Saturday, December 3, 2011
The Origins of Salsa Dancing
By Jenny Bailey
Although salsa dancing originated in Cuba, it is not only a Cuban dance. Salsa actually takes its inspiration from several other dances. These include danzon, an English and French style of country dancing that was introduced by the French that fled Haiti, African rhumbas, flavora, a partner dance where partners move to the beat of the clave and finally Son, a Cuban dance which essentially mixes Spanish troubadours with African rhumbas. If all this sounds quite complicated then that’s because it is! Salsa is one of the hardest dances to define and many Puerto Ricans will argue that it was actually their country that invented it.
Salsa features a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music, making it similar to the mambo. Although both dance forms have several moves in common, the mambo is a forward and backward dance, while much of the emphasis in salsa is on sideways moves.
One can experience salsa in many Caribbean and Central American countries and all have their own variations of the dance. Countries like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Colombia took salsa bands to Mexico City, which at the time was producing lots of famous films by directors such as Perez Prado. Shortly afterwards, New York became interested in the movement and the term salsa was coined. Americans started using the name to describe any dance that was Hispanic in origin, and suddenly dances including the cha cha cha and the merengue were being described as salsa. The phrase became a catch-all to describe dances that were essentially blends of other Hispanic dances.
Nowadays the salsa most people will dance to in town halls up and down the country is more clearly defined. The bass of the music will be a Son and you’ll also hear some guarancha and cumbia in there. Salsa dancing still varies a lot depending on the location. In America and the UK, where people prefer dancing on the second beat, extra percussion has been added to Colombian songs so that participants can dance to the beat of the song, rather like a mambo.
Salsa is a dance that not only has various different origins, but it also incorporates different blends of music and dance. A salsa dancer from Puerto Rico would find it hard to dance the salsa in an American dance hall. Everyone is accustomed to their own style of salsa and this is one dance where all the different varieties should be cherished.
If you want to experience salsa for yourself then why not have a look at some of the salsa experience days offered by gift experience experts, Red Letter Days.