Salsa > Do all the better dancers, do it on2?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by road2graciousness, Jan 31, 2008.

  1. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Yes, it's correct that people say that. It's not right that it is "more correct" though. Here are a few possible origins of that attitude.

    "more correct":

    1) mambo was danced on the 2 ( 2,3,4...6,7,8...) which directly interprets the Tumbao Moderna (the conga rhythm) which accents the following beats:
    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.
    ..x...xx..x...xx
    
    So if you focus on the conga you could feel on2 to be more correct

    2) if you dance on the 1 you are counterpointing the conga but you are directly interpreting the cencerro (cowbell) which goes
    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.
    x...x...x...x...
    
    given these two styles, there are a couple of arguments that weaken the case for ET2:

    1) ET2 is not the same as mambo, it's a hybrid. It catches the conga on 2 and 6 but misses it on 4 and 8.

    2) The conga only showed up in the music in the late 1940s, so how "authentic" can it be?

    Then you can turn the argument back around the other way:

    1) Cuban Son was danced contratiempo (2,3,4...6,7,8...) even before the tumbao showed up

    2) "Salsa" is an urban dance born in New York. Its Cuban and Puerto Rican antecedents are no less valid, but they weren't called salsa.

    better for women:

    A better turn of phrase might be "better for showing off the woman". The theory here is that when you dance on2, the woman's part of most turn patterns happens around beat 1 rather than beat 5. In other words, when the music hits that crescendo around 1, she is spinning or whatever move has been led. So for performance, you could say she gets a better deal. In some sense the dance has become more about her.

    The flipside of this one is that on1 your musical accents come on your open break, allowing quick flashes of styling to express the musical crescendos and accents. (It looks a bit more like swing to me).

    better for spins:

    I agree that ET2 timing is better for spins. To understand this, we have to notice that ET2 is not just on1 shifted. If we took ET2 and moved it to the 1, the basic would go like this 1,2...4,5,6...7 with the break steps on 1 and 5. So the lead for a multiple spin would go 1,2 pause GO... she would have time on 3 to get stable before spinning on 4 and would not have to come out of it until the next 1.

    Yep, once you learn one way it can be very discouraging to try another way and to have to fight your instincts. For me it was just another interesting thing to try, I had maxed out on a local scale on 1 and wanted something interesting. Back then all my dancing was wooden by my current standards so maybe it didn't take much of a hit!

    Don't expect your on2 dancing to feel the same as your on1 dancing: if you are listening to the music then they feel very different. Even when your on2 feels as good as your on1 it won't feel the same as it.

    If you're listening to the music, it's likely that you'll start to feel that some music works better for you on 1 and some on2.
     
  2. Lofland

    Lofland New Member

    As a leader, I like knowing both so I can ask my partner, "Do you want to dance On1 or On2?" Some advanced ladies are fine with both, then I get to choose.

    Tropical Gem of Milano is one of the best dance companies in the world, and they are fantastic in both styles. If On1 is good enough for them, it's good enough for me.


    John Narvaez and Liz Rojas of Salsamania in San Francisco are also somewhat flexible. Several of their DVDs teach the same patterns in both styles.

    A majority of songs feel better to me On2, but there definitely are some songs with strong cowbell and no audible tumbao that work better On1. My On2 snob friends insist on dancing to a non-existent tumbao on some songs.
     
  3. WebMama

    WebMama New Member

    For Sweavo:

    That was a beautiful explanation! It is sometimes hard to explain all of that on a message board or in writing and you did a great job!!!! :applause:
     
  4. Beto

    Beto Active Member

    Going OT for a sec, welcome to Dance-Forums, WebMama! 'bout time you showed up! :D
     
  5. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Hey thanks! It beats working :)
     
  6. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    sweavo, got a question for you :)


    Can you explain this a bit more? Especially, I'm curious about the '2 beat which resolves the tension' statement.
     
  7. DCR

    DCR Member

    Ooh Oooh here we go ..people trying to make a beautiful dance into Quantum Physics [​IMG]
     
  8. dancin/dj

    dancin/dj Member

    I must say i sooooooooo agree, sweavo is the best i"ve seen im going to have to print it and study it because no one has said it better, (i"ve gotten headaches trying to read others efforts and quotes) since im a musican also i want to study this in detail , i can tell he has the clarity to reach me in musically terms, where in the past others have not, kudos to you Dude.
     
  9. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Aww thanks! Credit for the parts about counterpointing conga and cowbell has to go to Loo Yeo http://www.salsa-merengue.co.uk/loo_yeo.html who explained it so clearly at a 1-day congress in York England at the start of this year. The stuff about the counts came from my own brain and the other points of view come from collecting all the casually-thrown opinions I've heard over the years and trying to accommodate them all into a "truth" that doesn't tell anyone that they're wrong!

    quixotedlm: that's a heckofaquestion! I started to reply but it got a bit long so I've mailed it to myself and will try to finish it soon!
     
  10. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Wow, well I couldn't explain what that writer was trying to say, but I'll happily improvise on a theme! Note that all the following is just my personal view, based on a lot of conjecture and some observations about the clave patterns.

    I struggle accepting that explanation above and I have a feeling it is also an idea that carries over from the Mambo days.

    First the idea of tension and resolution in the clave:

    A lot of the time I don't really feel "tension" and "resolution" with the clave instrument itself on modern salsa music. But I can really hear it on rumba music. The rumba clave is slightly different than the regular (son) clave:

    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.
    X  X  X   X X    <- son clave (forward direction, or 3:2)
    X  X   X  X X    <- rumba clave
    
    If I write it next to the downbeats, you can see how it starts on beat, then disappears off on its own way, then returns to the beat:

    Code:
    1...3...5...7... <- counting the down beats only
    X  X   X  X X    <- rumba clave, tension and resolution
    
    To get a feel for this, do one beginners' lesson in Cuban rumba, and then go home and do the rumba basic step while listening to the clave. Eventually you start to feel the clave give you a little confirmation that you are doing it right, on 1 and on 7. (The Rumba basic steps are on the downbeats only).

    Another way to feel this is by speaking it:
    "DUM, baDUM, baDUM-ba-DUM"

    If you try that or just look at that diagram, it looks and feels to me that the resolution is on beat 7. Whichever way round you look at it, the break step can only be on 2 or 6 and that clave "resolving beat" can only be on 3 or 7.

    But we don't salsa to rumba clave, we do it to son clave.

    Code:
    1...3...5...7... <- counting the down beats only
    X  X  X   X X    <- son clave, tension and resolution
    
    When just counting the downbeats , this also lines up on 1 and 7.

    How the salsa basic steps fit in:

    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8. <- counting the down beats only
    X  X  X   X X    <- son clave
    X X X   X X X    <- on1 or ET2 basic
    
    So dancing ON1 or ET2 to a 3:2 clave does indeed "resolve" on the last step of the basic. This resolution might feel stronger on ET2 because your break step on beat 6 lines up with one of the strongest beats in the bar. Here's a chart with a whole slew of percussion parts on it. Notice how beat 6 stands out - all of those intruments not only hit the 6, but they are silent on the "ands" before and after it. Thus beat 6 on the diagram (really, beat 2 of the 2-side of the clave) is in this sense the strongest beat of the bar. On2 and ET2 dancers have their break step there, which make them feel all glad inside! (myself included)

    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8. <- counting the down beats only
    X  X  X   X X    <- son clave
     xxxx xxx x xxxx <- mambo bell
      X   oo  X   oo <- conga
    x xx x xx x xx x <- cascara
    O xxO xxO X O xx <- bongo bell
    X x x   X x x    <- on1 basic
    x X x   x X x    <- ET2 basic
    
    A lot of salsa music is on the reverse (2:3) clave. Look what happens if you dance "real" on2 to this rather than ET2:

    Code:
    1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8. <- downbeats
      X X   X  X  X  <- 2:3 clave
      X X X   X X X  <- power2 basic step
    
    Here we have alignment on 2 and on 8. The first step of the basic (which is a break step) hits the first beat of the clave on 2, and the last step of the basic hits the last beat of the clave on 8. So I would completely accept a power2 dancer claiming to dance to the clave. It's my current feeling that Power2 has a strong claim to "claveality" than ET2 . Maybe this was something that was true of Mambo and has passed orally down to the ET2 scene. I don't know.

    In conclusion, I think the "feel" of music is a very personal thing, and is based more on habits of thought than on anything objective. Sure groups of people can reach a consensus whether beat 1 or 2 or the and-of-four is the most emphatic beat in the bar, but when two such groups meet, you'll likely have a religious war on your hands.

    My own approach is not to expect myself to be able to get this by having it explained. First you must listen to the music and engage with it, try to get a feel for how it swings. Then, when you have feelings for aspects of the music, THAT is when words are useful, to rationalise your own experience. This kind of feeling/understanding can't be "downloaded" direct from another person by explanation alone.

    If you got this far, was it any help?
     
  11. WebMama

    WebMama New Member

    Hahah - thank you! :cool: You know I find my way around to forums eventually! Just depends on how much work I got.
     
  12. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    Here I am reviving this old thread but since I haven't been in the forum much it's something I find interesting to discuss. Sweavo has done a fantastic job of breaking everything down with notation and all. Really good work.

    I personally dance Cuban dances and I feel also that power2 or contratiempo, as we call it, is the most "on clave" because it accents both of the upbeats. In fact I read a quote from Enrique Jorrín, creator of chachacha for those who don't know, that the most important beat in Cuban music has always been the 4. You still hear that a lot in Cuban music, a lot of the really strong accents in the music hit on the 4.

    But in the end I am not one of those people who really care a lot if you dance on1, on3, ET2 or contratiempo. You have to dance whatever your partner is dancing or it won't work. I have tried ET2 but since I have to change the direction of my basic step it's too much work for me. I just stick with contratiempo.

    But I do want to mention that when I first started dancing I thought it was arrogant of dancers to say "the more you feel the music, the more you will want to dance on2". But I have to admit that after dancing for about 10 years, I do feel more like dancing on2, albeit contratiempo, to many songs. I wouldn't say I dance a genuine son but sort of a sonified casino.

    Of course the vast majority of salsa is based on son and some of it is really just straight-up son montuno with extra instruments, so it seems natural to dance son to it. But for faster songs, I prefer on1, mainly because son has the extended body motion over the 4-1 that doesn't translate well to fast music and turns into a bouncy motion that I don't like at all.

    I just wanted to mention that this depends on what music you're listening to. Cuban salsa makes extensive use of the rumba clave, I don't know I'd go so far as to say it is more common than the son clave, but it is very common in Cuban music.
     
  13. salsator2008

    salsator2008 New Member

    I think it's a really great article that you wrote there. I think everyone will always have their own personal perference. For me it really depends on the song and what I'm trying to express. There are days when I prefer on 1 over 2 because it feels a lot more powerful to certain songs and faster.
     
  14. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Depending on which beat you dance and whether by on2 you mean on2 mambo or on2 Eddie Torres the feel is different because you break on different beats among other things. You can do the same move with all 3 styles to the same song and depending on the song a person equally versed in all 3 may feel that one particular styles fits the best for that move and song with the person he is dancing with that night. Note all the qualifiers. ;-)
     
  15. Simi-Lanjiao

    Simi-Lanjiao Member

    Haha.. yeah totally agree with you on that one. It kind of implies if you're not dancing on2, you're not feeling the music and therefore there's something wrong with you.

    IMHO... there really is no magic number that is superior - the music tells you on what count to dance.
     
  16. El Caobo

    El Caobo New Member

    Perhaps more accurate wording would be "the more you feel the percussion, the more you will want to dance on2". I've been analyzing this for some time now and it appears to me that on1 dancers dance more to the melody of the song; while on2 dancers dance more to the rhythm section (timbales, conga, bongó, piano, clave, guiro, etcetera).

    Hence, absent clear and precise percussions, songs are more attractive to on1 dancers. On the other hand, on2 dancers yearn pronounced percussions.

    This is just my opinion, based on my observations. What is yours?
     
  17. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    I think that's a good analysis, although for me it's more when the bass is hitting the 4 and 8 that I want to dance on2.
     
  18. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Would tend to agree with that, altho.. some songs just seem to "say " to me.. dance on 1 or 2 or 3 irrespective of the musics origin ( Cuban, N.Y. , Colomb. etc. ) .
     
  19. DCR

    DCR Member

    LOL...the dance is only as good as the person
    Praise be I am not a technical person
    even in martial arts and in all arts it's only as good as the individual.
    I rest my case..lol
     
  20. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    there's some music that is better for on1, some that's better for on2...but few dancers know enough about salsa rhythm and timing to make that distinction. it's not universal that all rhythm/percussion in salsa music calls for on2...
     

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