Salsa Dancing – Understanding the Different Styles

1: L.A. StyleThe LA style salsa has been developed in Los Angeles by the Vazquez bothers. It is a very linear form of dancing that incorporates the contemporary mambo basics (forward and backward movement) with a variation of the men breaking forward on count ‘1’. This type of dancing is known for its flashy moves and the dramatic movements with an extensive use of various dips, drops and tricks which are executed by the guys. Most of the movements in this dance pattern are created from cross body lead variations and footwork patterns. This creates a complicated set of speedy and jazzy footwork moves. The LA style of salsa incorporates many other forms of dancing, including the hip-hop and the jazz. This makes it very difficult for the dancers to perform, but makes a feast to the eye of the people watching it. It has very close resemblance to the New York style of salsa, which explains their incredibly diverse collection of moves, but they have their differences in their approach to the ebb, the styling and their flow of movement. If we take a close look at their way of dancing from an external window, we can easily point out the differences in their dancing forms. The New York style of salsa is composed of a more elegant and smoother look and feel for the dance, whereas the LA style of salsa dancing requires the dancers to give an incredible display of explosive tricks which would catch one’s attention at the split of a second. The execution of the movements is highly crisp and sharp with a vigorous appeal. The most distinctive feature of he LA style of Salsa is its quest for including the most difficult acrobatics within the dance and the outstanding amount of power the dancers denote to their performances on the stage.2: New York StyleThe LA style and the New York style of Salsa are very closely linked to each other as they both share the Mambo basics and are both linear in execution. But unlike its counterpart, the New York style of Salsa has earned a reputation for being danced on the second beat of music, ‘on 2’, whereas there are many New Yorkers who still dance on 1. This type of Salsa is known for its more relaxed and elegant way of dancing. This incorporates cross body turning patterns as well as a complicated set of foot-works which are known for being smooth and controlled. These with some intricate technical movements, make the dance look more elegant, graceful and flowing. The etiquette of this type of dancing forces the dancers to remain in their slots and don’t move around the whole dance floor with a lot of spins and styling. The New York type of Salsa puts greater emphasis on performance that will shine out from others, including their partners. This introduces situations, where the dancers do separate from their partners and dance solo for some amount of time. There are mainly two types of variations of new York type of salsa which are the Contemporary Mambo (or the Eddie Torres Style) and the Palladium style. The Eddie Torres style of new York Salsa was popularized by Eddie Torres who is also known as the “Mambo King”. This form of dancing is recognized by its continuous and smooth body movements and change of feet at the non-weight changing counts of ‘4’ and ‘8’. Unlike the Eddie Torres Style, the Palladium style of Salsa is more like the Mambo style of the 1950’s where the non-weight changing occurs at the counts of ‘1’ and ‘5’. This minor difference in the counts may not look too much to you, but can drastically change the visual dynamics for someone dancing Salsa. The New York style tends to have a lot of variations, compared to other forms of dancing, in its interpretations and explanation of the basic steps. As this type of dancing is very compact, it needs lesser space compared to other forms of dancing, thus making it an ideal style of dancing on busy floors.3: Cuban StyleThe Cuban style of Salsa which is also known as the Casino style, has its origins from Cuba. Many Cubans consider Casino to be a part of their social and cultural lifestyle, thus making dancing casino an expression for their popular social culture. They have dedicated a lot of popular music for the Cuban Style Salsa. The term Casino comes from the dance halls “Casino Deportivos”, where the white Cubans used to meet and dance during the mid 20th centuries. The Casino has its origins from the partner dance of Cuban Son, which has been fused with partner figures and turns from the North American Jive. The Casino style Salsa is characterized by the Afro Cuban style body movements which uses full body isolation and frequent hip movements. The hip movement is highly noticeable due to the emphasized pumping of the knees. The Cuban style Salsa does not have a lot of fast spins and basically depends upon the circular movements of the dancers around each other. They tend to have very simple footworks, but have a highly complex arm work which requires the follower to have highly flexible arms. Having similarities with the Son, Danzon and the Cha Cha Cha, the Cuban style Salsa is traditionally danced as a “Contratiempo”. In this method of dancing, the 1st and 5th beats in the clave pattern are ignored but the 4th and 8th beats are heavily emphasized while dancing. In this manner, the dancers don’t have to follow to the beats, and can have their own special contribution to the dance using the polyrhythmic pattern of the music. The dance has its life, not from the mechanical technique that can be taught in a class, but from the understanding and use of the Afro-Cuban culture and the vocabulary of the Casino dance. The same way in which a singer quotes other older songs in their own songs, a Casino dancer will frequently use other dances, movements, gestures and folklore passages and try to improvise upon them. The Casino dancers try to improvise by including extracts from the dances for African deities, the Rumba, and other popular dances like the Danzon and the Cha Cha Cha.4: Rueda de CasinoDuring the 1950’s, a group dance by Guaracheros de Regla, named Rueda de Casino, or Casino Rueda, or simply known as Rueda, became highly popular in Havana, Cuba. The name of the dance refers to the style of dancing involved which includes the complicated turns and steps involved in the dancing. In this form of dance, a lot of couples dance in a circle, whereas a dancer, who is designated as the caller, performs hand movements, signalling which moves to be executed, and the corresponding move is executed by all the couples simultaneously. The dancing couples move around in a circle, with leaders rapidly exchanging partners and performing numerous complicated moves in synchronization, all to the beats of the salsa music. Every move has a name and is communicated to the dancing couples with hand signals from the caller. The calls are sometimes made in extreme quick successions, creating a very dynamic atmosphere for the dancers to perform. One of the most noteworthy features of the Rueda de Casino form of Salsa is that it can hold as many numbers of dancers as possible that can be accommodated within the available space. It can be performed with two couples as well as multiple tens of couples. Sometimes, the dancers even create multiple number of circles to dance in. The Rueda de Casino form of Salsa creates a whole new definition of Group Dynamics. It creates a unique level of awareness and understanding between the dancers, which is required to make the dance group look stylish and have a smooth flow, which will be enjoyable for both the dancers as well as the viewers. The dancers have to open up their peripheral vision to know what the other dancers are doing and perform accordingly. In this way, the dancers start coordinating with the other dancers in perfect timing and style to make the Rueda de Casino work. This form of dancing also includes partner switching, which is very tricky to execute, but makes it exciting to watch. One of the benefits of learning La Rueda de Casino, is that the moves learned in Rueda can also be executed with only one partner, thus adding it to the dancer’s repertoire of various moves.

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