When speaking about dance styles it is important to keep in mind that one is not better than another, they are simply different and everyone chooses their style according to a range of factors:
Place where you live
Places you like to go to dance
Personally I respect all styles of dance and for me the most important thing is to have fun when you dance salsa.
I would like to begin by talking about my personal experience and the different styles of salsa that I have learnt and taught over the years:
- Salsa on 2, or mambo (New York or Puerto Rican)
- Cuban style
- Salsa on 1
- Colombian style
I have been lucky enough to have learnt a variety of styles. For me it is like speaking different languages: wherever I go, I can dance with everybody irrespective of where they come from or what their dance style is. It is great to go to different places and be able to share music and feelings from all over the world.
I will explain some of the salsa styles in more detail. Please note, this list is not in order of importance or preference
Mambo or Salsa on 2 (New York or Puerto Rican)
Currently, this is the style I mainly teach and on which I have concentrated in the last few years. Here I explain the basis of salsa on 2. This style is danced all over the world, in New York, some parts of Europe, Japan, Mexico, and some parts of Canada, just to mention a few places, and it is becoming more and more popular. It focuses mainly of the sounds of the conga and the clave in salsa. Some other salsa centers like Puerto Rico also dance on 2, but there the basic step for the lead is with the left foot stepping forward on 2 (second beat), where as in New York the lead steps back on 2.
Like its name, this type of salsa comes from Cuba and was the first style of salsa I learnt when I first began to take classes. It is also known as ‘rueda de casino’ (or just ‘rueda’ or ‘casino’) where a circle of 2 or more couples is formed and partners are swapped according to the figures called by the ‘leader’ of the ‘rueda’. In this style everybody dances the same figures, and each figure has a specific name. This style is very popular in the US, especially in Miami and also in large parts of Europe.
Salsa on 1
After having learnt Cuban salsa, I started to learn salsa on 1, which basically is distinguished by stepping forward on the first beat of the music with your left foot (Lead). This style is also known as LA Style, since it was created there and is now recognized as such all over the world. Salsa on 1 is very popular in Europe and large parts of the US as well as the rest of the world.
Colombian Style Salsa
No need to mention where this style was created. However, in spite of the general term Colombian salsa, in Colombia there are different styles of salsa in different cities, for example, the Cali style from Cali, and so on for other cities in Colombia, each with its own particular style of salsa. In general Colombian salsa is known for extremely fast footwork and spectacular acrobatic moves danced in time to the music.