Salsa > Why is Musicality So Hard/Rare to Find in Salsa?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Big10, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Agreed. Musiciality takes a while and overall salsa is less mature as a scene.
    Yes, complexity is an excuse. The percussion section is much more complex than most WCS music, but that actually should give us MORE options, rather than less in the salsa scene. Our dance can reflect the percussion, horns, voice/melody and switch back and forth as desired. The complexity ultimately gives us richer options.
    Couples who have a large floor should use it, in WCS or salsa. I've seen amazing WCS dancers dance in a small space if that is the gig. In those clips, they are all in performance mode with nobody else on the floor. Most of the elite salsa people will do that given the same spotlight. (You play to more of the audience if you move around.)
    You have that right... more styles and you need to listen and reflect the feel of the music. There is no excuse here, we can do the same thing in salsa but most nights you'll see most people doing the same moves to slow song verses a fast song (just one aspect of the tune). WCS people are taught from the beginning to respect the mood/feel of the music sooner than most salsa dancers.
    You have a good point there. Lindy hoppers probably have less overall variety due to their tempo, but that wouldn't apply to the elite dancers.

    At fast tempos, you have additional options in many tunes. You can also spread things out over two bars (16 counts) that are "normally" done over 8 counts, IF the music has places where that makes sense. As a rule, if a tune is fast, that is the percussion section bubbling along. The singers and/or horn players often have sections that float over the percussion, spanning multiple bars. (Great music usually has contrast within it's structure.) Most salsa dancers are dancing to the percussion exclusively but there are many possibilities to express the music via the other instruments if one chooses.

    In traditional Afro-Cuban, it's roots are percussion and voice, so it makes sense we start there as salsa dancers.

    On the maturity issue: Most new dancers don't like slower tunes as much (exceptions are all over the place, if they have other dance experience). There are more slower tunes in WCS, so people are forced to deal with that aspect of their dancing earlier in their development.
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I enjoy doing this...big time, but still have a ways to go to consider myself "strong". ;-) :)
  3. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    You are right about that... Picking up anyplace does give you more options in hustle. In my mind, having our steps anchored actually gives us MORE freedom. We have a "home base" and we can depend on that being there, even when we go away from it for a while.

    I'm saying the complexity is actually a win for us in the salsa world, and I'm not sure it's a barrier. That complexity can make it tougher for the newer dancer to hear many aspects of the music, but that is an issue that should go away as we mature as dancers.

    BTW - You are great in these discussions because your points are always thoughtful, you make me think, and in the few case we disagree, you always do it with class!
  4. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    I read this and I just started laughing out loud. I do it too but I'm constantly humbled and feel like a total beginner much of the time. Some nights I feel "stronger" but I'm years away from being where I want to be.

    Last night I was surrounded by EXCELLENT dancers and I was both inspired and felt like going home and practicing at 2am rather than staying and dancing.

    I was so wired when I got home I wrote an article about it for my blog and published it at around 5 am or so. As a rule I always wait a couple days, because my writing always needs a decent edit before it goes live. I was soo tired but I couldn't sleep! (Gota love this dance!)

    OK... No more off topic posts, but I was laughing when I read this.
  5. Alias

    Alias Member

    Given the argumentation of the first post of the thread (which is supposed to set the topic of the thread in more detail while the title is only a shortcut) the title should have been something like "Don't you think WCS dancers have more musicality than Salsa dancers?" instead of "Why is Musicality So Hard/Rare to Find in Salsa?".

    First of all, which salsa do we want to compare WCS with, because the picture goes like this, there are families of dances and dances among them:
    - Swing dances (Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, …).
    - Salsa dances (Casino, CBL slotted salsa with its variants (On1, On2(P2), On2(ET2), …), Colombian salsa, …).
    One should be aware that there are many salsa dances and a great variety of salsa music (or of music you dance some salsa dance on).
    Note: People often talk about salsa on forums and I wonder but what salsa are they talking about, "salsa" may refer to one dance in one own's town but worldwide (as is an international forum on the World Wide Web) it is not so.

    The musics associated with these dances are also differents.
    Some Jazz music (as Swing) you dance Lindy Hop on and some music you dance WCS on are really differents, and some music (as Timba) you dance Casino on and some music (for instance Mambo or some Latin Jazz) you dance Mambo on are really differents (I find).

    Note that we may agree to get WCS among the "Swing dances" but WCS is not danced to Swing music (and I don't know what "swing music" means), the music associated with WCS seems to change upon time (so maybe you shouldn't learn WCS because you like the music as it will change some years later, but you get some new kind of music now and then and you can explore dancing on this new music).

    Maybe do we want to compare WCS with CBL slotted salsa?
  6. Alias

    Alias Member

    It doesn't seem an obvious thing to compare different dances done on different musics (like WCS and CBL salsa).
    We can study the structure of each dance and how it can relate to the associated music and its structure and see if it may allow more or less musicality.
    Or some can make their mind that overall WCS dancers have more musicality than CBL salsa dancers after watching some video clips on the web (take care to distinguish true social dancing from anything like some routine in competition or show or famous instructor putting on a show on the social floor).

    Let's take for instance a quick simplified look at the first approach (that I find more interesting) with one point of view:

    Swing dances are often danced to some 4/4 music where the elementary unit is in fact half a 4/4 musical measure, with a duration of two beats and between two even instant beats, so this is the basic module, and the moves will take for instance 6 beats (3 modules) (ex with basic step timing "1-2, 3&4, 5&6" where "&" is between the beats) or 8 beats (4 modules) (ex with basic step timing "1-2, 3&4, 5-6, 7&8") or an even number of beats (x modules), and for instance you can add 2 beats (a module) to a move at the end or even in the middle inserting something else, and maybe this gives you more modularity in the moves.
    Also note some more variations in the basic steps with for instance a "step-step" (1-2) or a "triple-step" (3&4) for the follower (in a module), and in some Swing dance the allowance for free footwork, and then more flexibility on the basic steps and the ability to recover from some variation to the basic steps.

    Salsa dances are often danced to some 4/4 music where the elementary unit is in fact a 4/4 musical measure, with a duration of 4 beats, so this is the basic module, and the moves will usually take 8 beats (2 modules) with two parts (1234, 5678) each one on a measure (ok there's the special ET2 case).
    There is some strictness in the basic steps of CBL salsa (and moreover with a given timing for a given variant as On1, On2(P2), On2(ET2)) that the follower will want to stick to, and even break with her right leg in the "right" measure, which makes it difficult to make variations to the moves and to the steps (this would also suppose an ability for the follower to get out of the basic steps and then recover to it all inside a move), of course the solution they've found in CBL salsa is to break away and do some solo dancing aka shines.

  7. Alias

    Alias Member

    Exactly I find some salsa music (I mean some music for dancing salsa you find in some salsa parties) much more interesting because of a more complex rhythmic structure I can play with (I hate the loud repetitive "boum" beat you hear in some WCS music) (I also don't like some kinds of salsa music that are very repetitive).
    As I dance to what happens in the music I need things to happen there and various things, I need stuff and subtleness in it.

    I wonder how WCS dancers define the musicality and state that they have it, isn't musicality some kind of relationship between the music and the dance, so if the music is simplistic how can the dance following the music be rich and subtle?

    Is it that given the style of music, the WCS dancer can easily add some stuff (they don't find in the music) but still seem to play around the music?

    There is also the slowness of WCS music which gives time to play with body movements inside the moves, and people watching are catched by these cool movements, which seem to fit the music as long as they surf on the groove.

    The musicality of WCS dancers an illusion? :twisted:
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

  10. Big10

    Big10 Member

    I strongly agree with the highlighted portions. Even when the instrumentation is rich and complex, musicality is not impossible in Salsa, as people like Magna Gopal and Frankie Martinez routinely demonstrate. It's just that most Salsa dancers remember Magna for her tremendous spinning ability, whereas I'm equally as impressed (if not moreso) by her musicality -- whenever the leader actually gives her the freedom to express it, that is. Similarly, most people seem to focus on the technical elements of reproducing Frankie Martinez's footwork and body movement, and not as much on the fact that most of those movements are driven by the music to which he is dancing.

    We, as Salseros, can be musical -- but we just aren't (generally speaking). That's what I wanted to explore in this thread, and I'm happy with the varied input so far.

    A couple of people on this thread have acknowledged that there is a wide variety of Salsa/Mambo music but most dance communities don't get exposed to the full scope of it. My experience has been that at the typical Congresses and the popular Salsa clubs, the Salsa music that is played tends to fit a narrower range of tempos and structures. When the DJ wants to change tempo, he or she will tend to switch to Bachata or Cha Cha Cha, rather than explore the range already available within the Salsa/Mambo genre. DJ's fault? Promoter's fault? Fault of a vocal minority within the crowd? All of the above? I don't know.

    From the standpoint of developing musicality, I do think there's some value in getting to hear, and attempting to dance to, a wide variety of music in general, which (I think) would then make the dancer better suited to adapt to musical changes within an individual song. I go out dancing a lot, and I can't think of a single occasion at a public event where I've heard a Salsa mix including Cuban timba by Los Van Van, a Tito Puente classic mambo, a Marc Anthony Salsa romantica, and Salsa pop by DLG or Gloria Estefan. Each one of those artists has sold (literally) millions of records, so somebody likes them. We need to get out of the mindset of fitting a narrow (snobbish?) range of tastes at Salsa events. I'm not suggesting that every type of Salsa has to get equal time in the rotation, but at least a little variety every once in a while would do a world of good....
  11. Big10

    Big10 Member

    No, the title reflects exactly what I wanted to explore. :p WCS was just the easiest example I could use as a contrast, because of the abundance of videos I was able to find showing great musicality. Sagitta mentioned Argentine Tango, and I'd be happy to hear if there are any other dance genres that focus on musicality, so that we can think about how they developed musicality, and explore the ways to expand that concept in our individual Salsa dancing, as well as the larger Salsa world. More one-handed or open positions? Less spinning the follower? Are we limited by the music? Is there something else about the Salsa culture or our currently popular role models? That's the stuff I wanted to get into.

    My focus was not that narrow. I see much room for improvement in the musicality of all Salsa dancers (Casino, NY style, etc.). However, if one particular style of Salsa tends to breed more musicality than others, then that could be part of the discussion, too.
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Musicality ( I prefer rhythmical interpretation,-- semantics ) exists in most high level professional genres. It is not always as overt, as in the rhythm dances--- but it still exists .
    When we ( judges ) are are engaged in that practice , its one of the key elements in performance , that we seek .

    Its a skill, that evades most, and takes many yrs to develop .

    The problem for its lack of appearance in the avearage dancer , is 2 fold-- many teachers are themselves, without the skill-- secondly, the majority are either unaware-- or-- dont care . Sad commentary , but true.

    Have been attempting ( and I use that word advisedly ) to create that in dancers for numerous yrs, sometimes with success-- but more often, not .
  13. tj

    tj New Member

    Ah... so the very moves that they're teaching involves the styling? I've seen many a salsa teacher try to teach some of these 'non-leadable' styling moves which work great with people who took the same class, but since they're 'out-of-the-box' they tend not to work well in the social scene.

    How is this handled in the WCS world? (i.e. when a Leader is leading something that's giving stylistic freedom to the Follow?)
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    That depends on the partner-- trying to lead spin whips for e.g. to someone who has never danced them before, would be tricky , to say the least .

    But one could pick any partner dance, where there are movements which have to be learned, by either the follower or the leader, no matter what the level of the dancer is, in some cases .
  15. tj

    tj New Member

    Good point. I guess the only way to know what is learned versus what is improvised (in the two dances) is to become competent in both.

    Perhaps that's part of the issue (our perception) - maybe we salser@s are looking at learned/standard type moves in WCS, and mistakenly thinking that they're improvised?
  16. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    I'm not sure I understand the question, but answering a similar question that I do understand (and hoping it will be close enough):

    The connection between the leader and follower is much more of a two way street than it had been, and followers can use it as a way of getting their ideas into the dance. In addition, they are encouraged to improvise within the lead (ie to add flourishes that do not disturb the connection), and to be ready to take the focus of the dance ("play" in the vernacular - a pattern deliberately lead with very light control and tempo so that the follower can take as much of the music as she likes, and exhibit it without interference from the leader).

    So in teaching this, followers are sometimes presented with a vocabulary of substitutes for standard elements ("instead of a basic anchor, try a fan") or are sometimes given an element ("kick in different directions until you find one that's good for you"). These usually start from the feet, and then work their way up from there.

    My baseless opinion is that for arm styling... there really isn't any. Or perhaps better said, the followers arm styling will typically reflect not west coast, but her previous dance training.
  17. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    If you are asking about pre-planned versus choreography-on-the-fly, I'd say that no, you aren't mistaken; the dance is improvised. I can fly across the country, ask someone I've never met for a dance, lead some incredibly cheezy move that does everything exactly backwards, and the movement will be followed by a dancer completely unfamiliar with it.

    But the dance may be assuming more knowledge from the follower than you are accustomed to.

    Question: can a leader who has had only a few lessons dance with a follower who has never learned salsa? My experience is that the entry barrier in salsa is low - about on par with that of east coast. They won't necessarily stay on time, of course, but the basic dance will be there.

    In west coast, not so much. There's a big assumption of competence on the followers part that I've not come across in other dances. Bluntly, you've got to be really good to lead a complete novice and actually have a dance. No, more than that - you have to be really good, and you have to choose to acquire that skill.

    It wasn't always that way; I am the leader, I am responsible for every weight change from "may I have this dance" to "thank you very much, that was lovely". is a sentiment I'm told was once prevalent.
  18. tj

    tj New Member

    This is quite fascinating, and very useful in understanding some of the fundamental differences in the two dances.

    I have had some salsa instructors try to preach the 'deliberately selecting patterns' thing when they talk about musicality. It's hard. (well, for me, at least :wink: ) Instead, I've been playing around with doing simpler things around the music, and it gives me more spontaneity (not having to 'plan' as early) and better results.

    Yes, I'd say (IME) most salsa movement is rooted in sticking within the 8 beats.

    Yes, you're taking it down the same path that I wanted to. :)

    The concept in salsa is often called 'hijacking'. But it's being carried out to a much higher and more frequent degree in WCS. There is some dislike of this in some salsa scenes, but it makes a lot of sense, IMHO.

    Being taught as a technique/philosophy/foundation rather than pure improvisation/freestyle. Again, that makes sense.

    Salsa often prides itself on borrowing from other styles, and allowing for variations & different technique. However, I've also seen a lot of talk about standardization where people talk about a 'right way' versus 'wrong way' of dancing salsa.

    Good discussion! Thanks for the input, dancelf. We in the salsa world are known for our 'religious wars' when it comes to talking about something outside of our immediate dancing social circle/dance world, and it can get heated (see On1 vs On2, cumbia/timba/mambo/salsa dura/salsa romantica, Circular vs Slot, ad nauseum). Glad to see that besides smallish disagreements about the music, etc., that things seem to be staying civil.
  19. tj

    tj New Member

    Improvised but built from a foundation of taught possibilities, I assume?

    So again - the Follower needs to have a 'bag of tricks/skills/moves' on which she can pull off a move that a Lead has started?

    Yes, I'd generally agree on this. Was at a wedding over the weekend, and it's not too hard to get an absolute beginner moving around and doing the basics.

    Double edged sword. But quite nice to watch two competent Westies dance! :wink:
  20. salsamale

    salsamale New Member

    Visually, it's hard to tell who is more non-musical: a non-musical salsa dancer or a non-musical WCS dancer.

    If you asked a couple musical WCS dancers to dance to salsa music, would it look like WCS or salsa? If you asked a couple musical salsa dancers to dance to WCS music, would it look like salsa or WCS?

    What is WCS music? I've seen some YouTube vids of WCS danced to Justin Timberlake's Sexy Back. If I saw someone try to dance salsa to that song, I think I would look the other away :).

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