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The Four Styles of Salsa Dancing

Updated: 23 minutes ago

salsa dancing in los angeles

This audio was recorded by Danny Kalman, the Director of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy. The following text is an unedited transcript of his audio.

Transcript of Audio:

Let's talk about the four styles of salsa that are the most popular around the world and how they are similar and how they are different. The purpose of this audio is to simplify this for you and really just give you the information that is the most relevant to you. It is not to go into every single little detail and nuance about the dozens of different ways that salsa can be danced around the world.

For context, salsa is a street dance. Salsa has evolved over time and it has a long history rooted in many other different styles of dance. Salsa in English actually means sauce and a sauce has many different components. So because it is originally a street dance, that means that it was danced without a lot of technique or an agreed upon timing or language, right? So it might be a challenge to dance with different people because maybe you hear it in a different way and dance it in a different way. So that's why salsa can be danced in dozens of different ways.

Over time, the natural evolution was just that people needed a common set of techniques and agreed upon timing so that they could dance it better together. Then you get instructors involved, and it comes into studios, and now we all can speak a common language so that you can go anywhere in the world, on planet earth, and speak a completely different verbal language than them. But you speak the same language of dance or a certain style of salsa and you can dance together. It's magical in a way.

So first we'll talk about salsa in linea, salsa in a line. There are two predominant styles of salsa in a line, or timings I should say. Salsa on one and salsa on two. Salsa on one is sometimes called LA style. Salsa on two is sometimes called New York style or Mambo.  

There is a distinction, a timing, dancing salsa on one or two is different from a style. So you might dance salsa on two more New York style or more Mambo style. But again, this is getting into the nuances that maybe are not so relevant to you and just know that sometimes people use these synonymously.

So they'll say New York style, they're talking about salsa on two or they say Mambo, they're talking about salsa on two. Both of these styles have a lot of similarities. They're both salsa in a line, salsa in linea. So you get out on the dance floor, and you find your slot, and you stay in that slot theoretically for the entire dance and the main difference is the timing that you step forward or backwards.

In an audio I won't go too much into details, better through video. But basically the leader is going to step forward on the one in salsa on one, or LA style as you might say. In salsa on two, the leader is actually going to step forward on six and back on two.

Again visually that will make more sense. But basically the thing that might be most relevant to you is whatever style is danced in your city is the style that you should focus on and really that's all you need to know. These styles, salsa on one, salsa on two, these are danced all around the world.

These are the two most popular styles of salsa around the world. And some cities are more focused on one than the other. In LA of course they're going to focus on quote LA style or on one more. And in New York they're going to focus on two more. But then there's all these other cities, and most cities focus more on one style.

So whichever style is most popular in your city, that's what you want to focus on. When you find classes, if they just call it salsa, then probably that's the popular style in your city. If they're distinguishing a specific style of salsa, maybe that's not the most popular one in your city. You can talk to the teacher and ask them about that.

The third style that I want to talk about is Cuban style. Cuban style is much more circular. Cuban style is less focused on technique, and it's more grounded and into the earth. It's often danced actually in a circle, so this is called casino rueda, a wheel, of everybody dancing around the circle. And then there's one person in the circle who will call out a certain move.

Clubs are loud, you can't always hear their voice. There are actually arm movements, gestures, where everybody knows that that's a certain pattern. And there are some universal patterns that you'll find all over the world. But then communities, when they get together and practice, they'll create their own moves and their own signals for those moves. So you'll see some communities are doing really fancy, cool stuff in the circle, and it's just because they've been practicing that stuff together and it's something they created.

There's a lot of room for creativity in these dances. And when you're dancing in a circle, a really fun part about it is that you're constantly rotating partners. So it's very community-oriented, it feels like a big party when you're in the circle and you really connect with so many people at the same time. It can be a really good time. Or you can dance that solo with a partner. 

The other two timings are salsa and linea, New York style, LA style. Those are always danced one-on-one with a partner, and they're danced in a line, they're not danced in a circle like that with rotating partners.

The other style that we'll talk about is Colombian style salsa. So I think the most notable characteristic of Colombian salsa is the fast feet. There is a lot of really fast, intricate footwork, and if you've ever seen this on stage, it is the coolest thing. I fell in love with this style of salsa immediately when I saw it on stage, and eventually was able to actually perform in this style a bit.

Colombian salsa is a little more circular. The basic step is kind of like a cumbia step, so it's, I'd say maybe not as circular as Cuban salsa, but definitely more so than salsa in a line. This style of salsa takes a lot of energy. You're probably not going to dance this socially in a club anywhere in the world unless you're in Colombia, and even in Colombia it's not like you can give it full energy every single dance. 

So probably this is not the style that you're going to learn in your city unless you're specifically looking for that style or you want to put it on stage or something like that. So, again, my advice is just look for whatever style is most popular in your city. That is probably salsa on one or salsa on two, or it might be Cuban style salsa.

In some cities that is the most popular style. And just focus on that. Really, you only need to start with one style, and then after you go deep into that, if at some point you feel like you're doing really well and you're looking for a new challenge, okay, then maybe look for another style in your city and, as I always say, just fall in love with the process of learning and everything else will fall into place. 

Salsa Classes in Los Angeles

movers and shakers salsa classes in los angeles

If you're in Los Angeles, California, come join Movers and Shakers and sign up for our salsa classes.

We offer programs ranging from beginner to advanced, starting from the very basics and progressing in a structured and comprehensive manner.

Our professional instructors will guide you through every step of your salsa journey with personalized attention and encouragement. 


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