New York Style – In the 1970s, Eddie Torres created this style which emphasizes efficiency of movement, elegance, and body isolations. The beat on which the dance break i.e shift their weight also gives the style a more colloquial name of On2, although this is really not specific to which type of On2 it is. Additionally NY Style is sometimes labeled Mambo, although this is somewhat of a misnomer as Mambo is always danced On 2 and is actually a different dance altogether.
The timing in New York Style connects well with the tumbao and clave patterns inherent in Salsa music, specifically Salsa Dura (Hard Salsa). Practitioners of New York Style place great emphasis on “shines” in which dancers drop their connection and showcase their individuality through complex footwork and body movements. As mentioned before, Salsa Dura, which is different from other salsa music, has a strong Afro-Cuban rhythm and are typically medium to fast tempo songs which allows for the dancers to explore their own creativity and musicality.
NY On2 Dancers are said to “dance with the beat”, such that they dance almost as if they were another instrument soloing throughout the song. At Salsa Congresses, New York Style is the style of choice for most professional dancers and performers.
L.A. Style – L.A. Style is yin to the yang of NY Style. L.A. style specializes in theatricality, acrobatics, musicality, sensuality, and high energy. Having roots in Mambo, LA Style is danced On 1 such that the dancer breaks on the 1 versus breaking on2 like NY Style. Compared to their NY counterpart, those who dance LA style are said to “dance to the beat”. This means they follow the downbeats of the music.
But how do you identify LA from NY? Well if you were watching these dancers from outside the club and couldn’t hear any music, typically you would notice the LA dancers first. They are the flashy, energetic, trick inclusive, all out dancers. That’s not to say NY isn’t like this, but traditionally NY style is smoother and more elegant.
Today this style can be seen on such popular shows as “Dancing with The Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” due to its flashiness and commercial appeal. The main proponents of this style are the Vazquez Brothers (Johnny, Francisco, and Luis). The music accompaniment is often high tempo salsa songs sometimes to ridiculous speeds.
Miami Style (Classic Cubano, Casino) – Miami style salsa evolved from the Cuban style of salsa but is a more difficult and technically advanced style of Cuban salsa. Advanced Miami salsa moves tend to be intricate and pretzel-like and require a flexible follower to execute the moves.
Many of the Miami moves are the same as Casino Rueda moves and the style is still more circular than linear. Open breaks or the Guapea basic (leader and follower break back and then push off each other) with a tap are the most common basic steps in Miami style salsa. Cross body lead variations are common but are executed in a more circular fashion.
Casino Rueda – Casino Rueda (meaning salsa wheel) is a group dance which originated in Havana , Cuba in the 1960s by a group called Guaracheros de Regla. In this dance, couples dance in a circle while one dancer, designated as “The Caller”, provides hand signals or calls out the moves which will be executed by every couple in the circle simultaneously. Many of the Casino moves involve swapping or switching partners which makes the dance tricky to execute and spectacular to watch.
Rueda is very popular in Cuba and Miami and has gained popularity all over the world. Cuban Rueda tends to be more playful with easy to follow fun moves while Miami Rueda has many complicated turn patterns and requires memorization and skill to execute. Many callers will know anywhere from 150-300 moves so memory, speed and accuracy is a key to ensuring the circle is not broken. The advantage of learning Casino Rueda is that all moves learned in the Rueda circle can be danced one on one with a partner adding to a dancer’s repertoire of moves.
Cumbia – Colombian style salsa began in Columbia and is danced to a different type of salsa music called “Cumbia” which is similar to the salsa rhythm but has a longer pause between the first three and the last three beats. It is rare to find a Cumbia instructional class as most people who dance this style were taught by family and friends.
The style is still quite popular in South/Latin America and can be distinguished by a circular style of open/side breaks with a tap on the pauses of 4 and 8. Feet never move forward and backwards as in the Mambo step. Instead, the movement is a series of back to centre or side to centre footsteps. The style has very little turn patterns and is generally not a fast or “showy” style. Instead most Cumbia dancers will hold their partner very close with their entire bodies touching from head to toe. If turns are involved, they are generally very simple rock step left turns.