Salsa dancing has a very distinct dance style. It has a pattern step style encompassing six steps that are danced over eight counts to a musical beat. Passion and energy are two words to describe the sensual Salsa dancing. Just like the condiment, Salsa is hot, tasty and indeed fiery! It has multiple origins coming from a mixture of different backgrounds and is popular in many countries in the world.
Salsa is the combination of many cultural genres including Afro-Caribbean and Latin sounds.
There is a common misconception that Salsa dancing originates from Spain, when in fact it has a variety of origins, with the main one being Cuba. It is hard to determine Salsa as one solid, original dance because it has been whipped up, added to, stripped back and merged with other dances from Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries such as Guaguanco, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, have also influenced the art of Salsa dancing. Although the exact origin of salsa cannot be interpreted, many believe that Cubans created this explosive dance style that has won the world over. It is in this place where Contra-Danze or “country dance” of England and France later known as Danzon that was brought over by the French who had fled from Haiti. Their experience with the French music traditions and the distinctive drum beat influences of Rhumbas of Africa and partner dance style helped influence the development of the very distinctive salsa style of music and dance that we are all familiar with today.
However, regardless of who originally founded salsa, it’s collaborative cultural flavor of Afro-Caribbean and Latin influences have been successful in making it one of the most popular dance and music styles recognized all over the world.
Salsa dance moves are very distinct. Salsa moves more from side to side, putting much emphasis on turns, which are carefully synchronized with the strategic side stepping of the dancer.
Although the countries I just mentioned have helped influence salsa dance and music, several other countries have also influenced it like Columbia, Puerto Rico the Dominican, Mexico and several other Latin American countries.
Many bands from these countries took their music to Mexico City during the famous film era and then later brought their musical style to New York where it started a movement through cultures that had never heard this unique style of music, or seen this magical and explosive dance style. New York picked up salsa music and dance almost instantly which helped to promote the salsa movement but New York was also the city that coined it as “salsa”.
Although Salsa has been typically classed as one form of dance, there are actually several different styles of Salsa that have all originated from different countries. The first one is Colombian / Cali style Salsa. This style originated in the Colombian city of Cali which is otherwise known as the world’s Salsa Capital due to the popularity of Salsa music. The Cali style is heavily influenced by Caribbean rhythm and music, with which quick footwork and skipping steps are common in the dance routines.
The next style is called Cuban or ‘Casino’ style. This is a popular dance for people living in Latin American, Europe and North America. Cuban or Casino style Salsa is quite different to the normal style of Salsa as there are no steps on the first and fifth beat like the usual style of the dance.
Los Angeles style is another different type of Salsa. It is heavily influenced by Mamba, Tango, Swing and Latin ballroom and has strong emphasis on sensuality, musicality and is very theatrical in its performance.
There are many health benefits associated with Salsa dancing as it is classed as an aerobic exercise. On a physical level, Salsa has been noted to increase endurance and stamina, help with weight loss, help to release toxins, lower stress and can actually burn more calories than riding a bike or swimming! What a great way to have fun and become a healthier human being!
On a mental level, Salsa helps to build relationships and acts as an anti-stress exercise stimulating the mind and keeping endorphins pumping through the body. As well as the social and anti-stress benefits, dancing has also been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of dementia in the elderly.