Most Popular Types of Salsa Dance

Salsa music and Salsa dancing is an integral part of Latin culture. It’s vibrant and lively, it’s a provocative art form that speaks to anyone who listens, watches, or dances themselves. It’s no surprise that it spread quickly throughout the world, and developed into many different types of Salsa Dance.

Salsa features Latin influenced music that started in Cuba as a fusion of African, Caribbean, and European rhythms. The music made its way to the United States in the late 1960s, where Salsa as a dance was developed. Today it has evolved to many different types and styles of Salsa with origins not only in Latin America, as you’ll discover throughout this article. Here are the most popular types of salsa dance in the world today.

Salsa on 1 vs Salsa on 2

types of salsa dance couple in studio

Before getting into the actual styles of salsa dance, let’s first walk through the a seemingly inconsequential – but actually important distinction – timing! Salsa on 1 and Salsa on 2 marks the two different types of salsa dance. The styles of salsa dance then falls into one of these two categories.

Salsa on 1

Salsa on 1 is when the first step starts at the first beat (the 1 beat). This is when the lead takes a step forward on 1 with his left leg to initiate the dance. The follower takes a step back with her right leg on the same beat.

Salsa styles danced on 1 are: Cuban Style, LA Style, and sometimes Puerto Rican.

Salsa on 2

Salsa on 2 is essentially the same as on 1, except the lead steps forward on the second beat (on 2). The follower subsequently steps back on 2 as well.

Salsa styles danced on 2 include New York Style, and sometimes Puerto Rican Style.

Salsa en línea – or Linear Salsa

Salsa en línea comes from the United States. In this type of salsa dance, dancers move more or less in a line (as seen in the above video), contrary to Cuban Salsa. The steps and moves tend to be more complicated than Cuban Salsa, and the moves are more elaborate like those performed at a tournament or professional competition.

Most Popular Styles and Types of Salsa Dance

Now that we’ve have the types and terminology down, we can now explore the different styles of Salsa. To better get a feel for where the styles fit into the world of Salsa, you can refer to the table below.

On 1On 2
LinearLos Angeles Style, Puerto Rican StyleNew York Style, Puerto Rican Style
Not LinearCuban Salsa, Cali style, Cumbia

For example, Los Angeles Salsa style is danced on 1, and is linear. Cuban Salsa is not danced in a line, and is danced on 1.

Related: Learning how to dance? Here’s how to choose your first pair of Salsa shoes.

Cuban Style Salsa

One of the most well known types of Salsa Dance is Cuban Salsa. The other is Los Angeles Style Salsa. Cuban salsa was created in Havana, Cuba. It is also known as Salsa Casino. Historically, it’s one of the first types of salsa developed and it’s popular in many countries because of its relative ease to learn. It is characterized by being a more lively and informal dance than other types of salsa.

It differs from Linear Salsa because the steps are made in a circular shape. It’s a is a freer style, not as rigid, with more casual steps compared to Salsa en Línea. This is what makes Cuban Salsa easier to learn. It requires a certain laid-back attitude, and is good to learn for people who don’t like too much structure.

The other unique aspect of the Cuban Style is that it’s danced in circles and can be performed in groups or pairs, or Casino Rueda. There is one dominant lead, the Caller, that leads the group in the dance and signals the following moves for the rest of the group to follow. Despite sounding a little complicated, it is actually rather simple to dance, which is why it’s one of the most popular types of salsa dance in the world.

Los Angeles Style Salsa / LA Style Salsa

Los Angeles Style salsa, also known as LA style, is the second most popular style of Salsa. It’s danced en linea (dancing in an imaginary straight line) and danced on 1. It emerged between 1990 and 2000. It has even more complicated choreographic elements and moves than the New York style, which makes it especially popular in films, contents, and tournaments.

In contrast to the Cuban style, the LA style is much more structured and technical. It is on the difficult side because there are more movements in a shorter time period and you have to be fast. LA style features fast spins, dips, and tricks that make LA style difficult, but exciting to learn and to watch.

Related: Best Salsa Shoe styles for women.

New York Style Salsa

New York Style Salsa is the blend of Puerto Rican and Cuban influences. It is also sometimes referred to as Mambo Style. It reflects the movements and sounds of both countries, but especially that of lively Havana. This style was made famous by Eddie Torres, a well known Puerto Rican New York dance teacher and choreographer, who got the nickname The Mambo King.

It is characterized by its rectilinear forms, as well as the use of the technical nature of the steps, appropriate for performances. It looks similar to the LA style because it’s also en linea, however it is danced on 2, instead of 1 like Los Angeles Style. To an inexperienced dancer, NY and LA style may not be distinguishable.

Cali Style Salsa or Salsa Caleña

Cali style salsa was born in the city of Cali, Colombia and thanks to its unique and impressive style, Cali has become one of the biggest salsa capitals in the world, boasting 200+ salsa schools and even more world champions. This stylce of Salsa was even highlighted on the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show by Jennifer Lopez.

Cali style salsa is known for it’s fast, uptempo beats, accompanying equally fast footwork and spins. It features rapid leg and hip movements, which make it physically challenging. In addition it also incorporates acrobatic stunts. Because of this, it is one of the most difficult styles of salsa to dance. It is danced on 1 and does not follow af linear pattern.

Puerto Rican Style

Puerto Rican Salsa is danced en línea and on 2. It is characterized by simpler figures, but more elaborate movements with the feet, and pronounced movements in hips and shoulders. The movements are smoother than LA or NY style salsa.

It is believed that the idea of shines came from Puerto Rican Salsa. Shines is when the dancers separate briefly, to freestyle and dance solo with complicated footwork and impressive moves.

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