The salsa is a beautiful Latin American dance with smooth movements. Like many Latin American dances, the salsa is closely related to mambo and cha-cha-cha. Two composers from Puerto Rice are credited with creating the salsa, Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo.
As with nearly every dance, there are modification and variations based on music, region, and speed. Salsa is no exception. Salsa comes in different styles with the dance in Puerto Rico differing from the same dance performed in Cuba. One explanation for this style difference is the different beats in South American countries’ music. This diversity is welcome in salsa since the dance is unique and presents exciting differences in each nation. Salsa quickly grew in popularity around the Caribbean islands and quickly spread throughout South America. As a result, new altered salsa styles were born.
Surely enough, salsa made its way to the United States. Surely enough, Miami style salsa came not long after its introduction to the United States. Normally, a bar contains 8 beats with each beat being a step in the dance. Salsa, however, is considered to have 7 beats (8 in reality but one beat is modified). The difference between the styles of South American countries is that each style breaks on a different beat. Specifically, New York style salsa breaks on the second beat while Los Angeles salsa breaks on the first. Another interesting point about the differentiation is due to the musical influences of each city. New York’s salsa is influenced by jazz while Los Angeles’ is influenced by Latin music and various other instruments. Los Angeles’ salsa scene is also shaped by other Latin American dances such as the tango, mambo, and swing. Thus, the LA style of salsa is truly a unique and exotic dance.
One of the tenets of salsa is the importance of partnership. In salsa, the leader must be confident and have the ability to lead his or her partner. Without strong leading skills, the dance breaks apart and it appears flimsy and unorganized. For example, should the choreography call for a spin and the leader fails to remember to spin his or her partner, this may result in tense muscles for the dancers since the spin acts as a pause. This causes the movements in the dance to become sharp and angular instead of graceful. With patience and experience, you too could learn to become an adept salsa dancer.
Like other Latin dances, the dancers need to constantly change his or her weight between the two feet. The weight shifting is what creates the salsa hip movements. Although salsa can be danced to any music, Spanish music is ideal because of the rhythm and beats. Overall, salsa is a dance that requires good legwork, balance, hip movement and partnership.
Use the video on this page to practice some basic salsa steps. With some basic guidance, you can build a basic understanding of the dance.