Salsa is a language of the passion

“I should not believe in a God who does not dance.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

“If there is no salsa in heaven, I am not going there! Hell is right below”

salsa dance

The metamorphosis of salsa to what is heard and danced in clubs today has been a long, slow, and varied process. Not one person or place can be attributed as the founder of salsa. Instead, the dance and music have evolved over time through an elaborate syncretism of different sounds, cultures, and meanings.

“Son is the most perfect thing for entertaining the soul.” – Ignacio Piñeiro, founder of Septeto Nacional.

The Cuban Son is a root of most Salsa music today. The first time that the Clave rhythm was played in public was in the Cuban Son. After the Slave revolution and later emancipation in La Hispañola, many rich French Caribbean families and their house slaves emigrated to the Oriente province in Cuba from what is now Haiti. Some of these slaves were educated in music and knew both the European music and the African secular music.

Dale cintura – Salsaton

“Dance is like life, it exists as you’re flitting through it, and when it’s over, it’s done.” – Jerome Robbins

salsa hot dance

Around 1917 when the “Danzon” was the most popular national dance in Cuba, a new musical style known as the Cuban Son appeared in Havana. The Son was accepted with such enthusiasm that soon it became very popular without taking anything away from the “Danzon”. The “Danzon”, which had been the national dance of Cuba since 1879, could be found everywhere from the popular dance halls to upper class social clubs. The Son had the same elements as the “Danzon” but was different in its form. It is due to the Son that the African instruments came to light to animate the orchestras that were prevalent and typical at the time in Havana.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” – Martha Graham


Before and around the time of World War II, the music traveled to Mexico City and New York. It was in New York where the term “Salsa” was created. In fact, the use of the word salsa for danceable Latin Music was coined in 1933 when a Cuban song composer Ignacio Piñerio wrote a song Échale Salsita. According to the late Alfredo Valdés Sr. the idea occurred to Piñerio after eating food that lacked Cuban spices. According to Valdés, the word served as a type of protest against bland food. However, the term did not really take off until the 1960s.

Salsa cuba

“Dance is music made visible.” – George Balanchine

“This is a real sexy and sensual dance so if you won’t be able to focus on the dancing then it’s not for you.”

Following the Cuban revolution, the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961. This action cut off the flow of music and musicians that had inspired the New York scene for decades. Four years later, immigration policy changes opened the door to migrations from previously excluded countries. Along with other demographic shifts, these two events altered the course of the Latin music in ways that defined it even more sharply as a New York phenomenon. By the late 1960’s, the Dominican community had burgeoned, and rhythms such as the Dominican merengue, Colombia cumbia, and Puerto Rican plena and jibaro styles had become part of the New York music scene.

La Excelencia – Salsa Dura
Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. (Maya Angelou)

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. (Maya Angelou)

Since salsa has its roots in so many dances and is open to improvisation, salsa styles are very fluid: New York style, Cuban-style salsa (also called Casino), Salsa Rueda (Rueda de Casino), Salsa Filipina (Ronda Manila), Cumbia (Central and South America), Cali and Los Angeles. Dance styles are associated with their original geographic area that developed that style. There are often devotees of each of these styles outside of their home territory (except Cali style). Characteristics that may identify a style include: foot patterns, body rolls and movements, turns and figures, attitude, dance influences, and the way that partners hold each other.

“Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals.” – Charles Baudelaire

Ismael Miranda – Se fue y me dejo
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