THE HISTORY AND STYLES OF SALSA DANCED AROUND THE WORLD TODAY
Los Angeles Style Salsa (Dancing "On 1")
Developed in recent years (some say between 1999 and 2002), this is a style of salsa much influenced by Hollywood and by the swing & mambo dances, thus being the most flashy style.
L.A. style salsa, usually danced "On 1", is a flashier version of New York style salsa moves. Dancers use lots of dips, flips, drops and tricks which make for a great show to watch. The back and forth Mambo basic, again in a linear motion, is utilized with the leader breaking forward on 1. Because the dominating beat is the 1 beat which is the most accented beat in the series, the dancing looks and feels powerful and fast. L.A. style salsa has incorporated many other types of dancing including jazz, hip hop, and ballroom which is challenging for the dancers and entertaining for the viewers. Similar to the New York style salsa, many of the moves are created from cross body lead variations. Shines are an important component of this type of salsa with complicated, speedy footwork and jazzy moves.
Francisco Vazquez, along with his two brothers, Luis and Johnny, are widely 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 (http://www.rumberos.com) 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. Johnny Vazquez went on to become a great salsa champion and performer. He moved to Valencia, Spain, in 2002 and also founded his own dance company called "Imperio Azteca" (http://www.johnnyvazquez.com). Luis Vazquez and another acclaimed L.A. Style dancer, Melissa Fernandez, are now directors of "Mas Salsa Brava," and have moved to Lugano, Switzerland due to business aspects.
The reasons why L.A. Style of salsa is so well-known around the world are widely disputed. But what has helped largely has been the broadcast of competition video clips from the Mayan World Salsa Championships on the Club Mayan website (http://www.clubmayan.com). Every year, competitors from many parts of the United States and the world come together to challenge each other in this competition. Before moving to Europe, Johnny Vazquez was the reigning king of the Mayan competitions; he was practically unbeatable as he surpassed all other competitors with his skilled dancing and precise spins. Since then, however, the results of the competition have not been endorsed by many and the competition has lost validity, but it remains, nonetheless, one of the biggest competition in the world.
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New York Style Salsa (Dancing "On 2", Mambo Salsa, Eddie Torres Style)
Salsa on 2, commonly referred to as "Mambo", is a style of salsa first introduced by Eddie Torres in New York in the 1960s. Technically speaking, dancing "On 2" refers to the beat the dancers break forward on. Followers will break forward with the left foot on the 2 and leaders will break forward on the 6. New York style salsa is distinguished by smooth, controlled, highly technical movements that are elegant, graceful, flow well and are not rushed. The style is very linear and many of the turn patterns evolve from cross body lead variations. Multiple spins, complicated footwork, Afro Cuban body movement and shines are a must. Dancing "On 2" is rhythmically more difficult as it is easier to hear the 1 beat and break on this beat. Many dancers learn to dance "On 1" first and then train "On 2" as they feel it is more musically and rhythmically rich and complex.
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Puerto Rican Style Salsa
Puerto Rican style salsa can be danced "On 1" or "On 2". If you are dancing Puerto Rican style "On 2" dancing, it is opposite from New York style in the sense that the leader breaks forward on 2 instead of the follower (can be called "On 6"). Some say that shines originated in Puerto Rico as these dancers would break away from their partners and execute extremely fast and complicated solo footwork. The lines are very clean and there are a great deal of shoulder shimmies incorporated into the dancing. There is an emphasis on dancing to the "Clave" especially the 2/3 clave (pa-pa, pa-pa-pa). In fact Felipe Polanco, one of the pioneers of Puerto Rican salsa, has created a unique basic that compliments the uneven 5 beat dance which incorporates a sliding forward and back motion that hits the accents of the clave.
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Cuban Style Salsa
Cuban salsa style is most similar to the original form of salsa rooted in Cuba . It is characterized by Afro Cuban style body movement which includes body isolation and hip movement. Cuban style salsa does not have many fast spins. Instead the movement is very circular as opposed to linear and partners tend to travel around each other. The hip movement is more noticeable in this style and stems from the pumping of the knees. The footwork is quite simple - the complexity lies in the arm work which requires the follower to have limber, flexible arms. Cuban style salsa is considered "male dominated" in the sense that the leader tends to be more showy and will create a greater push/pull feel for the follower then many other styles. Most Cuban style dancers tap on the pauses which are on the 4 th and 8 th beats if the dancers dance on 1. However, Cuban style salsa dancers do not always stay on the 1 beat and tend to stray depending on where the music takes them.
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Casino Rueda Style Salsa (Rueda de Casino, Salsa Rueda)
Casino Rueda (meaning salsa wheel) is a group dance which originated in Havana , Cuba in the 1960s by a group called Guaracheros de Regla. In this dance, couples dance in a circle while one dancer, designated as "The Caller", provides hand signals or calls out the moves which will be executed by every couple in the circle simultaneously. Many of the Casino moves involve swapping or switching partners which makes the dance tricky to execute and spectacular to watch. Rueda is very popular in Cuba and Miami and has gained popularity all over the world. Cuban Rueda tends to be more playful with easy to follow fun moves while Miami Rueda has many complicated turn patterns and requires memorization and skill to execute. Many callers will know anywhere from 150-300 moves so memory, speed and accuracy is a key to ensuring the circle is not broken. The advantage of learning Casino Rueda is that all moves learned in the Rueda circle can be danced one on one with a partner adding to a dancer's repertoire of moves.
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Colombian Style Salsa (Cali Style)
Cali-Style Salsa, also known as Colombian Salsa, is based on geographical location of the Colombian City of Cali. Cali is also known as the "Capital de la Salsa" (World's Salsa Capital); due to salsa music being the main genre in parties, nightclubs and festivals in the 21st century.The elements of Cali-Style Salsa were strongly influenced by dances to Caribbean rhythms which preceded salsa, such as Pachanga and Boogaloo.The basic step of Colombian Salsa is the "Atras" or "Diagonal"; breaking backwards diagonally instead of moving forwards and backwards as seen in the New York and L.A. Style. Dancers do not shift their body weight greatly as seen in other styles. Instead, dancers keep their upper body still, poised and relaxed while the feet execute endless intricacies. The dancer breaks mostly On1 (sometimes On3), with short measures of "4" instead of full "8" counts.A major difference of Cali Style and the other styles is the footwork which has quick rapid steps and skipping motions. They do not execute Cross-body Leads or the "Dile Que No" as seen in LA/New York-style and Cuban-style salsa, respectively. Their footwork is intricate and precise, helping several Colombian Style dancers win major world championships. Cali hosts many annual salsa events such as the World Salsa Cali Festival and the Encuentro de Melomanos y Coleccionistas.
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Shines refer to solo work when the leader breaks away from the follower and each dancer has the opportunity to freestyle on their own to the rhythm and accents of the salsa music. Shines involve more complex footwork as well as body movement and arm work. Shines are common in the New York , L.A. and Puerto Rican styles of dancing. They are not as common in the Cuban, Miami and Columbia styles of dancing. The term "shines" originally referred to having the opportunity to "shine" independently. Shines give dancers an opportunity to take a break from partner work and turn patterns and freestyle. There are many common shines such as Suzy Qs and flares but every dancer has their own unique and individual movements which allows dancers to be constantly challenged.
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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 stylin'. Hip hop, jazz, flamenco, belly dancing, ballroom, breakdancing/pop and lock, and Afro Cuban styles have all be infused into the art of styling.