Drop Legs

Salsa Styles

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Cuban Salsa:

Music determines the style of dancing in Cuba.  The contemporary fast rhythms of popular bands, such as Charanga Habanarra, and Los Van Van, are taking Salsa to a non-partner dance.  Approximately 30% of Cuban style is being danced solo (depending on the song and its rhythms).  Due to the fact that partner dancing in the Cuban style restricts the woman’s freedom to emphasize her personal style, many women anxiously wait for the moment when they can dance a solo. If there is a tremendous amount of percussion, the woman can shine with her incredibly beautiful and rhythmic body movements.

Cuban Salseros hold on to the women’s wrists during the majority of the dance, in effect restricting her from displaying any style with arms or fingers.  Cuban style appears to be a very male-dominated “macho” dance, more so than the New York or Los Angeles style, which fully displays the woman, allowing for arm, hip, and head styling.

The newer sounds of Cuban music emphasize the “One” beat of the rhythm and the “Three” beats of the rhythm, much more than the “Two” beat. The rhythms are also much faster, hence the solo styling done more often than partnering up.  It will be interesting to see how the style of dancing in New York will change with the influx of Cuban-style musicians entering the market.

Miami Salsa:

As of 2007, in Miami, Florida, the Salseros take their influence from the ‘Rueda de Casino’ Cuban style is only slightly different from pure Cuban style.  Rueda de Casino was developed in the 1950’s 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.  The Rueda de Casino style in Miami resonates worldwide.   It is fast, beautiful, and sometimes furious.  Arm wraps and intricate turn patterns and combinations at the advanced levels are unbelievable.  It is interesting to observe that due to loud music at nightclubs, hand signals replace dance calls. 

Casino style:


New York and Puerto Rico Salsa: 

While the Puerto Rican style can be danced on the “One” or the “Two” beat of the music, it also involves a tremendous amount of very technical footwork.  The Latin Hustle is the predominant influence on New York style salsa.  The disco craze of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, when Eddie Torres was one of the only instructors in New York, single-handedly carrying the torch of “Mambo Dance” with Tito Puente, Salsa dancing almost went extinct. to the Hustle dance.  Because of this Hustle craze, many Hustle dancers incorporated a lot of their moves into the Mambo style during the slow transitional period back to Salsa music in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  In New York City, salsa is danced strictly on 2, although dancers around the world often integrate elements and repertoire from New York into their dancing On 1.  On 2 timing emphasizes the conga drum’s tumbao pattern, 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-Caribbean ancestry of the music.  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”, or “Hard Salsa”. This is mid-to-up-tempo salsa with an emphasis on percussion and band orchestration rather than the vocals.


Los Angeles Salsa: 

West Coast Swing and Latin Ballroom, both known for showy tricks and Cabaret moves, have heavily influenced Los Angeles style Salsa.  Because of South America’s proximity to California, LA-Style Salsa originally took its cues from the Colombian style.  Albert Torres, Laura Canellias and Joe Cassini rightfully deserve much of the credit for the early development and growth of L.A. Style Salsa. Cross-body lead and tricks, lifts, and jazzy hip hop was introduced in the early 90’s by the Vazquez brothers. 

Colombian Salsa:

Colombian Salsa dancers are regarded as some of the best dancers of the world.  It is said that Colombian salsa evolved during the big band swing era, when swing dance steps were danced to Cumbia music.   Cumbia was traditionally danced in folkloric ensembles without holding one’s partner.  Salsa is danced differently throughout Colombia.  In Cali, salsa take on a showy form, while in more rural parts of the country, salsa is danced more closely and tightly, heads touching in some cases.   However, the underlying commonality is that forward and backward motions of the feet do not exist.  This is called “Cumbia” style, with feet alternating to the back or to the side.   There are few fancy tricks, turns, or spins in Colombian style – except if you are a professional dancer, dancing with bands, or competing. 


Cali Salsa:

Becoming increasingly popular, Cali style, different from Colombian style, is a faster, triple-step – almost with a kind of  “cha cha cha” step in between the forward and back steps of all the other styles of Salsa.  Because of this “cha cha cha” step on the “3 and 4” counts of the music (if dancing on the One) the footwork can be incredibly intricate and complicated.  This style is fantastic for shows, competitions, and performances because of the fast moving bodies and legs.  It is quite impressive to watch an entire dance team  in complete synchronization dancing this style.



Ballroom Salsa:

Also known as Ballroom Mambo, tricks, fast spins, dips, and lifts are non-existent.  Ballroom Mambo is normally danced on the “two”, “three”, “four”, beats of the music, where both feet come completely together at and almost stand-still on the “four” and the “eight” beats of the music.  This style is normally taught in professional dance studios by professional ballroom coaches. 



Written by lnbraun

January 1, 2009 at 9:49 pm

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