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Posted by Max: 

So many Styles of Salsa, so little time!

Which Style of Salsa should I learn?

If you have been learning to dance Salsa for a few weeks or a few months, you may wonder what is a Style of Salsa or have questions like: What style am I learning? Is this the “best style”? Should I be learning more than one style? I thought a brief post about this might be helpful.

Silvia and I started out Salsa y Sol teaching LA or Los Angeles Style and we did this for several years in Preston Candover and Winchester. We loved it, and still do! This dance is also known as an “On 1” style, because we “break” or change direction of travel on the first beat of the music. So you step forward as leader on the 1 and immediately change direction to return to where you started from. As a follower, you likewise step back on the 1 of the music and immediately change direction, or “break” too.

So LA Salsa is On 1, and it is also a “slotted dance”. This means we don’t generally move much from where we are on the floor  and we dance along a line or slot. Generally the follower goes from one end of the slot to the other, whenever the leader gets out of the way, while he remains more or less in the middle of the line of travel. Is this your “ideal style”? It is generally very easy to get going as a Salsa beginner and get to Improver level. However once you move on to Intermediate it can get rather challenging to be able to elevate the dance level to Advanced.

Is Cuban Style Salsa also On 1? Indeed it is! We step on the 1st beat of the music and immediately change direction, thus “breaking” on 1. However dancers move around each other in a less linear fashion, more as in a circle. Whereas LA Style Salsa dancers try to face one of two opposite walls in the dance hall at all times (never a corner!) Cuban Style dancers don’t care which way they end up facing at the end of a dance pattern. Cuban Style Salsa may be a little harder to master at Beginner level, however once you are past Improver level you may find that it is does not increase exponentially in difficulty. Socially it is one of the most “inclusive” of Salsa styles, especially as it has Rueda de Casino as a feature, where everyone dances together in a circle. Lots of fun!

What about the NY, or New York On2 style of Salsa? Silvia and I have also taught this style in our classes and love it too! It shares some of the characteristics of LA and Cuban styles, however in the main it is radically different from both of them. NY Style, also known as Eddie Torres Style from its major proponent, is linear or danced in a slot, however it does at times look circular in movement, as the dancers are more likely to trade places with each other, rather than the leader remaining more or less static in the middle of the slot.

The main difference with NY On2 is that dancers “break” on the second beat in the music bar, or change direction after the second step in a basic pattern. If you are an On 1 dancer, this may be harder than expected to master! Muscle memory and rhythm mastery takes time to develop!

So which style of Salsa is the “best” one to learn? There is no such thing as “best style”, each of them (and others not discussed here, like Colombian Salsa) have their own characteristics and all of us as individuals have to experience them to know how much we enjoy dancing a particular Salsa style. 

We are currently teaching Cuban Style Salsa in Winchester and find this is one of the most popular and inclusive of styles world wide. It has been around for decades and you shouldn’t struggle to find a venue to dance Cuban Salsa wherever you may be in the world.

If you have started to dance in a particular style of Salsa, it may be an idea to wait a while before trying a different style, so as not to be “confused” by the differences. Wait until your muscle memory has internalised one style before trying another.

Having said that, ballroom dancers are doing that all the time: learning several dances concurrently. Naturally it takes a lot longer to master several dances being learned at the same time. So, I wouldn’t like to try and set an absolute principle here, we are all individuals as to what works for us!

Enjoy your Salsa dancing, and hope to see you on the dance floor!


Salsa y Sol Dance & Yoga, Winchester


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