Salsa basic Info - Salsa Concepts for beginners

Note: All the information on this page is based on my personal experience in dancing Salsa in different cities in the world.

Page 1 2 Here is what you need to know about the Salsa styles :

The main Salsa styles:

Salsa has its origins in Cuba but it has become so popular that new styles  have emerged at other parts of the world. There are mainly 2 Salsa styles which are danced around the world:
  1. The Cuban style (also known as Casino) - The couple is gearing around each other, there is not a fixed line. There are a lot of "knots" with the hands.
  2. The Los Angeles (L.A) style (In line style) - The couple is staying on an imaginary straight line (very convenient for shows).
Both styles use the same basic steps and the same rhythm and one can relatively easily switch between the styles.

Here is an example of a couple dancing Cuban Style:


(More youtube links to Salsa Cuban style : link1, link2, link3).

And here is an example of Los Angeles Style (In line style) :


(More youtube links to Salsa In line style : link1, link2, link3).

Which Style should I learn, the Cuban style or the L.A style ?

First you should realize, that these two styles are not that different, they are both salsa and danced on the same rhythm. In a salsa club you can see both styles being danced during the same song, although there are songs which are more suited to each of the styles.
Many girls are able to dance both salsa styles and that is because they are frecuently invited to dance by boys from the two styles and so they get the experience of both of them (girls don't need to lead...).
For boys it is more difficult to manage both salsa styles but some can do it. It makes sense to be good in one of them.
The style you will choose to learn will depend a lot on what is being offered in the Salsa school in your town. If both styles are offered, you can begin with one and switch later to the other if it attracts you more.
The Cuban style is more casual and relaxed, the L.A style is more structured and mechanical in the movements. Both styles are beautiful.
For girls, the L.A style is more demanding, because they need to do "Lady Style" and there are also fast spins.

Which Salsa style is more difficult, the Cuban style or the L.A style ?

The L.A style is more difficult. It is more difficult because there are more moves to do in a shorter time, you have to be fast. It includes also fast spins.
Although the L.A style is faster, some may find it easier than the Cuban style because it is more "technical". To dance the Cuban style you better develop a cool attitude, a Cuban one.
In the first classes, both styles are easy because you do basic movements.
With enough practice you can be good at any Salsa style and even dance like a Cuban.

The Basic Salsa Set

What I will tell you now won't mean a lot to you, unless you particpate in a real lesson but here it is:
The basic Salsa set (which repeats itself and is coordinated with the music) is composed of 8 bits. The first 3 bits we do steps, the 4 is a pause without stepping, the 5,6,7 we do steps, the 8 is a pause. That's it, now you know Salsa.

A Rueda

Rueda, (which means a wheel in Spanish) is when  several couples form a circle and dance Salsa while there is a "leader" telling which preset combination to perform.
At the Rueda, the style is the Cuban one.

Rueda video:


(More youtube links to A Rueda : link1, link2, link3).

Shines steps (also referred as footwork)

Salsa is a couple dance, but there are also "Shines" steps in which the couple separates for a while and each perform individual moves. You can practice Shines steps alone, at your home in front of the mirror.

Video with shines steps:


(More youtube links to Shine steps : link1, link2, link3).

The Salsa New York style

Less popular worldwide than the Cuban or L.A styles.
The "New York style ", is danced with the first step on the second bit of the rhythm instead of on the first bit. To the inexperienced dancer it looks exactly like the L.A style.

The Colombian Salsa style

Popular in Colombia and especially in Cali city, the "Salsa capital" of Colombia.
It is characterized with (very) fast movements of the foot, including cha-cha-cha steps.

Video with Salsa Colombian Style:


(More youtube links to Salsa Colombian style : link1, link2, link3).

Other popular dances in the Salsa clubs :

At the Salsa clubs, the DJ sometimes plays non Salsa songs in order to diversify. Salsa is the main dance you should know, after that, you can go for these ones:

Bachata Dance

Bachata is not Salsa but it is very popular in the Salsa clubs. In some clubs Bachata songs are 25% of the playlist.
Bachata is a very beautiful and sensual dance, the rhythm is different from Salsa. It is easier than salsa in some way but it requires practice. If you are advanced, you do a lot of cool body waves with the body.
Look at this video :

(More youtube links to Bachata : link1, link2, link3).

Kizomba

It has become very popular in the last years. A very sexy dance in which the couple is very close. The Kizomba dance has elements of Tango but the music is very modern and beautiful. Most of the songs are in Portuguese.
Don't be intimidated by the following Video, regular people don't dance like that :

(More youtube links to Kizomba : link1, link2, link3).

Merengue Dance

Merengue is easy. Even if you don't know to dance anything, you can do the basic steps of the Merengue. Try to drink some alcohol and you will dance Merengue.

video:

(More youtube links to Merengue : link1, link2, link3).

Cha cha cha Dance

It is like Salsa but with an extra rapid 3 steps (Cha cha cha) in the 4 and 8 bit.

video :

(More youtube links to Cha cha cha : link1, link2, link3).

Types of Salsa clubs

Not all Salsa clubs are the same. They differ within a same city and between countries. The best you can find, will be a Salsa dance club that is dedicated only to Salsa (not a general disco), is operating a few times a week (including in the middle of the week), has a large dance floor and has also a Salsa school attached to the club, in some way . At the opposite scale you can find "Salsa bars" and "salsa restaurants" in which the main business is to make you consume alcohol and food and not to dance. In these salsa bars there can be live salsa shows from time to time (with special fee entrance) and the dance floor is very small (In Colombia there are lot of them). Be aware also that there are places and countries where Salsa dancing is more of a popular activity that is done at the week-end, without taking any lessons and with doing just basic steps (like in Colombia).
In some salsa clubs, the evening begins with salsa music and it turns later to reggaetons and general Latin music as the night progress.
From time to time, at the clubs, there are nice salsa songs which can be hardly danced. If the place is big, it may be divided into several dance floors, where in one there is Salsa music, in the other Bachata etc.
Salsa clubs also differ in the way they charge you : Some of them charge you a fee entrance, others don't charge you anything but they make sure you will consume drinks, other clubs include a free lesson at the beginning of the party.
Note: In south America (Cuba, Colombia and others), there is a lot of Salsa spirit but not a lot of dedicated big salsa clubs with lessons like in Europe or the U.S.

How much time does it take to learn to dance Salsa ?

The short answer is that in a few months you should have enough confidence in order to invite any girl (boy) to dance. In fact, from the very first day you will invite partners to dance but they will probably also be beginners or else they may get impatient, advanced dancers usually prefer to dance with advanced partners.
The time it will take you to learn Salsa will depend on the frequency of your classes and training and also on personal capabilities but don't worry, anyone can learn and improve the dancing even the ones who are sure that they have absolutely "no coordination". I may say that on average, it is only after one to two years that you will feel really good about your dancing.
Also, be aware that there is no limit to the improvement you can do in your dancing, this is not a matter of yes or no, there are many levels of dancing, you can learn endless combinations and even invent ones, you can learn different Salsa styles and also other dances that are played in the Salsa clubs like Bachata. Yes, there is a lot to learn.

Where can I learn to dance Salsa and how can I find clubs of Salsa ?

There is this good international salsa site that is called Salsa power, it lists salsa clubs and schools around the world but it is not always updated. Salsa places are often opening and closing. What you should do is search in google for salsa clubs in the specific city you are interested in, go to one of them and ask information from people who are frequent dancers, not all the information is on the web.
If you want to look at videos with Cuban style salsa variations, look at this excellent youtube source : salsa medianoche.

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