The History and Origins of Salsa

by Natasha Maltseva on 04/17/15

Understanding the origins of salsa is as complex as the dance and variety of dance styles themselves. Although the term “salsa” was originally coined in NY, most believe the dance and music style to have originated in Cuba and came to the US, specifically New York as Cubans were fleeing the political regime there.

The word “salsa” itself means “spice” and is quite appropriate for the dance style that exudes the spicy blend of cultures from which it came.

Salsa was originally most recognized in Cuba and Puerto Rico, but really was cultivated into its own style within the Latino community in New York. Salsa is actually a blend of several Caribbean music and dance styles such as Cha cha cha, Rhumba, Mambo, Cumbia, Festejo, and many more. As a result, one cannot really say Salsa is from one culture and it truly has a flavor all its own.

As a result, there are a wide variety of salsa dancing styles. You will see LA style salsa where the dancers break forward on the first measure. This is known as On 1 salsa. Developed by the Vazquez brothers in LA, it is more of a linear dance and is a bit flashier and includes tricks. LA salsa is easier for beginners to start with due to the timing.

Popularized by the “Mambo King”, Eddie Torres, Salsa New York or Mambo style is danced “On 2”. This style typically breaks on the second and sixth beats in an eight-beat phrase. Dancers typically dance closely within their space and it is more relaxed and elegant. “Salsa Dura” with a strong percussion presence is also associated with salsa New York.

Cuban Salsa is danced in a more circular motion with a bit more “Afro-Cuban” and urban flavor. Cuban salsa will include extracts of Rhumba, Cha, cha, cha, and Danzon with a more African feel. You will see more movements and gestures that reference folklore.

Rueda de Casino is a salsa style that originated in Cuba in the late 50’s. It differs from other styles in that it is more of a group style dance, similar to square dancing in that regard. Pairs of dancers form a circle and dance moves are called out by a caller.

There are many more salsa styles than we have space here to describe, but suffice it to say that the variety allows for wonderful self-expression and opportunities to learn more dance styles. Regardless of which style you prefer, LaVida Studio is as passionate about teaching salsa as the passion found within the dances themselves.  Try out a class today, you just may become addicted

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