Definition Of Dancing Salsa on “2”

“Breaking On 2” –  The New York club style salsa

“Breaking on 2” is taught to be step on 1,2,3,5,6,7 and it is sometimes referred or called “Eddie Torres Style”.  While a few other dancers may step differently, while still calling it “dancing on 2”, the definition used here follows what is taught exclusively by the majority of the New York City area independent salsa dance studios and instructors. This way of dancing salsa is often referred to as “New York’, “club”, “street”, “Latino” or “Eddie Torres” style.   This method is different from ” ballroom”, ” international” and Cuban son montuno styles, and also different than some of what is taught at other New York area studios such as  those who teach to step on 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and those which break on 1, 3 or 4, and those who do not dance in a line or “slot”.

Salsa Music –  Salsa music is played in 4/4 time, and has 4 beats to the measure or bar, and we dance within 2 measures, so we count 8 beats; and loosely say that we “dance to an 8 beat measure or bar”, although technically it is two 4 beat measures.   Many dances, not just salsa, are done within 2 measures, and therefore some people use the terms “musician’s measure” and “dancer’s measure”.  The “musician’s measure” has 4 beats, while the “dancer’s measure” has 8 beats and consists of 2 “musician’s measures”.

The ON 2 Basic Step –  The basic step, the man’s left foot goes back and the woman’s right foot goes forward on the 1st beat of this so-called 8 beat measure or bar.  We step with our feet on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, 6th, and 7th beats of the measure.  We do not step on the 4th and 8th beats.  We actually “break” our movement, in other words we change body direction, on the 2nd and 6th beats of the measure.  We call it “breaking on 2”, or “dancing on 2”, or “bailando en dos”.  This is mambo, danced forward and back, in a line or slot, not side to side or in a circle or square.

The basic step is as follows:
1st beat of the measure –  The man steps back with his left foot.    The woman steps forward with her right foot.

2nd beat of the measure –  The man steps farther back with his right foot = “breaks back on 2” and changes direction, starting to lean forward with his body .   The woman steps farther forward with her left foot = “breaking back on 2” and changes direction, starting to lean back with her body .

3rd beat of the measure –  The man steps in place with his left foot, while his body is moving forward.  The woman steps in place with her right foot, while her body is moving backward.

4th beat of the measure –  No steps.

5th beat of the measure –  The man   steps forward with his right foot, in front of his left foot.  The woman steps backward with her left foot, behind her right foot.

6th beat of the measure –  The man steps farther forward with his left foot = “breaks forward on 6”, and changes direction, starting to lean backward with his body .   The woman steps farther back with her right foot = “breaks back on 6”, and changes direction, starting to lean forward “.

7th beat of the measure –  The man steps in place with his right foot, while his body is moving backward.  The woman steps in place with her left foot, while her body is moving forward.

8th beat of the measure –  No steps.

Technically, as you learn proper timing, it is proper to start the dance in the following way:  You walk onto the dance floor with your partner, set up the standard partner position frame, and then begin on the 6th beat of the measure, with the man stepping forward with his left foot and the woman stepping back with her right.  On the 7th beat, the couple changes direction, with the man rocking back onto his right foot and the woman rocking forward onto her left foot.  They then go right into the basic step pattern which is maintained through the rest of the song:  the man’s left foot goes back and the woman’s right foot goes forward on the 1st beat of the measure, and the pattern continues as described above in detail.  Although this is technically the proper way to start, most New York dancers simply begin on the 1st beat of the measure as described above, sometimes not even setting up the partner position first.

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Courtesy of
salsanewyork.com Salsa Magazine.