Salsa dancing can be divided into several styles defined
by the geographic region from which they come. Generally,
these styles are identified as L.A. style, New York style,
Cuban and Miami style. Although these are not "official"
styles, most salseros today identify the styles by these four
Refered to as dancing up and down a line rather than in
circles (Circluar Style), the 2 major linear styles are
L.A & New York. These styles are very closely linked.
Both styles use the mambo step as a basic and are very
slotted/linear in execution.
L.A. style is very linear. It uses dips and arm styling.
L.A. style is very flashy incorporating many flips and
dips. L.A. style dancing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure
to dance and is usually danced on 1. The Los Angeles style
uses the contemporary mambo basic as well but typically
executes this step by breaking forward on count "1".
The L.A. and New York styles consist of the same core components
that make up their incredibly diverse repertoire of moves.
The main difference is their approach to styling, the ebb
and flow of movement. For example, if you were looking
into a window at a group of dancers from both L.A. and
New York and could not hear the music to determine the
count you should still be able to ascertain the style of
choice for each dancer. The New York dancers certainly
have a more composed, elegant, and smoother look and feel
for the dance. The women in particular tend to reveal a
sensual quality to express the intricacies of this dance.
Unlike the subtle nuances of the New York style dancers,
the L.A. dancers would perhaps catch your attention first
with their incredible display of explosive and technically
challenging roster of moves. The execution tends to be
crisp and sharp with a vivacious appeal. The L.A. men tend
to really surpass the basic expectations of a good dancer
with jumps, and flips, and splits, and spins, and get the
New York / Mambo Style
New York style is more like Mambo. It makes use of body
waves, free style footwork, shines, rib cage movements
New York has earned a reputation for
dancing on "2" yet there are many New Yorker's
who also dance on "1". There are two variations
of the mambo step danced in New York, the contemporary mambo
(a.k.a. Eddie Torres style) and the Palladium style. The
Eddie Torres style is characterized by a continuous and smooth
body rhythm and passing of the feet where the non-weight
changing counts are on "4" and "8". The
Palladium style is very much like the 1950's Mambo whereby
the non-weight changing counts are on "1" and "5".
Unlike the contemporary style, it can be very staccato (fragmented)
in execution depending on the dancers interpretation and
placement of the feet on counts "4" and "8".
While this definition may seem trivial, it drastically changes
the dynamics of how one dances salsa. The New York style
tends to have the most varied interpretation/ opinion of
the basic step than any other style. Although this is called
New York style, the styles danced in New York dance clubs
are fairly diverse.
Puerto Rican style
This can be danced on the "One" or the "Two"
beat of the music, but it involves a tremendous amount of
very technical footwork.There is more an emphasis on footwork,
than in New York style, however, in recent years this can
be argued by many a Mambo maniacs in Manhattan. In New York
style, there is a strong Latin Hustle influence. The guess
is that in the disco craze of the late 70’s and early
80’s, when Eddie Torres was one of the only instructors
in New York, single-handedly holding the torch of "Mambo
Dance" with Tito Puente, Salsa dancing almost completely
grew extinct to the Hustle dance. Because of the great Hustle
craze of that area, many Hustle dancers incorporated a lot
of their moves into the Mambo style during that slow transitional
period back to Salsa music in the late 80’s and early
90’s. Because Salsa is such a diverse dance, and there
are no real "rules" of style, once you learn any
style of dance, you tend to stick to that style when transitioning
The primary influence in Los Angeles is West Coast Swing
and Latin Ballroom. Many of the showy tricks and Caberet
moves are taken from Swing and Latin Ballroom, which is very
prevalent and highly competitive and influential throughout
the Mid and West Coasts. Unlike Miami, there are not many
Cuban immigrants in Los Angeles, hence the Salsa dance style
is predominantly a hybrid of Swing, Ballroom, and a soft
Puerto Rican style. In New York, however, because of the
high concentration of Puerto Rican immigrants, the Puerto
Rican style is much like that of what is now New York style,
Latin Hustle, or what we call "Mambo On-Two"
The fancy footwork (shines) is really starting to become
very strong in New York because of this influence. It is
almost an even match now, whether they do more shines in
New York than Puerto Rico.
Although the Miami style has its roots in Cuba, it has evolved
into a more refined and technically stronger variation
of the Cuban style. It is also known as Classico Cubano
style or Casino style. The basic step of Miami style salsa
comes with a "tap"
between measures. This "tap & step" is a characteristic
of Miami style salsa and you'll know it when you see it.
Miami style salsa makes use of "ganchos" or arm-hooks,
which is when one elbow is hooked over the partners elbow
to create a kind of arm lock giving the leader leverage to
move his partner via the arm.
Dancers dance in a slot and do many flowing continuous circular
turns. It also makes use of many pretzel- like holds, and
as such, Miami style salsa becomes very intricate and complex-looking
at its most advanced level.
On a social level, very little demand
for technique is placed on the follower in terms of spins,
footwork or dips. In a closed dance hold the basic mambo
step is danced with an option to break on either "1" or "3" depending
on the dancers preference.
The music has determined the style of dancing. The contemporary
faster rhythms of the more popular bands, such as Charanga
Habanarra, and Los Van Van, are taking the style of Salsa
to a more non-partner dance. If there is a tremendous amount
of percussion, the woman can shine with her incredibly
beautiful and rhythmic body movements. In fact, partner
dancing the Cuban style is so restricting to the woman,
that many of the women could not wait to dance solo for
The way Cuban Salseros hold on to the women’s wrists
during the majority of the dance, restricts her from extending
her arm and fingers, and displaying a sexy style of her own.
Cuban style appears to be a very male-dominated "macho"
dance, more so than the New York or Los Angeles style, which
fully displays the woman, and allows her to stylize with
her arms, hips, and head.
"On-Two" dancing to hard-core Cuban music is also
a bit more difficult, although it can be done with a very
well-trained ear. In recent years, I found most New York
dancers don’t particularly enjoy an entire evening
of contemporary Cuban music. They prefer the traditional
Salsa / Mambo music, that is more suited to their style of
The newer sounds of Cuban music emphasize the "One"
beat of the rhythm and the "Three" beats of the
rhythm, much more than the "Two" beat. The rhythms
are also much faster, hence the solo styling done more often
than partnering up. With the opening up of Cuba, and more
and more Cuban music and bands visiting the United States,
dancing on "Two" becoming tougher for the average
dancer to want to learn, unless people still listen to Puerto
Rican style music, and Salsa from Puerto Rico, New York,
and Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see how the style
of dancing in New York will change with more and more Cuban-style
musicians entering the market.
This is a cuban circular style and turn patterns involve
a lot more double hand holds. The complex but spectacular
turn patterns resemble a game of ‘twister’ from
which the leader will emerge, without allowing the viewer
to see how he’s done the ‘Houdini’ act.
It’s very clever, and it’s the role of the
follower to ‘hang on’ keep rhythm and not allow
the leader to ‘trick’ her. Cuban style salsa
also has a lot of solo work which involves rhythmic middle
body movements derived from the old Cuban rumba. These
movements have an afro –Cuban heritage and are also
popular in Mambo.
Although we have observed many different Cuban style dancers
dancing on a variety of beats, it appears most comfortable
within this style to break on the 3. When you listen to Cuban
style salsa, son, songo or Timba (all related to Cuban salsa)
it actually feels entirely natural to break on the 3. This
has to do with the underlying clave rhythm which forms the
basis of most styles of salsa music. The prominent bass encourages
a lot of movement through the centre of the body and it’s
more about rhythmic interpretation through the body than
precision with the feet or strict discipline. It’s
all about the feel of the music and therefore, there appears
to be a fair amount of liberty there as long as you’re
listening to the music. Frequent adjustments are made between
partners to return footwork into sync, in order to do turn
This is a Group Dance originating in Cuba. It
is danced to lively, up-beat salsa music. The couples dance
in a circle executing moves called out by a leader. There
is a constant changing of partners, which makes it a vivid
and joyful spectacle. There are three groups of participants
in every Rueda. The caller, who calls out the names of
the moves that are to be danced, (He may also use hand
signals in a loud club setting together with the call.)
The leaders, usually the men, initiate the execution of
the moves. The followers, usually the ladies, perform the
moves as guided by the leaders.
Colombian Salsa Styles:
Salsa is danced differently all throughout Colombia.
In Cali, it is more "showy", in other, more rural
parts of the country, it is danced more closely and tightly,
with heads touching in some cases. However, the underlying
commonality is that there is no forward and backward motions
of the feet. It is simply what we call "Cumbia"
style, which is feet alternating to the back or to the side.
There are not too many fancy tricks, turns, or spins
in Colombian style - except if you are a professional dancer,
dancing with bands, or competing. There is record on
film that professional Colombian dancers performing incredible
lifts and swinging the girl around the guy's neck, etc.,
however this is not the norm. This is simply for show.
Casual social dancing, Colombian style is much calmer,
closer, where both dancer's bodies are almost completely
touching each other, from head to toe.
No style is definitively better than the other. It's all
really a matter of taste. They are all fun to watch and exciting
to dance. Many salseros take the time to learn all the different
styles and even incorporate their own personal inventions
to create their own style. Salsa has no boundaries so many
of the styles' combinations overlap, blurring the line between
one style and another. The style taught at Dance Connection
is predominantly, but not limited to, Miami/Casino style.
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