What kind of salsa do you dance? – Intro to Latin American Salsa Styles

Last week, we explored the North American styles of salsa. Today, let’s talk about some of the Latin American styles. These are a rarer sight in Ottawa, but we love them all the same, and hope to be able to introduce our students to them over time!

Rueda de Casino
Rueda is not a staple of the Ottawa scene, but every now and then, you’ll find a rueda group being formed at socials. Rueda originated from Havana, Cuba in the late 1950s/early 1960s and was started by the group Guaracheros de Regla, a carnival band. It is danced by a number of pairs of dancers in a circle, with one “caller” calling the moves out to the group. The moves may be to execute a pattern, to change the size/shape of the circle, or to switch partners. This creates a much different dynamic than dancing with only one partner, as it requires the cooperation and cohesiveness of the entire group. (Disclaimer from Jeff: While I have not tried Rueda, I’ve been told that it’s a lot of fun!)

Straight out of Santiago, Cuba, here’s a taste of what rueda is like! Love the team spirit!

Cuban Style
Cuban Style is the most common Latin American salsa style you’ll encounter in Ottawa, though it is still quite rare to see these dancers in action. Cuban style salsa is considered to be the closest to the “original form”, and can be traced to the Afro-cuban Són. This style of salsa focuses primarily on turning, moving in circles, and body movements, instead of spinning your partner and executing complicated patterns (something found in both New York and L.A. salsa styles). Cuban style salsa also has a big focus on individual movement, enjoying the music, and being creative with your dancing.

(Jeff’s personal reflection: Due to the differences between North and Latin American salsa, many Cuban style dancers finds it frustrating to dance with a North American salsa dancer; and understandably, vice versa. In my time dancing both in Ottawa and Vancouver, I have seen many Latin American visitors coming out to social events, and leaving confused and deflated. It should be emphasized that regardless of your style, it is important for us to respect one another as dancers, and learn from one another.)

And round and round we go! Cuban style represent!

Cali/Colombian style
Also known as Colombian salsa, this style of salsa originates from the Colombian city of Cali. This style of salsa is strongly influenced by dances from the Caribbean, including Pachanga and Boogaloo. The signature of this style of salsa is a lesser shifting in body weight; instead, dancers will keep their upper body still and relaxed, while doing extremely fast and complex skips and kicks with their feet! Another major difference between this style and all other styles is that there are no cross-body leads.

Set the dancefloor on fire with Cali/Colombian style!

A final word on salsa styles
What we hope you’ll take from this is that salsa dancing comes in many flavours, and we are only a drop in the pond! Once you’re comfortable dancing one style, I’d highly recommend you to look into expanding your range into other salsa styles as you continue on your dancing journey, so you can find the style (or mix of styles) that suits you the best!


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