There is something magical and mystical about salsa Cuban style. However, unless you experience it yourself, it won’t be easy to understand. The dance is firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban movements and incorporates a wide variety of other musical genres. When you dance Cuban salsa, you realize it’s a language with many dimensions and layers, from physical presence to seduction.
Different types of salsa
There are a few different types of salsa. The most popular are salsa Cuban style and salsa from New York. Cuban-style salsa is strongly helped by the popularity of its musicians (such as Mayito Rivera or Elito Reve ) and the variety of dances it originated from. New York-style salsa came to light with dancers such as Eddie Torres in the 70/80s and musical groups such as the Fania all-stars. A third popular type of salsa is Los Angeles which is danced on 1. New York style is danced on 2. As for salsa Cuban style, it’s danced on rhythm.
How is salsa Cuban style different?
Cuban salsa style is more physical, playful, and rooted in Afro-Cuban dances than the other forms of salsa. Indeed, it originates from many dances/music styles, such as Rumba, Chango, Son, Cha-cha, and Casino de Rueda. If we were to embody a Cuban salsa dancer versus a New York one, the former would be barefoot, using circular and -playful motions and being very strong with his tights and legs, while the latter would be wearing heel shoes and be more linear in his motion. Secondly, the grip is also another difference. When Cuban-style salsa dancers use their full hands to dance with their partners, New York dancers like to use their two middle fingers. Finally, New York’s salsa is more studio-based, while Cuban is more street-based. That’s why some of the moves the Cuban salsa dancers create are unique to them. For example, dancers such as Yoannis Tamayo and Maykel Fonts have their trademark moves.
How do you dance salsa Cuban style?
To dance effectively salsa Cuban style, you need to master good hearing of the music, body movement, and steps. It would help if you used the clave to help you hear the beats well. I have developed a 5-level program to train your ears to recognize the clave, which is one of the key instruments of Cuban salsa. In addition, to dance salsa Cuban style, you must identify a song’s different rhythms and patterns and understand how these patterns translate in your body. That’s why you also want to work on your body movements along with ear training. Once you cover these two areas, Cuban salsa becomes very easy. I have introduced five steps and some of the ear training programs I developed to help you have a great experience.
In my post, How to Hear the Clave Salsa, I remind you how to count the beats in Cuban salsa. A basic Cuban salsa step contains two measures of 4 beats each. You will hear the clave five times on these measures. Typically for beginners, you step on the first beat and make six steps within the time covering these two measures. No matter the steps you take, you must put your whole body into it. Therefore, it would be best if you used your shoulders, hips, and arms.
5 Cuban Style Salsa moves you can do NOW
Anybody can do the steps we will cover in this post. Even professionals should train and perfect them because they are the basis of many salsa moves.
First Cuban salsa step: A rumba step
This step is simple yet one of the most important ones if you want to dance salsa Cuban style well. I mentioned earlier that you should do six steps on a basic cycle. In this one, we will only do 4. In reality, we do the six steps, but two are in position. The essential factor here is to use your hip and shoulder to create a proper balance on this move. Unfortunately, that’s where most students get it wrong. They step and shift all their weight in one direction and find it impossible to follow the rhythm.
We will play a simple rumba song, that uses the clave extensively, to help you with this step. Remember, in the beginning; you want to find the beat more than doing steps. The best way to do that is by listening to heavy music styles with the instrument you are trying to identify. In our case, it’s the clave. Therefore, listen to rumba songs and make your basic salsa steps on them.
Once you learn how to isolate the clave, dancing salsa and listening to salsa music will be easy.
This step is side-to-side, where you shift your weight in one direction and then come back to the center. Then you go in the other direction and return to the starting position again.
Second salsa dance step
In salsa Cuban style, you will see this step often. It borrows from Son, but experienced dancers like to use it, especially when they are close to their partners and the music dictates it. It’s one of the most effective ways to learn to be on the beat because you cover all the clave steps since you walk on the 8-count beats. As the man moves forward, the lady goes backward. Then, when she moves forward, the man, in turn, moves back. Additionally, you can add the first step we just saw at the end of this move.
This particular step tends to be repeated twice in a row. Then as the male dancer holds the female arms high, he finishes with the first set of steps I just showed.
Third Cuban salsa style step
Very similar to the second step we just saw, this one is done laterally. As we move our feet on each note, we use our shoulders and hips to create a gentle tension with our partner. Again, it’s not your feet that do the work, but more the other body parts aforementioned.
To go to the left, the man starts with the right foot while the lady uses the right. Then, after one or two basic steps have been executed, the partners make the same motion but in the opposite direction.
Fourth salsa step
The first step is done behind the supporting leg (1):
with the left leg behind the right for the man
and the opposite for the woman.
On beat number 5, we do the same movement with the opposite leg. It’s an excellent exercise in learning to isolate parts of your body so that you feel confident when you dance.
The elementary of salsa Cuban style moves
You are likely to encounter this move in most salsa dance classes. This basic salsa move requests that you step forward as your partner goes backward. Then as she moves forward, you move back. For ladies, the motion is the opposite. Indeed, you move backward as the man moves forward, then advance as he moves backward.
Putting all the moves together
We can now start to play with the moves and put them in whatever order we like. For example, we can begin with moves 1 and 5, followed by 2 and 3, then 4.
The benefit of this exercise is that it trains you to coordinate moves that you learn in a dance pattern. A critical problem with students is that they tend to forget the steps they learned in the studio once they go out dancing. It’s to be expected; since you need to practice often. With this exercise, you also learn to organize moves together since you are unlikely to know every move at once. It’s also a great way to remember them.
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