A look at the origin of Salsa

Article by: Jaime Andrés Pretell

It is not only Cuban; nevertheless we must give credit to Cuba for the origin and ancestry of creation. It is here where Contra-Danze (Country Dance) of England/France, later called Danzón, which was brought by the French who fled from Haiti, begins to mix itself with Rhumbas of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú). Add Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats and flavora and a partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave. This syncretism also occurred in smaller degrees and with variations in other countries like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Puerto Rico, among others. Bands of these countries took their music to Mexico City in the era of the famous films of that country (Perez Prado, most famous…). Shortly after, a similar movement to New York occurred. In these two cities, more promotion and syncretism occurred and more commercial music was generated because there was more investment. New York created the term “Salsa”, but it did not create the dance. The term became popular as nickname to refer to a variety of different music, from several countries of Hispanic influence: Rhumba, Són Montuno, Guaracha, Mambo, Cha cha cha, Danzón, Són, Guguanco, Cubop, Guajira, Charanga, Cumbia, Plena, Bomba, Festejo, Merengue, among others. Many of these have maintained their individuality and many were mixed creating “Salsa”. If you are listening to today’s Salsa, you are going to find the base of són, and you are going to hear Cumbia, and you are going to hear Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue, built-in the rhythm of different songs. You will hear many of the old styles somewhere within the modern beats. Salsa varies from site to site. In New York, for example, new instrumentalization and extra percussion were added to some Colombian songs so that New Yorkers – that dance mambo “on the two” – can feel comfortable dancing to the rhythm and beat of the song, because the original arrangement is not one they easily recognize. This is called “finishing,” to enter the local market. This “finish” does not occur because the Colombian does not play Salsa, but it does not play to the rhythm of the Puerto Rican/Post-Cuban Salsa. I say Post-Cuban, because the music of Cuba has evolved towards another new and equally flavorful sound.

Then, as a tree, Salsa has many roots and many branches, but one trunk that unites us all. The important thing is that Salsa is played throughout the Hispanic world and has received influences of many places within it. It is of all of us and it is a sample of our flexibility and evolution. If you think that a single place can take the credit for the existence of Salsa, you are wrong. And if you think that one style of dance is better, imagine that the best dancer of a style, without his partner, goes to dance with whomever he can find, in a club where a different style predominates. He wouldn’t look as good as the locals. Each dancer is accustomed to dance his/her own style. None is better, only different. ¡¡¡Viva la variedad, ¡¡¡Viva la Salsa!!!


Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Each played a large part in its evolution.

Salsa is similar to Mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite different form those of Mambo. Mambo moves generally forward and backward, whereas, Salsa has more of a back charge to back charge feel.


Salsa on “2” or Mambo, is a combination of jazz with Afro-Cuban beat. The Mambo was very popular in the 1940’s, and it has remain popular in New York, parts of the U.S., and in many parts of the world. The Mambo has a wild feeling that explodes on the dance floor when dancers release their emotions to the beat of this dance. The Mambo is recognized mostly by accentuating Latin body movements, arms movements or styling, and shine steps. Mambo Salsa is spreading globally so get your dance shoes and learn it so you can have a blast!!.


Salsa Casino is a combination of rhythms like Guaracha and Son Montuno. Salsa Casino is Miami style salsa. NOTE: Salsa Casino Rueda is originally from Cuba. Salsa Casino Rueda is like square dancing, many couples get together in a circle and they do the same steps as the caller of the rueda calls the steps.


The Merengue was originated in Dominican Republic by african slaves. Merengue has a strong character of hip movement. The exciting rhythm of the merenge inspired dancers to show of their ability to move and shake, the animation of the Merengue comes from having fun and enjoying the dance.

CHA-CHA-CHA also known as GUAJIRA

Originally from Cuba, Cha – Cha is a fun latin dance that was part of the Mambo. Cha-Cha became the rage of the early 1950’s and still popular. Cha – Cha is a dance where you can show your personality. Cha – Cha is fun and easy to learn. Cha-Cha is recognized by accentuating the chasse or triple step. cha,cha,cha.


The Tango Became the romantic rage in the 1920’s. The tango is a dance of drama and sensuality. Tango started in the West Indies and later made it’s ways to Argentina where it has become stylized to its present form.


Bolero is a romantic, sophisticated smooth and sentimental dance. Bolero is the dance of love. The music and the feeling of Bolero enhances a sense of love and romance.


Samba is originally from Brazil. Samba is a versatile dance. There is the Samba Brazileira and the Ballroom Dance Samba.


Rumba is originally from Cuba. Rumba is a dance that accentuates the Cuban motion or hip motion. Rumba is the dance of showmanship.


Foxtrot is a smooth dance that has a feeling of continuity and movement. Foxtrot is a must learn dance, because it provides the dancers to get to know each other.


Waltz begun in Southern Germany in the 17th century. The Waltz gives dancers the chance to learn good balance, and move lightly with ease. In addition, the Waltz enhances good posture.


Viennese Waltz is a smooth dance that is elegant and graceful. The gliding and movements give the dancers the feeling of skating. The Viennese Waltz brings to mind the lovely ladies in their flowing gowns dancing to the sound of Strauss Waltzes.


Disco Hustle was very popular in New York in the 1970’s and still popular. The hustle is a fusion of swing and disco. The hustle, is still popular today and it’s danced to modern Disco.


Swing was popular in the 1930’s. The craze of the swing swept the nation. The Swing, depending on where you lived, it was the jitterbug, the lindy, or the swing.


Cumbia is originally from colombia. Cumbia is a folklore dance. Cumbia is a fun dance that accentuates the swing of the hips in combination with a lot of arm movements.

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