and other club dances
What Do We Know About
Dancing salsa since 1972,
Professional since 1980,
Owning LA's 3rd Largest Club for 10 Years,
Judging the World salsa championships,
Having LA's Biggest salsa Classes for 15 Years
Taught At Congresses from Europe to China
What is going on with Salsa now? Too many people of limited knowledge are creating a lot of myths, and misinformation. Instead of growing and uniting the Salsa scene, it is being divided into small groups and cliques that fail to grow, and cannot even maintain regular nights at clubs due to poor attendance. And so, many newbies move on to other dances such as Bachata, Tango, Zouk, Kizomba , etc. So on this page I want to debunk some of these myths and help swing the pendulum back the other way. Que Viva la Salsa!
Major Styles of Salsa
Old School mambo
The "BIG" question
On1? On2? On clave?
As music evolves, so does the dancing. Salsa is not one style of music. Latin Jazz Salsa has little resemblance to Cumbia flavored Salsa from Venezuela (Oscar D'Leon) or Timba from Cuba (Los Van Van) Trying to dance ONE style to all of the different types of Salsa is like having one piece of clothing that you wear to the beach or a formal wedding. As I like to say it's like asking "Which is the RIGHT religion?" It won't end well.
Which is the Good, Better, BEST Style?
What's The On 1 vs On 2 All About?
“I thought it was ALL Salsa!” Salsa music is flavored by the area of origin. In Colombia, the Cali style dancers like the crazy fast music of Sonora Carruseles, Guyacan, Grupo Niche, and Fruko with their emphasis on strong brass sections. The New York dancers like the more jazz tinged music of Fania Allstars, Spanish Harlem, Orquesta Broadway. There they love long Timbal solos or any solos by great musicians for that matter. In Puerto Rico they like the old school legends, El Gran Combo and the Sonora Ponceña,and the silky vocalists like Gilberto Santarosa and Hector LaVoe. In Cuba the recent growth of Timba has brought in new artists like Los Van Van and Bamboleo. Yet they still have the Charanga bands like Orquesta Aragon,Tipica 73. While Miami follows the Cuban path, they also embrace the more pop sound of Willi Chirino, Gloria Estefan and the syrup sweet voices of Eddie Santiago, Marc Anthony, Frankie Ruiz. And who doesn’t love Oscar D’Leon, El Gran Combo, and Celia Cruz. Since everyone will hear a mix of superstar music from the DJs. even if a band is only one playing style, we usually hear some of each. And since LA and Florida are such a melting pot of Central and South Americans, we dance to everybody!
Which is better Vanilla or Strawberry? (I used to ask Chocolate, but that is a loaded question.) It is a preference. Here is an explanation I hope explains it:
- All Salsa music has 8 BEATS.
- All Salsa styles have SIX STEPS.
- The differences are which way you start, AND
- Which beat you BREAK on (on 1, on2, or on 3).
- Which instrument you are listening to (The Bass or the Conga/Tumbao).
- If you are stepping forward or stepping side on a beat- “does it feel BETTER?”
- Then if you are dancing on 1,2,3 5,6,7, how can it possibly FEEL better whether you are moving side or forward on 1?
- The only style that has CLAVE hits on both of the BREAKS is “on 3 dancing”, which is why so many natural untrained dancers do that unconciously.
Here are a really very detailed couple of clips explaining the music and dance style comparisons:
The Truth About Salsa On 2
The Truth About Salsa On 2
Wow! I am really happy that someone with musical training really understands the difference between dancing to the bass or the conga. I really commend the way LaEpoca has approached this. Respectfully but with facts and acceptance of all styles of Salsa. The top video at left may seem confusing at first but trust me, if you watch both you’ll understand salsa in a way you never have before. It may be over the head of beginners but if you are a beginner, you’ll get to hear terms as Tumbao, Clave, Son Montuno, Power 2, NY 2, Mambo. While I have heard many on YouTube that try to explain On 2 , more often than not there is no fundamental explanation of of the upbeat.
To My Ballroom Friends
- Reality Check: Have you ever wondered why OLD people in a Salsa club can dance 3-4 hours straight of fast Salsa but anything over 2.5 minutes in a Ballroom dance and everyone is bitching about how fast and how long the songs are (typically 4.5-6 minutes). If you are still teaching Forward Break Back Break “Salsa”. Trust me It’s not the music nor is it the dance. Having owned a ginormus Salsa club for 10 years and having trained with Masters in most of the different “styles” of Salsa I can tell you no one but Beginner Ballroom dancers do what you teach. I once asked 15x World Latin Champion Donnie Burns ‘Why of all the dances that were such world wide phenomenon such as Mambo and Cha Cha did they leave out Mambo and choose Paso Doble & Jive?’ Donnie’s answer: “You know Enio, if we ever got ahold of it, I’m not sure you’d like what we’d do to it…” While I regularly do a several hour lecture on the differences between Street Salsa and Ballroom Salsa, I’ll give you three clues to what you are missing:
- Watch the videos above, All but the Ballroom Salsa one have ONE thing in common that you DON”T do.
- Stop and Go driving uses much more energy as opposed to a pendulum which never STOPS in the middle.
- If we think of Salsa as Quick Quick Slow, would you ever teach someone to take the BIG step on the QUICK from a standing stop?
Great Music to Practice To
How Fast is Fast?
Speed of any dance is measured in BEATS per minute. dances such as Nightclub 2 Step range from the low 60s through Shag or Lindy into the 300s. Salsa starts at 150 and tops out at 240. Typically Salsa is played in clubs between 185 and 215. Points to note- The human can crank out 9 steps per second (Think of a kid throwing a standing temper tantrum) Multiply that times 6o seconds and the human can attain 540 beats/minute. Now since we are dancing a combination of quicks and slow (out of 8 beats we are stepping on 6) So you are effectively dancing 75% of the speed of any music. Now the bigger the step the slower you go. The more you change directions the more energy you expend. Therefore to be able to handle faster music maintaining a flow by curving the energy instead of STOPPING the movement. In this manner you are more efficient and expend less energy. In Merengue you are stepping on EVERY beat, In Bachata 6 out of 8, Cha Cha Cha 10 steps over 8 beats. So while Cha Cha is played at 110-125 BPM, dancing a cha cha at 125 feels crazy fast while a Salsa at 160 feels really slow.
On 1 On 2 Compared
This is more rant than anything… Asking a partner “Do you dance on 1 or on 2?” STOP IT! Just stop it! First its a signal of ignorance. A) What kind of music is playing? Once had an oldtime NY dancer complained “This is a terrible Mambo!” I replied- “That’s because this is a SALSA!” She sneered… I should have been more precise, the band was playing Salsa Romantica flavored music not old school jazz tinged Mambo. B) Girls that ask that question are so determined to break on a particular beat that they become much harder to lead . Guys that ask that question are usually off by the end of the first musical phrase and end up breaking on every beat but 2. C) Mambo 2, NY 2??? In Mambo 2 you are stepping 234,678. In Eddie Torres NY2 you are stepping on 123, 567. (Thirty years ago we called that NY ON 1); D) Preferences- You like Chocolate I like vanilla. No problem there. But having learned all of the styles on the left panel, I can assure you stepping SIDE on 1 or FORWARD on 1 cannot feel inherently better. Telling me that the break falls on the clave is another weak argument as of all the styles, only in the ON 3 style does the clave hit on both forward and back breaks. None of them are wrong, they are like tools in a toolbox. Just like you can have a flat screwdriver and a phillips screwdriver they each serve a different purpose. It’s a choice better decided by the music. Finally if you go to a Cadillac dealer, they tell you a Cadillac is better than a Mercedes and vice versa. If you go to Car Max they let you chose what you want. The music is the same way. Does your teacher have a preference? Fine! But are they telling you one is superior? I’d look around for another teacher…