Free salsa lessons & introduction!The name "salsa" correctly describes the flavor of this dance: hot! Danced correctly, there's a lot of shakin', shimmying, and hip action going on. Don't be deterred—you can learn how to achieve all of this action. The basic step of salsa can be accomplished with less than 10 minutes of practice. Also, check out our free online video demonstration for achieving Cuban Motion, an essential element of great salsa dancing.
Salsa Learning Area
A Description of SalsaSalsa is danced by stepping on 3 consecutive beats of music and then pausing for 1 beat, then repeating. The step timing can be thought of as step, step, step, pause; step, step, step, pause. Dance teachers count the step timing as quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow. Each quick consumes one beat of music, each slow consumes two beats of music. Depending on how you hear and feel the music, you may start the dance on any beat of the measure you wish. Most beginners start the dance on the first beat of the measure.
Though salsa is danced at approximately twice the tempo of the Rumba, the two dances share much in common. Salsa and Rumba music are both written in 4/4 time, with four beats to each measure. Two measures of music are required to complete one full basic step. In the music, the heavy beat is the one beat, the first beat of the measure. While the music tempo of rumba is typically 104 beats per minute, the music tempo of salsa is typically 180 to 210 beats per minute.
In both dances three steps are taken during each measure of music. In other words, three steps are taken to four beats of music. Recall that the step timing is counted quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow. Learning to count the music correctly is the first big hurdle for beginners. Students are seldom able to understand the dance fully until they are able to count the music and the step timing correctly. Notice that the cow bell sounds on the first and third beats of each measure.
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The Character of Salsa and the Different Styles of SalsaAn essential character element of salsa is Cuban motion. Cuban motion, especially the hip action, comes, comes mainly from the alternate bending and straightening of the knees. Like the basic for mambo, and for rumba, a full basic of the Salsa can be thought of as having a forward basic, which takes 4 beats of music, and a backward basic, which takes four beats of music. So, eight beats of music are required to complete one full basic. Each forward and backward basic can be considered to contain the following three steps: a break step, a replace step, and a slow step usually taken to second foot position. Most salsa dancers perform a touch step or tap step, not entailing a weight change on the second beat of the two-beat “slow” step. In other words, the tap occurs during the “pause” beat. Thus, this tap step precedes the break step.
The Cumbia style of salsa. Another style of salsa is the cumbia style, popular in South America. In the cumbia style, the full basic has two back breaks rather than a forward break step and a backward break step. The cumbia basic has a side to side feel rather than a forward and back feel. The music for the cumbia style is also distinctive in character.
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Something that confuses the beginner is that three different counting styles can be used. I’ll call these three styles 1) Salsa on one. 2) Ballroom Mambo, and 3) New York club-style mambo on two. In salsa on one, the break step occurs on count one, the first beat of the measure. The replace step occurs on count 2 and the slow step occurs on counts 3 and 4. In Ballroom Mambo, the break step occurs on count 2, the second beat of the measure. The replace step occurs on count 3 and the slow step occurs on counts 4 and 1. In New York Club-Style Mambo on 2, the break step occurs on count 2, the second beat of the measure. The replace step is also the slow step and this step consumes beats 3 and 4.
The most popular way of teaching salsa is with the break step occurring on count one, the first beat of the measure. The replace step occurs on count 2 and the slow step occurs on counts 3 and 4. Most salsa dancers perform a tap step on the second half of the slow step. In other words, the tap step occurs on the fourth beat of the measure. The step timing could now be counted 123 TAP 567 TAP. The tap occurs on count 4 and on count 8. The tap step is optional and notice that this step does not entail a weight change. With the tap step included, we now do something on each beat of the four-beat measure. We step on counts 1,2, and 3 and we tap on count 4. Since steps are taken only on counts 123 and 567, patterns are normally counted out using the number series 123, 567, 123, 567.
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Salsa MusicThe tempo of salsa music is typically 180 to 210 beats per minute.
Click on the link below for helpful examples of both Salsa songs and some CD's which feature great Salsa music.
Salsa Music Examples >>
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History of SalsaThe basic step of salsa dancing probably derives from the Rumba, often called the grandfather of the Latin dances. The Rumba originates from Cuba and it was first seen in the United States around 1920. Salsa dancing as we know it today was mainly developed in the Latin Quarter in New York City. Casino Rueda from Cuba has also had a big influence on the Miami style of salsa.
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Tips & Info
What’s the difference between mambo and salsa?
This depends completely on how each is defined. If we are talking about club style salsa and club style mambo, the only difference is that salsa can be danced on any beat whereas in mambo, the break step is taken on the second beat of the measure. Thus salsa encompasses mambo. In other words, mambo can be thought of as the special case of salsa where the break step is taken on count 2.
If we are talking about salsa and ballroom mambo, the differences are larger. Ballroom training encourages precise and sharp movement with sudden stops and fast changes of direction. In addition, big arm lines are used in ballroom figures. Ballroom figures normally have precise geometries and usually move in linear or lateral directions. In contrast, salsa is more relaxed, more flowing, and the patterns are more circular. Big arm lines are not used in club style salsa dancing.
Advice & important points to remember when dancing the Salsa
A final note about learning to dance Salsa