Salsa Lessons


It is not easy to define Salsa. To some, Salsa can include a variety of Latin Dances from Bachata to Merengue to Mambo. In ballroom dance, however, Salsa is generally taught as a dance separate from the others, but very similar to Mambo.

    The term Salsa refers to both the dance and the music. So to know where Salsa dancing began we must know where Salsa music itself came fromm, and Salsa is a fusion of many, many influences.

    Salsa music has its very earliest roots in African music and in what is called the Cuban Son. The Cuban Son is a term used to describe a style of music that originated in Cuba and was popular beginning in the 1920's. Salsa music is characterized by a recurring eight-beat pattern and Salsa dance patterns use six steps done to eight beats of music.

    Predominant in Salsa music is the beat of the Clave, a pair of cylindrical wooden sticks that are struck together. This sound is the key to keeping the rhythm of the music and the dance.

    Salsa -- the music and the dance -- migrated to New York from Cuba and Puerto Rico beginning in the 1920's and, once in the U.S, mixed with other musical styles to create what we've come to know as Salsa today. The early roots of Salsa may be Cuban, but because the U.S. ended relations with Cuban in 1962, the advancement of this musical and dance style is due to the Puerto Rican population.

    As is often the case with dance and music, its rise is tied to great promotion, and, many believe, in the case of Salsa, to companies like Fania Records. Founded in 1967 by bandleader Johnny Pacheco, this fledging record label began recording and promoting artists and composers like Willie Colon, whose fresh Latin sound epitomized the aggressive energy and restlessness of the New York Puerto Rican barrio youth. The record company actively promoted the already familiar term "Salsa" to identify this new sound.

    The 1970's saw a surge in the popularity of Salsa, with the Fania label helping to lead the way. Through the 80's and 90's and into today, Salsa dancing became more widespread and the large increase in the Latin American population in the United States has brought with it both a surge in popularity and an appreciation for this exciting music and dance we call Salsa.