Listen to these songs:
Los Sitio Asere (Afro Cuban All Stars): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqKu369wP1Q
Pinar Del Rio (Celia Cruz): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsNPELxQnhQ
Exitos De Siempre (Alquimia): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJxmYjdIYkQ
Sombra Loca (Gilberto Sta. Cruz): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvzFexhhFKg
Juliana (DLG): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz0YkiYBQlo
Every one of these is a salsa, which I’m sure you can tell, but did you notice how each has a different sound? ‘But a salsa is a salsa, they’re all the same,’ you might say. Its true that the components of salsa are pretty uniform, but individual songs as a whole can be vastly different. So, what’s the point, why do I even mention this? Well, the answer is simply because as lovers of salsa music and dance, we should be able to distinguish. Picture this: you go into a club and watch everyone on the dance floor and you suddenly notice someone dancing technically sound salsa yet still off in some way.
More often than not, the thing that is off is that the dancing doesn’t match the music. In other words, the person is so concerned with pulling out all the tricks that they’re not really dancing with the music. Some songs have a rhythm and speed that make it alright to pull out all your fancy moves (ie. Juliana) but some others are just fine with a more tranquil pace and sporadic tricks (ie. Sombra Loca).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should be creative and experiment on the dance floor, just try to remember that as your ear grows more discerning, you’ll be able to recognize that their are parts of a song where its ok to be keep it simple. Its common upon learning new moves that you just want to use them all the time, we’ve all done it. But to move from a strong technical dancer to a strong dancer, keep an ear open to the musicality.
Keep the songs mentioned in mind because next time we’ll discuss differences in the origins of a song and how Caribbean and Latin American salsa differs from North American salsa.