many different ways to approach this fascinating world of
self-expression. To make your journey easier, a few suggestions can be
1) When it comes to being the leader of a salsa dance couple, it is
important to remember that adjusting dance timing to their partners’
rhythm preference will improve consistency. So, if your partner seems to
always dance “on 1,” the leader should adjust their timing to the same.
2) Finding the beat is also essential to salsa dancing because without
it, you will appear disorganized on the dance floor. When the beat is
captured, steps to the music become synchronized. It is the goal of
salsa dancers to meld the music and dance into one entity.
3) When dancing salsa, onlookers are attracted to the positive energy
that one gives off that sometimes borderlines a slight attitude. When
dancing, make sure you are full of confidence, exhibit good posture, and
appear in control of all your actions, facial expressions, and moves.
4) No matter how difficult a dance arrangement is, hand coordination can
become the key to maintaining your balance.
Salsa Dancing of Today
When taking a look at the salsa moves of today, the popularity of such
an expressive choice of dance has trickled into an assortment of
entertainment presentations. We watch movies that show the beauty of
salsa technique as we see romance and self-discovery blossom in front of
our very eyes. Underlying love stories unfolded in the midst of salsa
dance in the Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere flick, "Dance With Me."
Innocence and youthful exuberance of "Dirty Dancing" with Patrick Swayze
involved the freedom of salsa dance.
With salsa artists blooming in the mainstream music world, we now enjoy
the English- and Spanish-spoken dialogue that comes to life when Latino
musicians, such as Rey Ruiz, Marc Anthony, and Gloria Estefan belt out
the words that many salsa dancers glide, twist, and turn to. On the
competitive front, numerous major television networks have covered an
array of salsa contests, such as the World Salsa Championships, annually
held in the grand city of Las Vegas since 2005.
Today, salsa is everywhere, ranging from college phys ed classes to the
television spotlight of "Dancing with Stars." Modern salsa is known to
incorporate an assortment of different styles of dance, whether it is
the grit of funk, the soothing samba, and the gyrating statements of hip
hop and reggae.
For additional help, you can always study the informative videos offered
at www.salsacrazy.com. With salsa, there are no boundaries, but one
thing is for sure, you must prepare yourself to work up a healthy sweat,
as well as tap into your inner passion.