A Beginners Guide To Salsa Dancing

Salsa is one of the most popular Latin dance form today, and it is practised globally. Salsa dance originated in the Central American country of Cuba in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Because of the country’s rich musical heritage, numerous Latin dances were able to flourish, expand, and change into new forms, eventually leading to contemporary Salsa dance as well as Salsa music by the 1920s. 

In this article, we will look at the origin of Salsa, the different versions of the dance form, the outfit worn while performing it as well as some basic steps every beginner must know. 

Etymology of Salsa

Etymology of Salsa dance

The actual origin of the name “Salsa” is unknown. Although the same Spanish word was previously been used in connection with Latin dance, the contemporary version of the phrase was popularised not naturally. Instead, the marketing efforts of record companies and promoters who sought to present this dance to a wider audience made the term popular. 

Traditionally, “Salsa” is a Spanish word that means “spice”. However, since the mid-1800s, the phrase “Salsa!” has been utilised extensively in Latin music, yelled by artists during performances. Upbeat tunes used the word “Salsa”, encouraging dancers as well as other artists to become more frenzied and acrobatic. Additionally, it also encouraged the use of freestyle moves, and to “spice up” the show.

The name “Salsa” may also refer to the dance’s origins, which goes back to the fusion of various earlier dances. According to some music and dance historians, the name “Salsa” has the same meaning as “sauce,” referring to the combination of components utilised in the formation of this dance.

Where did the Salsa dance originate?

Origins in Cuba

While historians believe that contemporary Salsa was formed in Cuba around the start of the twentieth century, its specific origins may be traced back to several decades ago in the country’s musical history.

Salsa’s core elements were brought together by many immigrants who moved to Latin America from diverse regions of Europe. African slaves carried against their will to Central America also contributed to the dance form.

Salsa was created by combining parts of Cuban Són, Spanish troubadour music, Rumbas of African slaves, French as well as Haitian immigrants’ Danzón, and numerous other instruments that prevailed in Cuba.

The Són developed in rural eastern Cuba and expanded to Havana in the first decades of the twentieth century. It combined aspects of the Spanish guitar-playing heritage with the rhythmic intricacy and call-and-response vocal tradition of African musical origins. Pioneered by bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, the Són established the framework for a wide range of dance-oriented Afro-Cuban musical forms, including Salsa.

Although Salsa initially became popular in Cuba in the late nineteenth century, other parts of Central America became aware of it only in the early twentieth century. Tourists and musicians spread Salsa to other South as well as Central American nations, allowing this music style to adapt, expand, and become an influential cultural legacy of Latin America as a whole.

Also read What are Logos in Literature ?

Expansion to the United States of America

Salsa’s popularity skyrocketed once it came to the United States in the early twentieth century. The first noteworthy American introduction to Salsa occurred during the Cuban War of 1898 when American soldiers began enjoying the early form of this Cuban dance. In fact, Salsa became a topic of immense curiosity for many American jazz performers who incorporated Latin influences into their performances in the years following the Cuban conflict. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Cuban artists and promoters had begun to create and distribute the first radio recordings of Salsa songs. These tunes swiftly made their way to the mainland of the United States.

Faced with a new and thrilling Latin music style, American record firms and radio promoters began utilising the word “Salsa” to promote any uplifting Latin music that was brought to the United States. Furthermore, during the 1920s, an explosion of Latin music sounds began to spread throughout Central and South America, resulting in the development and popularisation of current versions of tango, mambo, flamenco, and a variety of other music and dance genres

Nightclubs in never-sleeping Havana strengthened their focus on Salsa and delivered an astounding range of new sounds to the neighbouring United States. With an increased number of American visitors in Cuba, Salsa swiftly returned to the United States and numerous other western hemisphere countries. Therefore, by the end of the 1920s, Salsa and other Latin music forms had become quite popular on American radio stations.

Also Read Imperative Sentences And What You Need To Know About Them

Palladium Ballroom
Salsa came to be one of the most popular dances in several major music hubs of the country!

Salsa’s popularity peaked in the United States throughout the 1970s, popularised across the entire country and the world with the works of Fania All-Stars, Johnny Pacheco, Reuben Blades, Willie Colon, and several other several notable musicians. 

Its early success in the United States is associated with one particular dance location, the Palladium Ballroom. This second-floor dance club, located on the junction of 53rd Street and Broadway in New York City, became home to numerous Latin musicians as well as immigrants who practised and popularised various dances from their homeland. Beginning in 1948, dance organiser Federico Pagani established the Palladium Ballroom into the city’s Latin dance centre. Arsenio Rodriguez’s band, Machito and his Afro-Cuban band, as well as Tito Puente, one of the most famous salsa performers of all time, performed often at the dance venue.

In addition to regular bands, Palladium Ballroom welcomed musical artists and dancers from a variety of Latin nations on a regular basis. Federico Pagani and the Palladium Ballroom are credited with popularising Latin dance arts in the United States and setting the way for many more comparable Latin dances and nightclubs in the Bronx and Manhattan, according to music and dance historians

How many different forms of salsa dancing exist?

1. New York Style

New York Style

Although Salsa originated in Cuba, it rose to global prominence only when it arrived in New York. Local artists and a large number of Latin immigrants began to modify it to local preferences, and thus, the New York style was born. It incorporates motifs from popular American genres such as Jazz, R&B, and others as well as famous Latin dances such as Mambo.

The New York style salsa is a linear version of salsa where dancers dance in a slot. However, unlike other types of salsa, dancers perform the New York style on the second beat of the music, and the follower, rather than the leader, moves forward on the first measure of the song. There is also a larger focus on executing “shines,” in which dancers detach themselves and dance alone with precise footwork and styling, a phenomenon that most likely has its roots in Swing and New York Tap.

Eddie Torres is regarded as one of the most significant persons in New York style salsa. He receives the credit for helping to standardise and promote salsa through teaching it in New York dance studios and through early instructional videos.

Also Read Argumentative Essay Writing: Step by Step Guide

2. The Los Angeles (L.A.) style 

LA Style

The acrobatic and theatricality of Salsa in Los Angeles made it popular in the 1900s and early 2000s. Latin dances (such as Argentine Tango, Swing, Latin Hustle, and Latin Ballroom dance) and other modern dances influenced the musical influences that transformed Salsa into this style.

The forward-backwards fundamental step and the cross-body lead are two key features of this dance. The leader in the LA style takes one step forward, two steps to the right, and three steps to the left while rotating 90 degrees counter-clockwise, thus leaving the slot available for the follower. The follower then takes moves forward on the 5th and 6th count and then turns on 7-8, while the leader returns to the slot with another 90-degree counter-clockwise and forward step. The pair turn 180 degrees in total, with the follower and leader swapping positions.

The “Vazquez Brothers” (namely, Luis Vazquez, Francisco Vazquez, and Johnny Vazquez) get the credit of creating and expanding the LA Style.

3. The Cuban or Casino style

Casino Style

Despite being danced earlier, the Cuban “Casino” style became famous outside of its borders and distinguishable from other Salsa forms only in the 1970s. With its name derived from Cuban dancing halls, this form is now practised throughout the Americas, Europe, and even the Middle East.

Casinos is traditionally danced “a Contratiempo.” This implies that, unlike later varieties of salsa, no steps are made on the first and fifth beats of each clave pattern, while there is emphasis on the fourth and eighth beat. Furthermore, rather than following a beat, the dancers add to the polyrhythmic pattern of the music through their movement. 

It is the awareness and spontaneous application of the vast Afro-Cuban dance vocabulary inside a “Casino” dance that gives the dance its vitality. A Cuban Salsa dancer would regularly improvise allusions to other dances, combining movements, gestures, and prolonged sections from the folkloric and popular past. Such improvisations might include rumba excerpts, dances for African deities, earlier popular dances like Cha Cha Chá and Danzon, and whatever else the dancer can think of.

Also Read Best Handwriting Examples and Tips

4. Colombian or Cali style

Columbian Style

Rural Columbians dance Salsa in a more modest and compact form. The main aspect is the footwork, which consists of short, rapid movements and skipping motions known as “repique”. The Colombian style does not use Cross-body Leads or the “Dile Que No” as other styles do. Instead, the dancers step in place and display the closed posture. Furthermore, the dancers use jaw-dropping acrobatics as well as accurate and complex footwork during the dance. 

4. The Miami style 

Miami Style

Cuban immigrants who moved to Florida brought with them a variety of Latin dances, including Salsa, which became one of the most popular dance forms. 

Miami style Salsa has reverse diagonal steps, making it quite unusual to dance than other Salsa forms. Additionally, dancers do not adjust their body weight as much as in other varieties of Salsa. Instead, dancers maintain a steady, balanced, and calm upper body as their feet perform limitless subtleties.

The main distinction between Cali Style and Miami style is that the latter is only danced on the downbeat and incorporates aspects of shines and show-style from North American styles. The Miami style has a large following, notably among Cuban-Americans and other Latinos in South Florida.

5. Casino Rueda 

Casino Rueda

This well-known Cuban form is frequently characterised as round and twister-like. This technique, which originated in Havana in the 1950s, evolved into a modern dance. In this one of the dancers in the circle yells out the motions for the entire group to do, including the steps for swapping partners during the same song.

6. Ballroom Salsa

The Ballroom Salsa

Ballroom Salsa, which became popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is frequently performed by partners who have rehearsed performances and know ahead of time what music will be played. Professionals or dance pairings that wish to show off their Salsa talents will do this sort of dance.

6 Types of Salsa Dancing

Outfits for Salsa dancing

Salsa dancewear is similar to other types of Latin dancewear in that it is seductive, lively, colourful (or all black), and matched with a magnificent set of shoes. Let us look at each section of the outfit in detail. 

Costume of Salsa dancing

1. Salsa Shoes 

Ladies’ salsa shoes always feature heels. A good salsa shoe is strappy and has a high and skinny heel. To create a huge impact, go for gold, silver, or red sparkles or sequins.

2. Skirts for Salsa

Although salsa dresses are attractive, some dancers prefer to wear separates. Short, flowing skirts and a stunning, tight-fitting top are most preferred for salsa dancing. While many salsa skirts are above the knee, some dancers prefer to wear a similar style of skirt that is longer in length.

3. Tops for Salsa

Shirts to wear with salsa skirts might be sleeveless halter tops or a long-sleeve t-shirt as long as it fits reasonably well. A salsa top should be close to the body and in contrast to the flowing style of the skirt, providing a visual contrast.

4. Dresses for Salsa

Aside from a wonderful set of shoes, just one item completes a salsa outfit: a stunning dress. Choose a strappy dress in eye-catching hues for a visual impact. Glitter is also appropriate on the dress at times. Many salsa dresses are red or black. However, because these two most frequent hues are so prevalent in dresses, wearing a dress of a different colour makes a major statement in and of itself.

The basic steps in Salsa any beginner must learn

1. The basic timing and the basic step

Salsa’s basic pace is 4/4, which indicates that there are four beats that are repeated twice. The count, however, does not proceed from one to four, but from one to eight. It’s vital to remember that the steps are skipped on the fourth and eighth beats when standing. Standing implies that there is no weight transfer because this is what counts as a beat. Here, the guy begins the dance by stepping forward with his left foot, while his female companion steps back with her right foot.

2. The lady’s underarm turn

The lady’s underarm turn is the next essential salsa step a beginner Salsa dancer must learn. When it’s time for the fifth beat and the female’s left foot is forward, the gentleman should elevate the lady’s hand. The dance resumes with the basic step after the turn. Therefore, it is critical for the females here to watch their footwork and avoid turning for too long since this can lead them to slip off the beat.

3. The cross-body lead 

The pattern that you will most likely dance during salsa is cross-body lead, thus we recommend that you learn and master it in due time.

It is critical that the leader, the gentleman, gets out of the path of the lady and frees her passage by turning his body during the first three steps. The lady is not expected to rotate, but rather to perform the same basic step as she advances to the opposite side. The guy then spins his female companion by 90 degrees, eventually turning her towards himself.

During this move, it is critical for the women to yield to the man’s leadership and allow themselves to be guided so that the entire performance is completed flawlessly.

4. The cross-body lead with an inside turn

This is a variation of the cross-body lead. Here the lady makes another extra turn during the passage next to the gentleman. This adds a beautiful touch to the fundamental cross-body lead movement and creates a really lovely appearance.

5. The open break and underarm turn

Finally, here is the final basic step a novice in Salsa dancing should master. It is known as an open break with an underarm turn, and it consists of releasing one of the partner’s hands before the lady does the previously described underarm turn. Although this is a little more complicated, it is still a fundamental step that every Salsa dancer should know in order to improve their skills. 

Basic Salsa steps for beginners


Salsa is a unique blend of various dances, nations, and cultures. Several distinct forms of salsa dancing have evolved over time within this dance, thus, allowing everyone to identify their favourite. If you are a novice and want to learn to dance salsa, we recommend that you start with 5 fundamental steps and then progress to more complicated salsa steps.  


1. What does Salsa represent?

Salsa is one of the most dynamic and influential musical phenomena of the twentieth century. It is a mash-up of Latin musical styles, although its main component is Cuban dance music. Thus, Salsa elicits intense emotions such as excitement, elation, and the sense that the body and mind can carry a person back to that lovely realm of pleasure that comes from dancing. 

2. Is Salsa dancing difficult to learn?

You should be able to master the basics of salsa in three to four months if you take the correct lessons and practise on your own. To hasten things, you may listen to salsa music and practise with expert dancers outside of class. However, don’t forget to have fun!

3. Who are some famous Salsa dancers?

With such a rich history underlying the various styles of salsa dancing, it’s no surprise that dancers from all over the world have made their imprint on the tradition. Among North American styles, Joe Cassini, Albert Torres, and Laura Canellias had a considerable effect on early Los Angeles salsa. On the other hand, dancers such as Liz Rojas, Janette Valenzuela, and Joby Martinez have contributed to the modernization of salsa. In addition to these dancers, Eddie Torres was instrumental in popularising salsa dance in New York.

4. What is the difference between Cumbia and Salsa?

Another popular dance form is Cumbia, which is much slower than salsa. Cumbia is recognised for its slow, circular motions, which are considerably simpler to follow than lively salsa dances. Furthermore, cumbia is far less represented in dance contests and is a lot more relaxed dance in general.

5. What is the difference between Salsa and Tango?

Although both salsa and tango are Latin dances, they are very distinct for a variety of reasons. The primary distinction is that tango is a South American dance that involves a highly personal hug between the dancing partners. Salsa, on the other hand, is a Cuban dance in which the couples move happily holding one or both hands.

6. Salsa is a fusion of which dance forms?

Salsa is an amalgamation of the following dance forms.

Cuban Dance forms
American Dance forms
Swing dance


Share with your friends

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *