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Culture | Salsa

Can you? On Two

IMG_0267Salsa is an Afro-Latino style of dance originating in Cuba in the 1920’s. This type of dance evolved from the Afro-Cuban són which fuses African rhythms, Spanish guitar, percussion instruments of Bantu, Ararà origin with elements of Rumba and Clave. Every aspect of movement of salsa involves complex African percussion based off the Clave rhythm. These movements are common among the Yoruba; Congo tribes of West Africa were used to evoke the old African Gods, unfortunately during the trans-Atlantic slave trade the West Africans were forced to convert to Christianity and forced to use code words to refer to their own Gods when dancing to call forth their blessings.

In 1938 a Cuban composer Orestes López invented a new Danzón called mambo which roughly translates to “conversation with the Gods” a through back to the African origins of dance. A close friend of Orestes named Perez Prado came up with a dance to go with mambo which was featured in some of the nigh-clubs in Havana Cuba, when Perez went on tour in the United States he brought with him the mambo dance. The mambo was an instant hit in the U.S. from hence fourth Perez was dubbed the “Mambo King”. In 1947 in a Club in New York called the palladium allowed all people to come in and enjoy the beautiful music of Cuba during this time is generally considered the “Golden Age” of Mambo.

During this time Mambo had no structured steps matter of fact the early years of mambo one could not tell this dance will one day evolved into present day salsa. It took a Puerto Rican name Eddie Torres the undisputed “Salsa King” to formalize what we now call Salsa. Eddie would go to night clubs like the palladium and watch professionals move to learn how to dance, such pros included at the time Louie Máquina, George Boscones and Freddy Rios. It was Eddie Torres that gave structure to the Mambo or Salsa as it would later be called, the very distinct dance on second beat which is Eddie’s very own invention now more commonly called New York style. The dance on 2 was praised by none other than Tito Puente who describes dancing on 2 as a fusion between the dancers and the beat of the drums.

Salsa has four types of rhythms, with the 3-2 and -2-3 being the most important because keep pace with the Clave instrument which is then followed by 3-2 and 2-3 rhythm. There are many styles to salsa: Colombian or Cali style incorporates diagonal movements and is heavily influenced by cumbia and boogaloo rhythms. Cuban or casino style which moves focus movement on the down beat and has some of the popular moves which is common in the New York or LA style routines. Los Angeles style is the popular version of salsa used in competitions where aerial moves and exotic stunts are performed on beat to the music. New York style is a form of salsa that moves on the second beat and implements many more styling moves for individual dancers and exotic spins moves.

The evolution of this dance with its strong African influences has grown to a very unique system of rhythm, complex spins and steps which parallels the mixture and progress of the Latin culture which is renowned for it. Now get up and go out and SALSA!!!

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