How Many Types Of Salsa Dance Are There? | salsa dance

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How Many Types Of Salsa Dance Are There?

Written by Waldo Solano and Jacqueline Solano on Jan. 1st 2020

Hello, and welcome to our Salsa blog...

Today, we are going to discuss a brief introduction to the origins of Salsa music and Salsa dancing styles and timing.  This is small snapshot of a larger blog that we intend to create of the full history of Latin Music and Dance.

So, let's start from the beginning...

Relax, and pull up a chair...

Contents

  • Origin
  • Colombian / Cali style
  • Cuban style / Casino
  • ​Los Angeles style (On 1)
  • ​Mambo Palladium Style (On 2)
  • ​New York style (On 2)

Origin of Salsa Music and Dance

Johnny Pacheco and other Latin musicians from the Fania Record Label in the 1960s gave the name "Salsa" to a particular type of tropical latin music style.  Pacheco explains in an interview that Salsa is and always will be Cuban music...

Pacheco and other Latin musicians came to New York, and consequently the music was also influenced by the city itself, making the music arrangements more aggressive...

The name "Salsa" actually began because Fania Record Label started traveling all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and other places where people did not speak Spanish, and in order to not confuse people of what type of music they were listening to (whether it be Guaguanco, Guaracha, Son Montuno, etc), they put all the tropical music under one title to call it "Salsa."

In addition, the musicians who participated in the orchestras were also of different nationalities (like adding different seasonings), so that also helped to distinguish this type of music and make it recognizable all over the world...

While the music became popular, so too did a new form of dance evolve with it.  Musicians were also dancers, and they began to dance and create new steps to this type of music style called Salsa...

At the same time, New York was a major hub and influencer where Cubans and Puerto Ricans also brought their folk dance flavors... 

The movements of Salsa in total come from a combination of Afro-Cuban dances: Son, cha-cha-cha, Mambo, Rumba, Bomba and the Danzón...

Today, different regions of Latin America and the United States have very distinct Salsa dance styles of their own, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Cali Colombian, L.A. and New York Salsa styles...

Now, across the world, Salsa dance socials are commonly held in night clubs, bars, ballrooms, restaurants, and indoor and outdoor festivals...

Colombian Salsa (Cali Style)

This style of Salsa incorporates a lot of dance moves from Cumbia dancing, and it is much more relaxed and rhythmic than Cuban Salsa dancing. Cali Salsa dancing focuses on intricate footwork and limited upper body movement, and the dance begins on the first downbeat.

Salsa Cubana/Casino (Cuban style)

This style of Casino Salsa is from Cuba, and the name comes from the Spanish term for dance halls, or "Casinos Deportivos" where a lot of social dancing happened in Cuba.  

Casino style is made by pairs of dancers that form a large circle or "Rueda."  These dance moves are called out by one person, and many of the moves involve rapid combinations and many exchanges of partners.  

LA Style Salsa (On 1)

This style of Salsa was born in Los Angelos California, and it is distinctive to other styles of Salsa because it is very flashy, showy, and aerobic in nature, for the influence of Hollywood and performance. Dance Partners generally move in a forward and back pattern.  

Mambo Palladium Style (On 2)

There are two distinctive styles of One2.  The first is called Mambo Palladium Style.  This style was born in New York and is distinctive from other styles because it was the first Style of On2 born.  It can be recognized by its distinctive timing pattern, which we will discuss further below.  

New York Style Salsa (On 2)

The second style of On2 Salsa Style originated with Eddie Torres, and it is known as On2 Eddie Torres Style. This style evolved from the Mambo Palladium Style, and it contains recognizably different timing from Mambo Palladium.   

Timing: From the Eyes of Salsa Musicians:

First, there is one really important thing you need to remember...

When you are learning the difference between “on1” or “on2” Music timing, you have to think like a musician...

Musicians do not count “5,6,7,8” for Salsa introductions...

Most times, they don’t even count: they say “ra, ta, ra, ta, ta, ta”, and the band understands that the first “ra” is actually the first beat...

So, thinking like a musician, not a dancer, we will only count to four counts when counting music, not eight: 
1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4...

It doesn’t matter where the inflections land...

As dancers, we extend it out to “8” counts, but as musicians, we keep it as 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4 because, if you don’t do that, you won’t understand anything else we discuss below regarding timing.

When you dance Salsa on1 or on2, you dance in two directions, forward and back for your basic step...

Whatever beat you “push” back or forward is the “beat” you are dancing on...

By “push”, I simply mean whatever beat your foot steps on that is the furthest going forward or going back in the same direction... 

Salsa On1 Timing: 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4: The “push” happens on the “1” beat with the lead's left foot going forward first. This is the furthest your foot will go before changing directions. So, this style is called “on1”  

On2 Mambo Palladium Timing: 2, 3, 4; 2, 3, 4. Leads do not step at all on the “1” beat. They “push” forward with the left foot on the “2” beat.  

Salsa On2 Eddie Torres Timing: 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4. This style was made popular by Eddie Torres and is the most popular today of the on2 styles. Torres uses the “1” beat, similar to on1 style.  However, you may be thinking this would be exactly the same as the “On1” style. It is not. Instead of the lead “pushing” or breaking forward on the “1” beat with the left foot, the lead  "pushes" or breaks going backward with the RIGHT FOOT on the “ 2” beat.   

Ok, now that you know the difference between “on1” and “on2” timings from the musician's perspective of music, let's take a look at dancing on 3 or on 4. For example, some dancers who are not counting, are dancing on “1” or on “3” because those downbeats sound the same (1 and 3 have the same groove within the music). Dancing on 4 is also considered (Mambo).

Conclusion

So, to summarize, never stop counting. For musicians, the only time they listen to other instruments is if they are soloing or something, but there isn’t a single musician that isn’t counting in their heads...

As a dancer, we too must count. Some say they “feel the music”, but I advise you to feel it after you confirm with the count. If you don’t count, you will run into problems, especially for dancers that attempt to dance the different dance styles of Salsa...

In summary, Latin musicians from Fania Record Label made Salsa music what it is today.  They created a unique sound with many different musical and danceable elements from several countries...  

Today, there are several major popular Salsa dance styles danced to this Salsa music which include: Cali Style, Cuban Style, On1 Style, and On2 Style.  Each Style has its own unique properties and timing elements that cannot be overlooked or ignored...

So, whether you are ready to listen, learn, or dance to Salsa music, there can surely be something in it for everyone...

Thanks for reading with us, and we look forward to the next Latin Music and Dance blog coming soon...

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