Unlike many other popular ballroom and Latin dances, the history and evolution of Salsa is not as easy to summarize.
Salsa is rooted in a subset of Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, and its variations have evolved over the decades as influential musicians, dance instructors, troupes and formation teams have modified patterns, styles, timing and techniques.
In later decades of the 20th century, Salsa gradually became the dance of choice for many of the up-tempo tunes produced by some of the most popular Latin Jazz bands.
While early forms of Salsa are usually associated with Cuba, several countries made significant contributions to the dance, including Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
The term “Salsa” can be traced back to 1933 and the bands of master Cuban musician and composer Ignacio Pinerio. In the late 30s and early 40s the style of music traveled to Mexico and up to New York. During the late 60s, this "spicy" Latin music (thus, the word "Salsa") became increasingly popular. With record labels and radio stations adding Latin formats, Salsa spread quickly to the West Coast.
Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles became known as "hot spots" with packed nightclubs featuring Salsa music and dancing. Despite its historic roots—and certain similarities to Mambo, a related dance popular since the 1940s—Salsa was referred to as a "new" dance craze in the 1980s. In reality, what was "new" was a huge surge in its popularity. Unlike the temporary dance crazes from the 20th century, this dance was destined to continue going strong, both in and out of Ballroom studios.
Today’s avid Salsa dancers are frequently part of an informal subculture in the dance community, a group that seemingly eats, sleeps and breathes the Salsa beat. They may enjoy other dances as well–particularly Cha Cha and Merengue.
But don't be surprised if you find more advanced dancers practicing multiple spins, complex patterns, dips, and solo "shine" steps in nightclubs or dance studios as often as six or seven nights a week.
The hypnotic music combined with the sudden Salsa moves and sharp turns can become captivating. When it comes to motivating dancers, few musical forms equal the excitement of skilled musicians working with intricate rhythms, syncopations and improvisations.
Salsa is classified in many ballrooms as a "club" dance, and for a good reason. It is associated with a sociable group of dancers who visit nightclubs known for live Latin bands. People who gravitate to this dance thrive on energized workouts and venues filled with a wide range of age groups, cultures, backgrounds and occupations. But all the dancers on the floor definitely have one thing in common: an enduring passion for Salsa.
Hope to see you on the dance floor!
Cheryl Burke Dance Studios are located in two California locations: Mountain View and Laguna Niguel. For more information, see cherylburkedance.com and click on the studio "Contact Us" or the studio Facebook pages.
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