Salsa Dance History, Origin, Movements, Dancers & Competitions Salsa Dance History, Origin, Movements, Dancers & Competitions

Salsa Dance History, Origin, Movements, Dancers & Competitions

story by Danceus Staff for

The use of the word salsa originates from a 1933 song by composer Ignacio Pinerio. The title, "Echale Salsita," translates to "spice it up a little." This brief guide offers an introduction to the origins, history and current trends in the exciting and exotic world of salsa dancing.

History of Salsa

Brief history and origin of Salsa dancing is that it initially developed into a particular style in the 1940s and comes from a tradition of Latin dance styles that dates back to the early 1900s. It is heavily influenced by Afro-Cuban traditions and dance styles such as mambo, guaguanco and danzon. As people moved to new locations and assimilated into new cultures, salsa evolved into fresh styles. Some of today's most popular forms of salsa include styles influenced by the cultures of New York, Puerto Rico and Los Angeles.

Basic Movements

Salsa can be as fluid and passionate as the dancers who perform it. Some dancers prefer to adhere to choreography while others adopt a freestyle approach. However, there are a few general principles that guide most salsa dances. Typically, dancers take three steps within each four-beat measure of the song. On one of the four beats, dancers may kick, turn or tap their feet. The upper body is usually held fairly still and dancers move primarily from their hips.

Popular Styles

casino rueda salsa

As traditions change and cultures blend together, salsa continues to evolve. Styles are discernible by elements like foot movements, dance patterns, timing and the attitudes of the dancers. North American styles like Los Angeles salsa and New York salsa typically break on the first or second beats and dancers may perform in a line. In Latin American styles such as casino rueda salsa, the dancers move around one another in a circular form.

Famous Dancers

With such a rich history behind the different types of salsa dancing, it's little wonder that dancers from around the world have left their mark on the tradition. Among North American styles, Joe Cassini, Albert Torres and Laura Canellias influenced early Los Angeles salsa significantly. Dancers like Liz Rojas, Janette Valenzuela and Joby Martinez also helped cultivate modern elements of salsa. Eddie Torres helped bring popularity to New York salsa dancing.

Famous Bands and Orchestras

Tito Nieves

Salsa dancing has a long and rich history, but its success cannot be measured without considering the music behind the performances. Ray Barretto, Roberto Roena, Eddie Palmieri and Johnny Pacheco helped found the genre of salsa music and brought its powerful rhythms and beats to audiences around the world. Today, modern artists like Tito Nieves, Group Niche and Cabijazz continue the tradition.


Current Movements and Dancers

Salsa is everywhere today as dancers heat up the floors of nightclubs, ballrooms and outdoor festivals. Annual festivals called Salsa Congresses bring dancers from multiple cities together to celebrate salsa dancing. Modern salsa dancers often incorporate movements like spins, lifts and rolls from other dance traditions. Popular dancers like Christian Oviedo, Liz Lira, Luis Aguilar and Anya Katsevman offer good examples of modern salsa movements.

Annual festival Salsa Congresses

US and World Competitions

The World Salsa Federation, founded by dancers Isaac and Laura Altman, began holding World Championships in 2001. The annual event brings dancers from around the world together to celebrate their passion. In 2005, Albert Torres and the Salsa Seven created an alternative World Salsa Championship. This event, which became The World Latin Dance Cup in 2010, now features Latin dances like bachata and cumbia in addition to salsa. Find more Salsa Festivals we publish at our site. 

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