Just like salsa music has many distinct styles, salsa dancing can also vary in style from place to place and dancer to dancer. In this blog series, we will go over the different styles of salsa around the world; let’s start with the North American styles, since they are closest to the way we dance in the Ottawa region.
New York Style Salsa
New York style salsa was created in the 1960s, around the same time salsa music started to become popular in the United States. It is also here that we truly begin to differentiate between North American and Latin American dance styles; North American salsa, due to its ballroom influences, is danced in a line (linear), while the salsa styles of central and South America (such as Cuban style, Rueda, etc) are danced in a circular pattern. New York style salsa emphasizes on shines, harmony with the music, and connection between partners. New York style salsa is also danced “on 2”.
Below are a few scenes from an improvisational contest (also known as “Jack and Jill”) showcasing New York style salsa at Club Picasso Italy.
L.A. Style Salsa
It is presumed that L.A. style salsa was developed either at the same time as New York, or shortly afterwards. Like New York style, L.A. style is also danced in a linear pattern, but there are two key differences that make L.A. style salsa special; first, L.A. style is all about theatricality and bold, dramatic styling – lifts, tricks and even stunts and aerial acrobatics are often used (things that you’re likely to associate more with the performance side of salsa than the social dance side). Secondly, L.A. style is danced “on 1”, where the lead takes his left foot forward on beat 1, and at the same time the follower takes her right foot back.
As an example, here is a video from the 2011 World Latin Dance Cup semi-finals with Alfonso Caldera (one of Jeff’s old teachers) and Jessica Shatzko. This is a good example of the L.A. style flare. Notice the very exaggerated styling, and numerous kicks and acrobatics!
So what in the world am I dancing?!
At Azúcar! Latin Dance Company, we teach our students the most common style of salsa danced in Ottawa: New York style, On 1. This is also the most common style in many other places I’ve danced at: Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec. This style has also become the norm in many other places across the world.
We are also hoping to offer a salsa on 2 workshop in the near future, as well as special workshops from guest instructors for many other salsa styles, including Cuban, L.A., and more!
Next week, we’ll talk about the different Latin American salsa styles. In the meantime, if there’s an aspect of salsa music, culture or history that you’re curious about, leave a comment below!