Salsa > Define street salsa

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by cowpaste, Jan 16, 2004.

  1. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    What are the defining characteristics of street Salsa?
  2. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I consider social studios, as well as non-mambo dancers street salsa. For examle, colombians, ricans, cubans, and just about anyone who hasn't had any training will dance in mambo style will have similar charactersitics. Will be less caring for the beat and more to free style. The can jump, from 1 to 2 to 3, with the only rule being, to be dancing. Those people are street dancers #1.

    I call social studios street because they are more concenrned about teaching moves to dance socially than they are over technique, and push for a loose style where everything counts, except getting off beat. They don't care about mistakes, except to keep going and smile.

    However, to house made salsa dancers, and those who don't dance salsa as per its Mambo style. I'm not considered a street dancer because I have a social studio foundation, and dance an back-froth (Mambo) style.

    Basically any dancer whose main concern is social dancing I consider street salsa.
  3. vey

    vey New Member

    Ok, I have an honest question here: I was thinking of what are other possible dancing concerns and could come up only with "performing" and "competing"?
    Does it mean that if you are enjoying dancing salsa but do not want to perform or compete you're a street dancer?

    Another question (pls tell me if I'm completely off on this one) I was always thinking that there's an "original street dance" - the way it appeared and I'm sure still exists in latin world and there's "street dance" that derived and developed from it and which now exists in major urban ares around the world. I'm perceiving the second one more like a style alternative to, say, ballroom latin dance.
  4. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Street salsa. If you see a person dance and don't think that person is a studio dancer then that is street salsa.

    In my salsa classes I learn technique, such as small steps, where the feet/hands should be etc. So am I a street salsa dancer? I have taken the salsa that I have learnt and infused it with my own style. You see me dance and you don't think that I have come from a studio, or that's what I think, anyway.

    I don't think that competition/performance salsa is street salsa. It's like singing in a show or singing with a group of friends. Both are singing, but different.
  5. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I believe that once you get to the performance/competition side of salsa, the dance becomes more technical and its starts loosing its street feel. I know a number of great performers who aren’t as good social/street dancers. Not because they aren’t good but because they don’t know the difference between performing and dancing at a club.
    The norm usually for street dancers are those who have never taken a class but still move to salsa.

    Not really, if the person can never make the distinction between technical dancing and joyful dancing, then I do not consider the person to be a street dancer. As sagitta mentions, he is technical but his personal style pulls him out of the studio label and places him as a street dancer.

    There are a number of original street dancers, all dependant on geographical location. There is Rican, Colombian, Cuban, NY street salsa, etc. Rican, Cuban, Colombian share more than does NY Street style. NY’s street style is built upon a back and forth basic which is now common practice in studios. It is a New York born dance that was developed in the street. Salsa has always been a street beat, just like hip hop/rap came out of the ghetto, so did salsa. Hence, its dance can only be one of street origin.

    The grayest line between what is called street salsa is with NY street style. In New York there were Cubans, Rican, Colombians, etc, hence, the gray definition of what street salsa in NY is. So, to be politically correct we can say that NY Style incorporates all of those styles. However, people argue that its original street born back and forth basic step is studio and not street. To me, it was born in the street so it is a street dance. That it has been modified and built upon in studios and the like is a completely different token.

    The reason a lot of people argue that it isn’t street is because they really never knew of its existence, and today see “studio heads” dancing it totally technical hence think of it as not being street. However, that isn’t the case. It has always been street, every since its break through in the 50s, it has been danced as such, but with a difference of having lots of flavor. Something not well displayed with people who think of the dance as technical. Looking at a palladium video will show us the moves we now see NY City dancers doing, so nothing really has change, on the other hand we have lost the aura of dancing with flavor. IT has become very technical leaving little room for self-manifestation, hence its studio label.

    I have a group of friends who won’t dance with studio people, however, go nuts dancing with me not knowing that my salsa comes from the studio. I like sagitta, have made a point to add myself to the dance. Although I’m technical what comes out of my dance is the street flavor.

    We always have to differentiate what people call street. Some that don’t know NY City is the origin of street New York style mambo dancing will deny it as a street dance, and say that their side to side basic with little twist and turns is what true street style is, it is, but not in NY City, but so in PR, Colombia, and cuba.
  6. vey

    vey New Member

    I absolutely agree with you. In my perception, it becomes more of a sport. It doesn't make it less admirable, though, but it's a different thing altogether.

    Thanks for the info on the history of NY street dance, Boriken!
    Now I'm wondering about the history of studio dancing :) Do you think that studios largely appeared to cater to people outside latin neighborhoods who wanted to learn this street dance that was becoming increasingly popular?
    Does it mean that somewhere along the way most studios lost the message of "salsa flava" and concentrated on skeletal techniques (creating new moves in the process), perhaps because teaching techniques and steps is easier?
    I am a "studio head" myself but I am totally with Sagitta on this one - studio gives me the tools of dancing but it doesn't teach me DANCING. I think that all real dancing is a form of self-expression (coincendentally, I was discussing this in another topic yesterday). Learning salsa techniques etc is important for me only because they allow me to express myself better. I can express many things by just dancing a basic step and enjoy it but learning techniques and new moves allow me to express myself at a different level. Oh, gosh, I'm not sure whether I'm making myself clear here :( I hope I'm expressing myself better when I'm dancing :)
  7. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Eddie Torres is perhaps the link between the salsa street dance and the salsa performance craze in NYC. There is a really good interview with him

    There are also 2 sites that have great salsa history. and

    As there are more and more studios popping up in Cuba, teaching people how to dance their style in 2 week packages, and the rise of all the miami rueda instructors, I believe that the distinction between a NY studiohead and a casino studiohead is going to be blurred more in the near future.

    The reason a lot of people don't believe that NYC style is street is because outside of the big craze in Mexico in the 50s, the style of Mambo never extended in popularity in other Latin American countries. The more common side by side kick style of cumbia, from Mexico and the colombian / venezuelan style of moving back and dancing to a side to side motion is still being danced in these regions. The casino style of cuba never got to NYC.

    I am not familiar with the idea of a social studio. I guess they would be akind to university clubs and informal lessons before club hours. In a city like Toronto and NYC, I would define street salsa as salsa that has been influenced by the view of the immigrant population idea of salsa and studio dancers who go to the clubs. Street salsa in cuba or puerto rico would be exactly that, the dance that the people would do in the streets, timba, despelote, and salsa. I have vivid memories of girls from Puerto Rico in the United States, blasting the stereo in front of the dorms and just dancing to the music in the middle of the street with great passion and 'gozo'.
  8. vey

    vey New Member

    Great links! Thanks Brujo.
  9. cowpaste

    cowpaste New Member

    When I see NY/LA or Cumbia style Salsa, I can recognize it. However, some people at the clubs here dance something like left, left, right right. I don't know what this is. I also see what appears to be complete randomness. I don't understand at all how the girls follow this. :(
  10. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Are you talking about salsa? As for the left, left, right, right are you giving us the exact steps that are done? I don't know of any such salsa step. I know that you can step left with left foot, left with right foot, left in place, etc, or some other variation of this. If you have a good connection your partner should be able to follow along.
  11. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    The only information that I have about studios in NY City (haven't read Eddie's article yet) is from 2 people who shared leading dancers roles in NY City for many years during the cheetah club era, PRE Eddie, and during Eddie’s starting days.

    According to them Latinos didn't have studios to go to during their peak dancing years, 60s, 70s, and until I believe the early 80s. They learned to dance from each other, those who toured world wide learned from the members of their given groups. Dance groups at the time were mostly formed by Grand Masters of Latin dances.

    Once the salsa craze started loosing steam dance studios sprouted. Eddie Torres being the major player in the 80s in NY City and “single” handedly keeping salsa alive in NY City, many argue otherwise. However, Eddie wasn't as knowledgeable in afro-cuban dance as he was with Hustle. Hence, what he put forth was his unique style of Hustle/mambo with very little Afro-cuban influence. Of which his own stepping style was born. Hence, Street born style of Eddie Torres of stepping 1,2,3 5,6,7 but breaking on2, remember that because a person doesn’t know of a given style it doesn’t mean it isn’t street born. Studios didn’t teach these people to dance, they taught themselves by watching all there was (street dancers).

    Mainstream studios during their time were geared towards “Anglo/affluent” America and those concerned in dancing as per doing moves, hence created a lot of self-made instructors, who learned moves from watching others (at the time the only way). However, understanding the why never became important, and at times really not being able to grasp the afro-cuban feel. Despite the limited knowledge on the dance, these instructors were very skilled hence had an impact on the dance, ultimately helping mold the dancers we have today. By the time Eddie came around, things weren’t the same with salsa as they were in the late 60s and 70s. But Eddie Managed to keep it going as per his flashy, high-flying, sharp hustle/mambo style. He taught what he knew hence, the craze NY City style on2 that we have, and the limit of the story I’ve been told. The rest you can draw conclusions from. :)
  12. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I agree more with the different level part than the express yourself better. Yes, learning more salsa techniques can help you dance salsa better, but I don't agree that it will teach/allow to express yourself better. That different level should be in different forms you can express yourself given a technique rather than as per you were taught.

    Remember that following what someone does, "per verbatim" doesn’t lead to you dancing, but and extension of the person’s teaching. It has taken you and replaced it with he/she, just because it is the way it is supposed to be done. There isn’t such a thing as a step done as someone else, the step will always be as you, not the look or feel the instructor wants (that is when flava is lost and replaced by someone else’s style). The basics for the move/step stay the same but then you must replace the instructor’s way of doing with yours. So, when the both of you do the same step, the foundation is the same but the overall look and feel, different.

    From what you’ve said I believe that you do, but I’d like to still stress again. Technique can never lead you to be one expressing yourself on the dance floor. It can only lead you to be more skilled, and give you the illusion that you are expressing your true self, because of the technicality within the moves. Getting in touch with yourself is your job regardless of technique/moves/patters/steps. So a dance with a beginner will bring the same passion out of you than the most skilled of dancers. Only because you allow your inner self to dance, regardless of what is done. Plainly said, there need be no technique to reach the most of yourself in the dance-floor.
  13. vey

    vey New Member

    Boriken, I just love how you always manage to get inside my head and turn everything upside down :) , you make me re-think and re-define the things I thought were self-evident.

    I hear you, Boriken, different level but not necesserily better, I agree.

    That's exactly what I had in mind.

    Thank you, Boriken, for reminding me that. It's the most important thing to remember.

    When smth is too complex for me to formulate a clear thought, I usually try to come up with an analogy. The first analogy that came to my mind was too graphic for our family-friendly DF :), so I came up with a "dance shoe analogy":
    one can express himself to perfection dancing barefoot in a sand or mud but because we have to adjust to other conditions and to dance with other people who are dancing in shoes on a wooden floor, we often have to get dance shoes for ourselves as well. We won't be able to express ourselves by just putting on dance shoes and lacing them up - we have to dance in order to do that but they come handy when dancing. The same thing is with techniques and moves.

    A small note, I do not think that we should pile together technique-learning and patterns/steps/move-learning. A technique usually implies learning and understanding principles of the body mechanics - how to keep frame, to keep yourself balanced etc. Techniques are not necesserily associated with a particular form of dance.
    Patterns/steps/move-learning is dance-specific and, although, it won't help anybody to get in touch with their "inner dancer" it can, perhaps, serve as an example for less-experienced leaders of how to choreograph a dance).
  14. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    We see eye to eye on this entire dancing spectacle. I only wish there were more who sought after themselves in the dance-floor rather than an enlightened ego.

    That shoe analogy was pretty darn good too. Indeed we need those techniques and moves to jump start the new dancers in our community. :D :D We always need a first step, from there we hope that the seeds bud into beautiful flowers. :D :D
  15. vey

    vey New Member


    And yes, for a beginner, classes create some sort of environment and opportunity to observe people dancing (especially if they are not yet comfortable with the whole club/social dancing sceen). And I think there are not that many beginners who can clearly understand the whole salsa flava and inner dancer thing from the very beginning, at least I could not :( , but taking classes (many of which are, infortunately, concentrated on step-learning) gave me an opportunity to see and to contemplate about these things.
    But IT IS VERY UNFORTUNATE that studios teach none or very few classes concentrating on understanding the music, the beat and presenting dancing as a form of self-expression. It would make it so much more worthwhile.
  16. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    My aim vey, truly my aim... I would like to be able to convey the layers of understanding that separates stepping to salsa and dancing to salsa. One where the self, the music, partner, and those around us become part of the entire art of self-expression through dancing as one entity.

    My aim is to help guide people to understand the music, its emotions, etc. Not just the sounds, and the intricacies of the rhythm, but also those hidden meanings to the ear. How the music relates to the self as a dancer, hopefully guide the dancer to mesh with the music as if the self was another instrument in the band, how to communicate those faceless feelings from within to eventually the partner, and lastly through everyone present. At which time the euphoria of being alive in world without meaning and form takes over our bodies and excels it to unthinkable feats of physical bodies. :D :D :D

    Now, I just have to figure out how. :shock:
  17. vey

    vey New Member

    Oh, that’s a tough one. It nearly goes into the sphere of spiritual practice :)
    It almost seems that the best one can hope to do is to make people aware of the existence of a different dimension and suggest some kind of direction but it’s up to the person himself to FIND HIS WAY.
    But I feel that, at least, to a certain degree it should be doable
  18. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    IT's like people say, you can bring the horse to water but you can't make him drink. :D All I ask of me is to plant the seed, after that, it is up to each individual to water it.
  19. vey

    vey New Member

    How I would like to attend this type of classes :!:

    Well, good luck! I'm sure you'll come up with smth.
  20. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Thank you very much vey. :D :D

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