Remember those songs I mentioned last time?

Los Sitio Asere (Afro Cuban All Stars):
Pinar Del Rio (Celia Cruz):
Exitos De Siempre (Alquimia):
Sombra Loca (Gilberto Sta. Rosa):
Juliana (DLG):

The last one on that list, Juliana, is noticeably different from the others as far as the musicality of it goes. The song has loud, intricate brass which gives it a very energetic feel. The others, by contrast, are not as busy and give a more mellow impression (at least as far as a salsa song is concerned). The originating region has a lot to do with that association.

Let’s admit it, salsa in North America is very showy. If you go to latin countries you would notice that there is less emphasis on turn patterns and big tricks and more focus on closeness and quick, tight moves. This can be seen in the music. Compare the first 4 songs, all from Cuban, South American or Puerto Rican artists. The first two, of Cuban origin, are very smooth, and simple. While tricks are still implemented, the basis of cuban salsa is numerous break back steps. Cuban salsa is very circular in that sense and, as a result of the constant tension between the partners, massive turn patterns aren’t all that common.

Alquimia is a Colombian sonora (roughly translated means sound producer) which owes its sound largely to another legendary group, La Sonora Matancera. Their sound is very representative of Central American and South American salsa. This is probably the most distinctive of the selections I posted. In actuality, it is a blend of cumbia and salsa. Its cumbia influence is what makes it simpler, as cumbia doesn’t involve intricate turn patterns but is rather more of a dance based on basics with the occasional turn. Believe me, it may sound bland, but it is enjoyable, you don’t always need big tricks to have fun dancing.

Now, Gilberto Sta. Rosa is a Puerto Rican salsero and has a very classical sound with a hint of the new age, North American style. I think he has a very nice sound, never hectic but always with a great rhythm and pace. His music serves as a good example of a blend of the laid back, Latin American style with the flashy North American style. While listening to the music you can see where turn patterns, shines opportunities and partner work fit in. There is also a difference in the dancing style. Cuban salsa, as mentioned, is more circular whereas modern dance salsa has a much more linear movement. This is due in part to the lack of break back steps. As with an elastic band, the recoil from the tension created by a break back takes time to unfold and as a result, the dance is a touch slower. This is not the case with linear salsa, where smaller steps are the norm and allows for quickness giving time for more tricks while maintaining the rhythm.

As a final comparison, you have Juliana by the New York group, DLG (Dark Latin Groove). Notice how full of instrumentation and vocals this song is, it does sound faster and busier. The result is a song that goes well with numerous patterns and tricks. However, it is double edged, because such a pace can leave both dancers exhausted if sustained throughout. For that matter, pace is important. A compromise of flash and simplicity is a good practice…at least so you can dance longer between water breaks.

I hope you can see what I mean when I say that salsa is danced at different tempos and styles. Next time you just want to throw all your big tricks non-stop, or chillax and keep it simple throughout, be sure to listen to the music…it is there as more than just a backdrop to your amazing skill.

Sigan Bailando!