Why Salsa?

People always ask me how long I’ve been dancing salsa. Easy answer: going on five years now. Occasionally, people ask me how I got started, which is probably a better question. So I wrote a rather lengthy article which answered it and served as an excuse for me to show off my knowledge of contemporary Latin dance forms and their respective histories. Even after reading that article the most inquisitive minds would probably still end up asking yet another question: Why Salsa? Why Salsa at all? Why keep at it? Why live and breathe it? Why not something else? Easy answer… read more

Well there isn’t just one…

The point I’m most apt to make about salsa is that is it’s a partnered dance. So generally speaking, you have to dance with someone. Personally, I think our culture is overdue for a club dance form that puts lovers back in each other’s arms instead of simply locking perfect strangers’ buttocks to pelvis; but that’s just me. Salsa means dancing face to face with someone on a floor that you won’t get stuck to if you stand still too long. Salsa means walking across a room that’s not so packed it’s violating the fire code so that you can take a lady by the hand instead of by er- anything else. It gives couples new and old a bit of kindling to keep the fire going. Salsa gives the casual romantic a place to belong, and may very well mark the reintroduction of chivalry into our otherwise barbaric society. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting any of the Latin dances to usher in a new utopian era. But when world peace does finally roll around, I bet we’ll all be dancing Salsa Rueda to Tito Nieves’ La Salsa Vive.

Salsa’s partnering aspect makes it a great way to meet people but it also leaves a lot of room for personal expression. I love the opportunity to really get down and to do it in my own way. There’s a uniqueness about every salsa dancer no matter their skill level that you don’t necessarily find in Hip-Hop for example. And then there’s the regional differences. Salsa in Boston has a different flavor from the salsa in Miami, which has a different flavor from the Salsa in London. It’s really amazing how a worldwide sub-culture can stay so paradoxically diverse and unified at the same time. I’d say it eventually all comes back to the music.

A lot of salsa enthusiasts will point out the music as being one of the main reasons they can’t get enough of it. There’s a lot to be said about that. Salsa music is very potent. There’s so much energy and emotion in the score and lyrics. It’s practically timeless. In a salsa club, the DJ can play a track that’s over 20 years old and the word “old-school” never crosses anyone’s mind. The rhythms of salsa have always been pertinent and always will be. A genre that is best enjoyed in the presence of a live band has a definitive edge. With a brass section blaring, vocalists harmonizing, and claves syncopating just feet away, you don’t have to know the steps at all. You just can’t help it. You have to dance.

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