Salsa has an 8-count basic step. There is four beats in every bar. The music is played in two bar phrases, thereby forming an eight-count. Sometimes referred to as 4/4. The moves in salsa are formed around the 8 beats. There are a few people out there that count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, but most choose to use 1-2-3-*-5-6-7-* as their count since nothing happens on the 4 or the 8. By the way, the nothing happening on the 4 or 8 part is true whether you dance on the 1 or on the 2.
Salsa refers to a fusion of informal dance styles having roots in the Caribbean (especially Cuba), Latin America and North America. Salsa is danced to Salsa music. There is a strong African influence in the music and the dance.
Salsa is usually a partner dance, although there are recognized solo steps and some forms are danced in groups of couples, with frequent exchanges of partner. Improvisation and social dancing are important elements of Salsa but it appears as a performance dance too.
The name "Salsa" is the Spanish word for sauce, connoting (in American Spanish) a spicy flavor. The Salsa aesthetic is more flirtatious and sensuous than its ancestor, Cuban Son. Salsa also suggests a "mixture" of ingredients, though this meaning is not found in most stories of the term's origin.
Salsa is danced on a core rhythm that lasts for two measures of four beats each. The basic step typically uses three steps each measure. This pattern might be quick-quick-slow, taking two beats to gradually transfer the weight, or quick-quick-quick allowing a tap or other embellishment on the vacant beat. This is not to say that the steps are always on beats 1, 2 and 3 of the measure. (See each style above or below) It is conventional in salsa for the two musical measures to be considered as one, so the count goes from 1 to 8 over two musical bars.
Salsa is a slot or spot dance, i.e. the partners do not need to travel over the dance floor but usually occupy a fixed area of the dance floor, rotating around one another and exchanging places. Traveling is not ruled out, but is more used in a staged salsa performance. In a social setting it is bad etiquette to occupy too much floor by traveling.
Cuban-style salsa ("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. 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.
New York Style
New York style emphasises 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 emphasises the conga drum's tumbao pattern, and encourages the dancer to listen to percussive elements of the music. Advocate 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.)
In a social setting, New York style is danced more compactly than LA style. The etiquette of New York style is strict about remaining in the "slot" and avoiding travelling.
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.
New York Style's first and most famous champion is popularly held to be Eddie Torres. Eddie Torres has been dancing since 1962 and has been teaching since 1970. Countless figures in the salsa scene have performed with the Eddie Torres dancers, such as Seaon Bristol (a.k.a. Seaon Stylist), Amanda Estilo, Eric Baez, April Genovese de la Rosa, Jai Catalano and many more.
Other important figures in the On2 style are Frankie Martinez, Ismael Otero, Tomas Guererro, Osmar Perrones, Griselle Ponce, Milo, Ana and Joel Masacote, and many others.
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.
Incorporating styling techniques into any style of 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. There are lessons dedicated to the art of salsa styling. Hip hop, jazz, flamenco, belly dancing, ballroom, break-dancing/pop and rock, Afro Cuban styles, and Bhangra have all been infused into the art of styling.
Normally Salsa is a partner dance, danced in a handhold. However sometimes dancers include shines, which are basically "show-offs" and involve fancy footwork and body actions, danced in separation. They are supposed to be improvisational breaks, but there are a huge number of "standard" shines.
Also, they fit best during the mambo sections of the tune, but they may be danced whenever the dancers feel appropriate. They are a good recovery trick when the connection or beat is lost during a complicated move, or simply to catch the breath. One possible origin of the name shine is attributed to the period when non-Latin tap-dancers would frequent Latin clubs in New York in the 1950s. In tap, when an individual dancer would perform a solo freestyle move, it was considered their "moment to shine". On seeing Salsa dancers perform similar moves the name was transposed and eventually stuck, leading to these moves being called 'shines'.
LA or Cross body style
L.A. style is danced on 1, in a slot. It is highly influenced by Hollywood and by the swing & mambo dances. L.A. style emphasizes sensuousness, theatricality, and acrobatics.
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.
Francisco Vazquez, along with his two brothers, Luis and Johnny, are often credited with developing the LA style of salsa. Francisco taught both of his brothers how to dance and all of them went on to become famous worldwide through their unique style of dancing. Francisco Vazquez, along with his brother Johnny, founded "Los Rumberos" Dance Company at the start of their career, which is still the leading dance company in Los Angeles. Luis Vazquez, along with then Joby Vazquez (now Joby Martinez) founded Salsa Brava Dance Company, which was another leading dance company in Los Angeles for many years.
Other people who also helped create L.A. Style as we know it are, Rogelio Moreno, Alex Da Silva, Joby Martinez, Josie Neglia, Cristian Oviedo, Luis 'Zonik' Aguilar and many others. Tony Cordero and Robert Menache helped spread the influence of the LA style to Long Beach and Orange County.
Mambo (also called Palladium and Power 2) is a Latin dance of Cuban origin that corresponds to mambo music. It is rhythmically similar to the slower bolero, though it has a more complex pattern of steps. The saxophone usually sets the syncopated rhythm, while the other brass carries the melody.
In the late 1940s, a musician named Perez Prado came up with the dance for the mambo music and became the first person to market his music as "mambo". After Havana, Prado moved his music to Mexico, and then New York City. Along the way, his style became increasingly homogenized in order to appeal to mainstream American listeners.
There were two forms of mambo dance:
The rhythm of steps is unusual in comparison to most other dances. It can be counted as "quick-quick-slow", the first "quick" is on the beat 2 of the measure and the "slow" step crosses the boundary of the musical measure and performed on counts "4", "1".
Basic step pattern
Mambo is danced in 4/4 meter at a speed of around 188 beats per minute (45-47 measures per minute). The basic pattern or "Basic Step" of Mambo consists of two halves: Forward Basic and Backward Basic. When a man dances The Forward Basic, the lady dances the Backward Basic and vice versa.
The steps are performed with Cuban hip motion, a weight change while bending the knee - this will result in the hip motion which is typical for Salsa. In mambo however this move is made to appear more sudden and accentuated.
There are three steps per measure. They start on the second beat of the measure and cued "(pause)-Two-Three-Four."
Count "One" is often described as "pause" or "hold," while in fact the body motion and Cuban hip motion do not stop.
Count 1: Hold
Count 2: Step forward by left foot
Count 3: Replace weight on the right foot
Counts 4,1: Step sideways. (Variant: Step backwards, often used by "Salsa on 2" dancers) Weight is transferred completely on count 4.
Count 1: Hold
Count 2: Step backward by right foot
Count 3: Replace weight on the left foot
Counts 4,1 Step sideways. (Variant: Step forward, often used by "Salsa on 2" dancers).