What is Salsa?

Salsa is a popular partner dance that is danced all over the world. The word “Salsa” is a Spanish word which means “sauce”.  It is usually a hot sauce used in various Latin American diets.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, the word “Salsa” was first used in New York city for the purpose of marketing music that was already known as Afro-Cuban-based music, much of it interpreted over the decades by Puerto Rican and other Latin as well as North American musicians.  Salsa’s origins are said to come from what is essentially the Cuban son, from which Mambo originally developed back in the late 40’s and early 50’s.  Therefore, it could be said that Cuba serve’s as salsa’s foundation.

However, many countries have contributed to the development of salsa, including Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela and of course New York City (Jazz and North American styles of music have had a great influence on Cuban music and vice versa), Musicians such as Tito Puente a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent and Celia Cruz, born in Cuba, played a huge role in making the music popular.  Thus although the origins of salsa can be traced back to Cuba its current form owes much to Puerto Rican and other influences.

Salsa is danced on music with a recurring eight-beat pattern, i.e. two bars of four beats. Salsa patterns typically use three steps during each four beats, one beat being skipped. However, this skipped beat is often marked by a tap, a kick, a flick, etc. Typically the music involves complicated percussion rhythms and is fast with around 180 beats per minute, but sometimes the music is slower.