top of page


Updated: May 30, 2020

What Is Salsa?

For all the foodies we want to make it clear that we're not talking about the delicious dip you eat with your tortilla chips. In this article we will be talking about Salsa as a dance style with Caribbean and African roots. It's very popular in almost all South America, and among Latino communities in the United States. Recently this dance has been picked up from social and competitive dancers in Europe and in Asia and many other countries around the globe.

Salsa Rhythm and music

The structure of the Salsa music is based on the 4/4 time signature grouped together in phrasing of 8 beats or two bars of music (1234-5678) which is often counted as 1-2-3 silent 4 then 5-6-7 silent 8. Typical instruments used are clave, piano, conga, trumpet, claves, guitar, cowbell.

The core groove of a salsa is provided by a key instrument called "clave". It is a very simple instrument very often played with two wooden sticks (called clave) that are hit together. There are instruments outside of the Clave that help define Salsa rhythm like the cowbell. The cowbell is played on the core beats of Salsa, 1, 3, 5 and 7. The basic Salsa rhythm is quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow, which are very similar to the beats of the cowbell.


The Salsa rhythm is recognized for being sensual, vibrant and catchy. As a music style Salsa is a mix of different Caribbean rhythms and instruments; that diversity provides its unique sound. Salsa as a dance has been evolving and adapting over the years leading to the creation of different regional styles of salsa. Some of the most popular regional styles are:

  • Salsa Casino (Cuban style)

  • Salsa Casino (Miami style)

  • Afro-Latino style

  • Cali style (Colombian Salsa)

  • Rueda de Casino

  • New York style

Cuban Style Salsa

The Cuban Salsa style is also knows as 'casino' style.

During the times of Old Havana, all the fun was happening down at the Casino because they had the money to bring in the popular name bands, so that’s where people would go to dance.

After the revolution, the casinos were closed but the people kept dancing ‘casino’ style in the local community halls and gatherings. So don't get confused is a Cuban invites you to dance 'casino' and then takes you to the club.

The main difference between Cuban Salsa and North American Salsa is that one is ‘circular’ rather than linear. The leader constantly dances around the follower in a circular dynamic, checking her out .

Cali Style Salsa

Colombians dance salsa has incredibly fast footwork and quick spins. Colombians dance salsa super close having the two bodies keeping contact with each other almost all the time.

So why do they dance so close?

1.Crowded dance floors 2. Speed of music is very fast and it doesn't allow for big spins and turns

New York Style Salsa

The high concentration of Puerto Ricans means that The New York salsa dance style is strongly influenced by them. The biggest emphasis on fast flash footwork but there‚is also a strong Latin Hustle influence in New York salsa dancing as a byproduct of the disco craze in the 70's.The current New York salsa style is called Mambo or Salsa On 2. It‚s a blend of Puerto Rican salsa and Latin Hustle with the break on the second beat of the clave

L.A. Salsa Style

The LA style salsa is popular with it's “shines”. They have their roots from the Latin Ballroom dance style. Dancers will step away from each other in the middle of a dance to start “shining”. Women will extend strike a pose extending their arms and then play and tease the men with stylised hip and hair movements. Men’s shines tend to focus on tricky footwork based on Puerto Rican style salsa.

The dominant influences are from Puerto Rican salsa, Latin Ballroom and probably Lindy Hop.

Start learning Salsa Today! Watch our FREE Tutorial to learn the Salsa Basic.


Image Ballroom Dance Academy's instructors are passionate about dance and helping people learn how to enjoy partner dancing more. We offer ballroom dance lessons, wedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Dance styles we teach include Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Swing, Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango. Sign Up Today for your first dance class with us.

267 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page