Salsa is a dance for Salsa music created by Spanish-speaking people from the Caribbean and their immigrant communities in the US. Salsa dancing mixes African and European dance influences through the music and dance fusions that are the roots of Salsa: SonGuaguancó, Rumba, Boogaloo, Pachanga, Guaracha, Plena, Bomba, .

Salsa is normally a partner dance, although there are recognized solo forms, line dancing (suelta), and Rueda de Casino where groups of couples exchange partners in a circle. Salsa can be improvised or performed with a set routine. thumb|300px|right|partners dancing salsa The name "Salsa" is the Spanish word for sauce, connoting (in American Spanish) a spicy flavor. Salsa also suggests a "mixture" of ingredients, though this meaning is not found in most stories of the term's origin. (See suelta for more information.)


The history of "Salsa" dance is peppered with hearsay and contradiction. Although few would disagree that the music and dance forms originate largely in Cuban Son, most agree that Salsa as we know it today is a North American interpretation of the older forms. New York's Latino community had a vibrant musical and dancing scene throughout the '50s but found limited success with the 'Anglo' mainstream. In the 1970s, adoption of the term "Salsa" reduced the linguistic and cultural barriers to mainstream adoption of Latin music and dance. thumb|300px|right|partner dancing thumb|300px|right|partner dancing

The modernization of the Mambo in the 1950s was influential in shaping what would become salsa. There is debate as to whether the dance we call Salsa today originated in Cuba or Puerto Rico. Cuba's influence in North America was diminished after Castro's revolution and the ensuing trade embargo. New York's Latino community was largely Puerto-Rican. Salsa is one of the main dances in both Cuba and Puerto Rico and is known world-wide.

Origin of the salsa stepsEdit

The dance steps currently being danced to salsa music come from the Son (music), but were influenced by many other Cuban dances such as Mambo (dance), Cha-cha-cha (dance), Guaracha, Changüí, Palo Monte, Rumba (dance), Abakuá, Comparsa and sometimes even Mozambique. Solo salsa steps are called "Shines", a term taken from Tap dancing. It also integrates swing steps. Salsa can be a heavily improvised dance.

Basic MovementsEdit


Dancing Salsa in Mexico

The basic step of all styles of salsa involves 3 weight changes (or steps) in each 4 beat measure. The beat without a weight change might contain a tap, kick, or pause. One of the steps is a "break step" a little bit longer than the other two. Different styles of Salsa are often differentiated by the direction and timing of the break step ("on 1" or "on 2" for example). After 6 weight changes in 8 beats, the basic step cycle is complete. While dancing, the basic step can be modified significantly as part of the improvisation and stylings of the dancers.thumb|300px|right|salsa steps

As a salsa dancer changes weight the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Caught in the middle are the hips which end up moving quite a bit--the famous "Cuban hip movement."

The arms are used to communicate the lead in either open or closed position. In open position the two dancers hold one or both hands, especially for moves that involve turns, or putting arms behind the back, or moving around each other. In closed position, the leader puts the right hand on the follower's back, while the follower puts the left hand on the leader's shoulder.

In some styles, the dancers remain in a slot (switching places), while in others the dancers circle around each other.


Music suitable for dancing ranges from slow at about 70 beats per minute (bpm) to its fastest at around 140 bpm, although most dancing is done to music somewhere between 80-120 bpm. Every Salsa composition involves complex African percussion based around the Clave (rhythm) (which has 4 types), though there can be moments when the clave is hidden for a while, often when quoting Changüí or Bomba. The key instrument that provides the core groove of a salsa song is the conga drum. The conga drummer slaps (high pitch) on the 2nd beat of each Bar (music) and strikes twice with an open tone (often on a 2nd lower pitched conga) on the 4th beat (see suelta). Every instrument in a Salsa band is either playing with the clave (generally: congas, timbales, piano, tres guitar, bongos, Claves (instrument), strings) or playing independent of the clave rhythm (generally: bass, maracas, güiro, cowbell). Melodic components of the music and dancers can choose to be in clave or out of clave at any point. However it is taboo to play or dance to the wrong type of clave rhythm (see suelta). While dancers can mark the clave rhythm directly, it is more common to do so indirectly (with, for example, a shoulder movement).

Salsa stylingEdit

Incorporating styling techniques into salsa has become very common. For both men and women shines, leg work, arm work, body movement, spins, body isolations, shoulder shimmies and rolls, and even hand styling have become a huge trend in the salsa scene. Hip hop, jazz, flamenco, belly dancing, ballroom, break-dancing/pop and rock, Afro Cuban folkloric dances (Orisha for example), and Bhangra are all possible in the art of styling. In Cuba, footwork is called "pasillero."

Salsa StylesEdit

Since salsa has its roots in so many dances and is open to improvisation, salsa styles are very fluid. Dance styles are associated with their original geographic area that developed that style. There are often devotees of each of these styles outside of their home territory (except Cali style). Characteristics that may identify a style include: foot patterns, body rolls and movements, turns and figures, attitude, dance influences, and the way that partners hold each other. The point in a musical bar music where a slightly larger step is taken (the break step) and the direction the step moves can often be used to identify a style.

New York and Puerto RicoEdit

Found on the East Coast of North America, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

New York style emphasizes efficiency of movement, elegance, and body isolations. By focusing on control, timing, and precision of technique, dancers aim for smooth execution of tightly woven complex patterns. In New York City this style 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.

Many also refer to this style as "Mambo" since it breaks on beat 2 of the measure, though there are other dance forms with a more legitimate claim to that name. (See Mambo (dance).)

The etiquette of New York style is strict about remaining in the "slot" and avoiding traveling.

New York style tends to place a greater emphasis on performing "shines" where dancers separate and dance solo for a time.

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" (lit. "Hard Salsa"). This is mid-to-up-tempo salsa with an emphasis on percussion and band orchestration rather than the vocals.

The longest-running social in New York is the Jimmy Anton social, which is held every first, third and fifth (if there is a fifth) Sunday of the month.

While the New York style is the predominant style found in the eastern United States, the style finds favor with professional salsa dancers and salsa teachers the world over. Thus, it can be seen at salsa congresses all around the world.

Cuban / Casino (Cuba and Miami)Edit

Danced in Cuba and Miami, but also popular in Europe and China; there are many dedicated small communities all over the world often organized to dance Rueda as well.

Cuban-style salsa (also called Casino) can be danced either on the down beat ("a tiempo") or the upbeat ("a contratiempo"). Beats 1, 3, 5 and 7 are downbeats and 2, 4, 6 and 8 are upbeats.

An essential element is the "Cuba step" (also known as Guapea), where the leader does a backward basic on 1-2-3 and a forward basic on 5-6-7. Usually the fourth beat is not counted. The follower does the same, thereby mirroring the leader's movement. Another characteristic of this style is that in many patterns the leader and follower circle around each other.

The cross body lead is an essential step in this style too and is referred to as Salida Cubana or as Dile que no in Rueda de Casino Dancing. This move becomes essential in the more complex derivative of Cuban Casino leading to the many moves of Rueda, or wheel dance. Here multiple couples exchange partners and carry out moves synchronized by a caller.


In the 1950s Salsa Rueda (Rueda de Casino) was developed in Havana, Son. 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.

There two main types of Rueda de Casino:

  1. Cuban-style - "Rueda de Cuba" (Original type of Rueda, not so formal)
  2. Miami-style - "Rueda de Miami" (Formal style, many rules, based on a mix, hybridization of Rueda de Cuba and Salsa Los Angeles-style )

Salsa Filipina (Ronda Manila)Edit

Ronda de Salsa, also known as "Ronda Manila" or simply "Ronda," is a group dance inspired by Rueda de Casino. The dance was invented at the "Instituto Social Asiático" to add and energize the re-envigorated pro Filipino-Hispanic (Hispano Filipino) culture movement(see: Hispanic influence on Filipino culture) through a fusion of a local Hispanic dance called Fandango and a popular modern dance, Salsa, which for decades has been making waves in other Hispanic countries.

Ronda was inspired by the Rueda, but it is composed of very easy steps and consists of only 5 major combinations. In the 1950s Salsa Rueda (Rueda de Casino) was developed in Havana, Son. 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.

Ronda tells a story, like many dances here in the Philippines, and this makes Ronda unique from Rueda. Also, it is a combination of Filipino folk dances and Casino. This makes it easier for Filipinos to dance Casino.

The five simple basic combinations or combo, are: Gising, Pule, Patria, Lakambini and Dolorosa.

Gising in Tagalog, the language spoken in the Philippines, means "wake-up".The Gising ronda is a combination of steps which tell of a people being called to wake up. Pule ronda imitates an act of prayer and tells of a people deeply rooted in their tradition. Patria ronda mimics an act of camaraderie and tells of a people searching for solidarity. Lakambini shows reverence toward nature and tells of a people being ecologically conscious. Dolorosa tells of life's ambivalent reality and therefore calls for vigilance.

While the meaning of the dance may contain serious themes, the joviality that the dance elicits compensates for the somber motif. Designed to be a community dance, the five steps serve as the basic combinations and each community that dances the ronda is encouraged to develop new rondas or combinations that tells about the unique character of their group.

The dance is also meant to be a social icebreaker during community gatherings. Other new combinations have been introduced by different groups such as the Antonio ronda (by El Grupo Filipino de Salsa) and Accompania ronda (by Instituto Social Asiático employees).

The Havana Manila Salsa group, started to popularize this dance and are going out of their way to reach the masses. Sooner or later, people will be accepting both salsa and Rueda de Casino as a re-appropriated Filipino dance. Of course, the group will always look back to Cuba, since many of the hispanic dances in the Philippines come from there, such as the "Habañera Capiceña" and msongs such as "Habanera Filipina."

At present, the Instituto Social Asiático, with the cooperation of Grupo Filipino de Salsa and international and local supporters, have been promoting Ronda by providing free salsa lessons in the schools and in local communities.

Twice a year, groups which have contributed to the growth of the ronda celebrate and share their unique contributions through a Salsa Festival. The dates of the Salsa Festivals are November 26, May 6, 2006, and December 2 of each year.

Cumbia (Central and South America)Edit

The preferred style of the majority of Latin America, especially, Mexico, Central America, and South America. For that reason immigrants have brought it to North America and Europe. This style is danced even among non-immigrants in Canada.

Cumbia style (also Colombian Style, Venezuelan style) is the style danced in South and Central America. In the Colombian style basic-step, partners dance side-to-side and mirror each other's movements. In Colombian style, the break is on the three and the "spare beat" is always used for a tap or other embellishment.

Colombian Style can be danced not only to Salsa music, but also to Cumbia music which is frequently played in Latin nightclubs.


The Colombian city of Cali is also known as the "Capital de la Salsa", has a huge Salsa following and their own unique set of styles. Very rarely found outside of Colombia. The upper body is kept still, poised, and relaxed while executing endless intricacies in the feet.

Los AngelesEdit

In Cuban based rhythms, the strong beats are on 1 and 3. L.A. style is danced on 1, in a slot. It is highly influenced by both the Mambo and Swing style of dancing. L.A. style emphasizes sensuousness, theatricality, aerobics, and most importantly, musicality. The two essential elements of this dance are the forward/backward basic as described above, and the cross-body lead. In this pattern, the leader steps forward on 1, steps to the right on 2-3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left). The follower then steps forward on 5-6, and turns on 7-8, while the leader makes another 90 degrees counter-clockwise. After these 8 counts, the leader and follower have exchanged their positions.

The L.A. style as it is known today was pioneered by what many consider some of the most famous and successful people in Dance. Albert Torres, Laura Canellias and Joe Cassini rightfully deserve much of the credit for the early development and growth of L.A. Style Salsa. Later, such dancers as Alex Da Silva (dancer), Edie Lewis, Liz Lira, Joby Martinez, Thomas Montero, Rogelio Moreno, Josie Neglia, Francisco Vazquez (along with his two brothers, Luis and Johnny), and Janette Valenzuela are often credited with developing the LA style of Salsa Dancing as we know it today.

See alsoEdit

  • Palladium Ballroom
  • Rueda de Casino
  • Dance
  • Dance
  • suelta
  • Partner dance
  • Casino (salsa dance)
  • Hector Lavoe
  • El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
  • Celia Cruz
  • Luis Enrique
  • Frankie Ruiz
  • suelta


External linksEdit