- Claude Conyers
A syncretic genre of Latin ballroom dance. Like the salsa music to which it is performed, salsa dance is a blend of forms from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Spanish-speaking nations and territories. As a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, it contains elements of Cuban són, guaguancó, rumba, boogaloo, pachanga, guaracha, and bomba. Salsa is usually danced by couples, but it is also recognized in solo forms, as a line dance known as suelta (“released,” i.e., individual, not partnered), and as a group dance known as rueda de casino (“casino wheel”) in which groups of couples exchange partners in a circle. As a couple dance, it can be improvised or performed as a set routine.
Salsa is similar to mambo in that both are based on a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music, but whereas mambo moves generally forward and back, salsa tends to move sideways and to involve more turning steps. Each salsa step involves a weight change, during which the upper body remains calm and level, almost unaffected. Each change of weight, however, causes the hips to move and swivel from side to side, the famous “Cuban hip movement.” Arms are used to communicate the lead in either open or closed position. In open position the two dancers hold one or both hands, especially for moves that involve turns; in closed position, the leader puts his right hand on his partner’s back, while she puts her left hand on his shoulder. Most salsa dancing is done to music with a very lively tempo, between 160 and 220 beats per minute, and requires close communication between leader and follower....