Monday, 7 May 2012

The Different Styles of Salsa

If you have ever watched two people performing Salsa dance then you know how mesmerizing it is. The energy and the rhythm with which the dancers move, suitably supported by smooth Salsa music, creates a magical, fun and liberating experience. Salsa is a lively partner dance that is often characterized by continuous hip action, intricate quick footwork and precise and sharp movements– making it sensuous and flirtatious. Salsa has its origins in Cuba, and over the years the mingling of different heritages (Cuban, Puerto Rican, American) along with different music styles (Jazz, Mambo, Funk, Latin Rock), has led to changes within the salsa community. The biggest changes appeared when practioners started moving to different areas in the United States. In this article, we’ll explore some of the styles which hold their own characteristics when it comes to step timing, movement, step patterns, turns, attitude, and style of dress.

New York Style

Popularized by instructor Eddie Torres in the 1970s, the New York style is danced in a line. This dance form makes use of free style footwork, shines, multiple spins, rib cage movements and shimmying. This label is also alternatively known as dancing “On 2” where the dancers aim for smooth execution of tightly woven complex patterns. Dancing "On 2" refers to the beat the dancers break forward on and the leaders break back on. The characteristics which make New York style elegant, graceful and smooth flowing are its smooth and controlled movements. As mentioned earlier, dancers of this style lay greater emphasis on“shines” where dancers separate and showcase their individuality through complex footwork and body movements. A lot of beginners learn to dance "On 1" first and then train "On 2."

L.A. Style Salsa (Dancing "On 1")

This style is usually danced “On 1.” It puts greater emphasis on lots of flips, dips, drops, musicality, sensuality, and exhibits a high level of energy. Having roots in Mambo, here the dancer breaks on the 1 as against breaking on 2 like in NY Style. Practitioners of this form are said to “dance to the beat”since they follow the downbeats of the music. Over the years, LA style salsa has integrated many other forms of dancing that include: jazz, hip hop, and even ballroom. Some of the major differences between LA Style and NY Style are their approach to styling, the flow and the movement. Overall, this form can be summed up as an explosive and challenging which aims at delivering crisp and sharp movements. The main proponents of this form are Francisco Vazquez, along with his two brothers, Luis and Johnny, Rogelio Moreno, Alex Da Silva, Joby Martinez, Luis 'Zonik' Aguilar and many others.

Miami Style Salsa (Classico Cubano, Casino)

This style has roots in Cuban style of Salsa but is more technically advanced and rather difficult. Flexibility is the key here as the dancers need to execute intricate moves (involving flowing continuous circular turns) and often make use of many pretzel- like holds. Such hooks give the leader the much leverage to move his partner via the arm. One can identify this style as it comes with a“tap” between measures. On a social level, the followers need not to focus too much on spins, footwork or dips.

Cuban Salsa

The style, which is much similar to the original form of salsa rooted in Cuba, involves body isolation and hip movement. As against the linear movement, dancers move mostly in a circular motion and travel around each other. The women in particular tend to show beautiful and rhythmic body movements since the leader holds on to the women’s wrists during the majority of the dance, thus restricting her from extending her arms and fingers. The Cuban style is a male-dominated dance which is much different from the New York or Los Angeles style. In Cuban basic, the leader breaks back on 1-2-3 and perform forward basic on 5-6-7. A tap usually happens on beats 4 and/or 8. In contrast to other forms, in this style “On-2” dancing with hard-core Cuban music may appear hard to few, which, however can be overcomes with listening and practice.


This is a Group Dance, where a group of couples dance to the up-beat salsa music. Here the movement of the whole group is controlled by a “leader/caller” who give commands by calling out names and give hand signs of choreographed moves. It is a vivid and enjoyable Salsa form as it involves constant changing of partners. Practice is essential if one has to perform this dance effectively. An average caller (mostly male) would know up to 300 moves use which has to be executed by the followers, mostly ladies. Today there are two styles of Rueda -Miami Rueda and Cuban Rueda, which can differ greatly in hand signs and calls.

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