Where Did Salsa Dance Originate From?

A couple performing a salsa dance.
A couple performing a salsa dance.

5. Overview and Characteristics -

There are a variety of different styles of salsa dancing but regardless of what style is being danced, there are a few elements that compose the basic makeup of any style of salsa dance. These so called basic salsa steps are that salsa is almost always a partnered dance involving two people, where there is a lead and a follow that dance by utilizing a plethora of various movement combinations. The lead dancer is the one responsible for guiding the couple and responsible for choosing and initiating transitions for dance steps, while the follow mimics them. The beat of Salsa music is 4/4 and has a three weight change with each measure, while the extra beat is what makes the difference between salsa dance styles. When dancing the salsa the upper torso must remain immobile so that most of the motion from dancing end up in the hips as the body shifts weight.

4. Origins -

The dance style of salsa developed in the 1920s on the island of Cuba at the same time that a variety of music styles came together to make the style of salsa music. At this time Cuba was a fusion of different Latin dance styles and it was in this climate that a local Cuban studio named Fania named the new music salsa and began playing in on the radio and at clubs. This led to the music and dance of salsa taking off over Cuba and it then spread to South America and Miami. As the music traveled to these new regions, new musicians picked it up and the salsa dance followed it with new moves and elements being added.

3. Spread and Development -

As salsa spread out from Cuba went to the rest of the Caribbean, South America and to the heavily Latin communities in America a wide range of salsa dance styles started to form in specific regions. There is the Cuban-Style Casino salsa dance that developed over the middle of the 20th century and has a heavier Afro-Cuban rhumba influence. Considered to be the original salsa, the style has since spread all over the world and is considered an important part of Latin-American culture and heritage. While the salsa dance became extremely popular in South America, Columbia took the most love for it and created their own style, the Cali-Style Salsa. The style is named after the city of Cali, which is known as the capital of salsa. The style is more relaxed with very intricate footwork compared to other styles. In America the three main styles of salsa are the New York style, Miami style and the L.A. style. The American styles are all more extravagant than South American styles of the dance, featuring more twists and has acrobatic aerial moves in it.

2. Notable Practitioners -

Eddie Torres who was born in 1950 is known by his title of "The Mambo King." He was born in Harlem and is one of the famous dancers of the New York style of salsa, as well as being an instructor in salsa dancing. Torres has been immersed in the salsa world for more than four decades, having taught many dancers that would also go on to become famous. Magna Gopal is a mostly self-taught salsa dancer, who has only taken basic Cumbria classes, having been inspired to learn the dance after seeing the 1998 movie Dance with Me. Gopal was born in India, but grew up in Canada and she now travels all of the world as a famous performer and teacher of salsa. Frankie Martinez was born in New York and learned salsa under the tutelage of Eddie Torres after wanting to learn the dance after seeing it done at nightclubs. He has since founded the ABAKUA Afro-Latin Dance Company and is one of the most renowned salsa dancers and teachers in the world.

1. Greater Significance and Legacy -

Salsa dancing has had a worldwide impact by becoming a popular and widespread dance style that most people known of. It has led to many different national and international dance competitions based around the style and has inspired the dance culture in a number of different regions. The salsa style of dance has also managed to be integrated into other style of dance, like hip-hop and middle-eastern dancing as it is a young and vibrant movement that is managing to influence other styles of dance.


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