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Different Salsa Dancing Styles

The most popular Salsa Dancing Styles include Colombian / Cali style, Miami-style Casino, Cuban “Casino” style, Los Angeles style, Rueda de Casino and New York style.  The basic Salsa steps are Back Break Back, Back Break Right, Back Break Left, Check Forward Right, Check Forward Left, Side Step Right, Side Step Left, Slide Step Left, Spot Turn, Enchilada, Cross Body Lead, Pick The Girl Up, Brush hair, etc.

salsa dancing basics

SalsaDancingCourses™ and the FREE Bonuses + One-On-One Coaching + Instant Access-SALSACLASS

As you can see in the video tutorial it looks a lot easier when you see them going through the basic steps of the Salsa.  Like any dancing it requires practice until it becomes second nature and you won’t have to be so focused on the dance steps or your feet.  I took up dancing to build my confidence, then I realized that it was a great way to exercise and keep in shape at the same time enjoying myself and having fun.

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L.A. Style Salsa Dancing

L.A. Style Salsa dancing has become popular over the years, the dance is so well loved that different regions started to have their own distinctive styles. L.A. Style  Salsa, as the name implies, is from Los Angeles, California.  It is very much influenced by Latin Ballroom, Swing, Mambo and Argentine Tango. This style of salsa dancing incorporates many other types of dance including jazz, hip hop and ballroom. It is challenging for the dancers and very entertaining for those watching from the sidelines. What can be noticed most in L.A. Style salsa is the presence of stunts, lifts and fancy aerial work. It is a very sensually elegant dance that involves a lot of theatrics, aerobics and suave footwork or “shines”.

L.A. Salsa Dancing Free-Styles

The L.A. “shines” are a series of spontaneous of seemingly free-style steps that combine complex footwork and intricate hand and body movements. During “shines” the couple move apart from each other in the middle of a dance to start their individual “shines”. This is in the same principle as the Cuban “despelote” that allows dancers to express their individuality. Shines are most often used where the music breaks into a fast, pulsating conga beat!

The L.A. Style Salsa is usually danced “On 1″ in the cross-body lead, although forward–backward basic salsa steps are also used. the leader steps forward on 1, steps to the right on 2-3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left), leaving the slot open. In this move the man leads the woman across his body in a linear motion, very different from the circular motion seen in the Cuban Salsa style. Most of the dance moves however are still very much influenced by the Cuban and New York Salsa Dancing movements.

L.A. Salsa Dancing Competitions

The style was popularized by well known salsa dancers like the Salsa Brava dance troupe, Vasque brothers, Albert Torres, Joe Cassini, Laura Canellias and Josie Neglia, among others. Part of its popularity is also credited to the broadcast of Mayan World Salsa Championships, World Salsa Congress and Bacardi Festivals, all yearly competitions that attracts many salsa Dancing competitors and enthusiasts.

Cuban Style Salsa Dancing

Cuban Salsa Dancing, also referred to as Casino Salsa Dancing, more than a dance it is an expression of Cuban passion, music, culture and history.  This salsa style is popular not just in it’s home country but all over Latin America, Europe and the world. Dancing Casino Salsa is a very social event, tracing it’s roots from Cuban dance halls where most of the salsa dancing was done in the middle of the 20th century. The term casino itself, is Spanish for dance hall.

The music used for Cuban salsa is the Cuban Son, with a more upbeat tempo and influenced by Afro-Cuban Rumba body movements and rhythm. Cuban salsa moves are done to the the feel of the music in the spirit of fun, playfulness and teasing movements. The dance has three points, with the partners making a circular motion, couples facing each other with intricate upper body movements, very different from Cali-Style Salsa Dancing.

Cuban Salsa Dancing Distinction

Distinct to Cuban Salsa Dancing is the basic salsa step called “Guapea” meaning to “chill out”. During the “guapea” the male lead breaks on his left foot, this is done by stepping forward quickly and rocking back. Most salsa styles have male leads only places the left foot forward. In a partner dance this is done in a together and apart movement as opposed to the usual forward and back step.  Another distinction of Cuban Salsa is the posture, casineros dance with bent knees with the body leaning forward. There are a lot of hip, shoulder and hand movements showing off their dancing prowess.

Machismo as well as seduction is very much displayed in this salsa style. During the dance, the male and female dancers dance very close to each other except when they are doing a “despelote” where they each perform an intricate solo dance, teasing each other with hip and shoulder gyrations and muscle isolations, without actually touching each other.

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Cuban Salsa Dancing Solo Or Trio

Cuban Style:Salsa Dancing is usually a partner dance or “parejas”,  between a male and a female although it can also be danced solo or “Suelta” as often practised by singers. It is also done in “trios” and “cuartetos de casino” where there is one lead male dancing with 2 or three female. ”Casino de Rueda” (wheel) is done in large groups where dancers form circles, couples often exchange partners and there is a designated leader who calls out the salsa steps.

Cali-Style Salsa Dancing

Cali Style Salsa Dancing or Colombian Salsa Dancing, refers to the salsa style based in Cali, Colombia, it is known as the World’s Salsa Capital. Cali Style Salsa is a fusion of traditional Colombian based, with influences of Cumbia, Boogaloo, Pachanga and a dash of old school Mambo. The result is a spectacular style with amazing footwork very different from the New York and Cuban Styles of Salsa. Cali Style pays more attention on intricate footwork and rhythm rather than the emphasis on spins and turns.

Cali-Style Salsa Dancing, dance very close to each other and move from side to side in a circular pattern. There is very little forward and backward movement, this style often has dancers going back to center or back to either site. The main steps involved are “atras” or backward step and ”Diagonal” or breaking backwards diagonally instead of moving forwards and backwards as seen in other styles. There is very little turning, although a little simple spinning is included but it is mostly done by the female dancer.

Salsa Dancing Uses Mainly Footwork

With Cali-Style Salsa Dancing the upper body is kept relatively still, relaxed and poised while the feet move in a series of fancy footwork. Footwork often include quick rapid steps and skipping motion. It is also often referred to as the “On One Style”, the dancers break, or makes a step change, mostly on the first count or On1, with short measures of “4″ instead of full “8″ counts. On the fourth beat there is usually a “feat” or hand clapping involved.

Salsa Dancing Street Style

Cali-Style salsa dancing is also referred to as street-dancing, it is often seen in soltecas or nightclubs as well as formal ballroom dancing competitions. It is more flamboyant and faster than most salsa dancing styles. Although it is very much popular, learning cali-style salsa dancing is very rarely thought in dance studios or offered in classes, most of the dance moves are passed on from generation to generation or learned in dance clubs.

Basic Salsa Dancing Steps

Salsa dancing is very open to different interpretations and revisions since it traces its origins from free style dancing in the streets of Cuba. There are however some basic steps that you need to learn as you turn and shimmie through the dance floor.  The basic steps slightly differ for men and women, for beginners, it’s best to do this without a partner at first. One of the steps is called a “break,” which involves a change in direction, meaning you step forward and you “rock” back on your feet. Apart from the feet movements, timing them to the beat of the music is very important. Here’s a basic diagram;

The salsa music typically has 8 beats, meaning you need to count to eight when you do the steps. For the basic salsa step, your feet need to move on beats 1,2, and 3, pause on 4, and move again on 5,6, and 7. You pause on 8. It should be something like this, 1-2-3-pause, 5-6-7-pause. A bit tricky? Don’t sweat it, I’ll explain in detail in a bit.

Basic Salsa Dancing Steps For Men

  1. On the first beat, step forward with your left foot  to begin the basic Salsa Dancing steps.
  2. On the second beat, move your right foot in place, sort of rocking it and shifting your weight to it.
  3. For the third beat, step backward with your left foot back beside your right. Pause on the fourth beat. You are finished with the first part.
  4. For the second part, step backward with your right foot on the fifth beat.
  5. Step in place with your left foot on the sixth beat, rocking it and putting your weight on it. Step forward with your right foot. Pause on the eight beat with feet together. You are ready to begin with the left foot again.

Basic Salsa Dancing Steps For Women

  1. On the first beat, step backward with your right foot  to begin the basic Salsa Dancing steps.
  2. On the second beat, move your left foot in place, sort of rocking it and shifting your weight to it.
  3. For the third beat, step forward with your right foot back beside your left. Pause on the fourth beat. You are finished with the first part.
  4. For the second part, step forward with your left foot on the fifth beat.
  5. Step in place with your right foot on the sixth beat, rocking it and putting your weight on it. Step backward with your left foot. Pause on the eight beat with feet together. You are ready to begin with the right foot again.

While doing your footwork, keep your arms bent at the elbows and your upper body even, your hands should be about level with your belly button. Do not forget to pause between the 4th and 8th beat. Keep on practising the basic steps until you are able to do it without counting or conscious effort. Once you have mastered the basic salsa steps, you will be well on your way to dance with a partner and try out the different slides and turns.

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