Salsa > Why would people dance NY style?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by brujo, Jan 11, 2004.

  1. brujo

    brujo New Member

    For those who are familiar with mambo and casino ( or, the older, rotational style of Colombian salsa ). What exactly is the appeal of the NY and LA styles?

    The slotted positioning of NY/LA style, all the extraneous hand motions and styling, and the multiple spins all seem too artificial to me. Sure, it looks good if you want to show off, but with the more traditional styles you get to feel more. Am I wrong?
  2. looyenyeo

    looyenyeo New Member

    Slot dancing

    I blame it on the shape of the room.

    No, I'm serious.

    Lots of lessons are taught in square/rectangular rooms. Many teachers make use of the walls as markers, to make it easy for their students to orientate themselves during the course of learning a combination. Hence students get used to using the 90/180 degree angles more than any other.

    Without apportioning blame, dancers are not often encouraged to explore the points of flexibility in a dance element (aka. combination component) where new angles can be created; the different possible arcs of movement; how to anticipate, create and occupy available space.

    A simple start would be to re-orientate the students into the corners so that they would be diagonal to the floor, two-thirds of the way into a lesson. That would encourage the use of 45 degree segments (corners in conjuntion with walls assuming a square floor).

    I think that Eddie Torries is good to watch because of the angles he uses, although he teaches slot.

    Just think, the Casino ballroom was circular, and what came out of it?

    Approaching things from a different angle,
    (Ugly pun, isn't it?)
  3. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    This has nothing to do with those particular styles and EVERYTHING to do with the dancers. I don't believe you feel more dancing casino/cuban/colombian style.
  4. brujo

    brujo New Member

    [ ]
  5. MapleLeaf Salsero

    MapleLeaf Salsero New Member

    I totally agree with you youngsta. :)
  6. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    So Brujo just because someone wrote that in an article you believe it's true for everyone that dances those styles? I find there are just as many people that don't have that attitude. I've also found dancers with that attitude who dance casino's all about the personality of the dancers imho.
  7. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    I know of the person who wrote the article, I've seen him dance too many times. I somewhat agree to some of the comments on the lack of "inside the lines of NY City style" but not the reasons for it. He has forgoten to mention that if most of us don't know something exists we will never learn it, do it, and even less teach it. Not to mention that when the floor is jammed packed, it is easier to dance not moving around from your slot spot. That is the case in NY City, if you think you will rueda, circle, or diagonaly move around the floor you will be watching most the night. While it can be done when the floor isn't jammed packed, it isn't very nice of you to move a girl in circles increasing the chances to move into someones space when the floor is crowded.

    And nope, a style isn't a limitation of how much someone feels salsa. My mom can't dance, and if you see her listening to salsa she looks like she is in a trance. She can't even merengue.
  8. brujo

    brujo New Member

    No. I'm listing the viewpoint from someone who obviously knows the scene in new york to provide points to this discussion. I find that sometimes the instructors have the best grasp on the deficiencies on their own scenes.

    Of course the dance depends on the dancers, but my question concerns the fundamental elements of the dance and the music. Mambo is a big city dance with big city attitudes. Of course, if you are in New York, there is pretty much no way around it.

    From the Toronto point of view, we have an extremely large latin community. The salsa scene here has been fed largely by native Colombians and Venezuelans who bring their own style of salsa. LA style has slowly been coming into the scene in maybe the last five years. Ask all the old school instructors about this new acrobatic style, and the complaints are always the same : The music is too fast, the movements too artificial and the dance is more about flash than feeling.

    In watching a lot of the dancers in our scene, there seems to be few times when the people come together and just dance the basics feeling the music, as they are always trying to catch the next double spin.

    So far, you haven't provided one benefit of New York style over colombian style. I'll give you a couple from Casino + Colombian style that I have seen:

    -> Easier to follow. The way turns are lead in the traditional style are more momentum based, while the NY turns, for the sake of being controlled and allow multiple spins, rely heavily on the follower. The way the turns are taught, you cannot grab a girl from the street and make her turn without her looking confused from the lead alone. The slotted style is also not immediately noticeable.

    -> More body movement in Colombian style. The man and the woman both move their entire bodies while dancing, LA style is a lot stiffer, in fact, I know instructors who discourage moving the body to have a better lead.
  9. Jacira

    Jacira New Member

    I have to agree with those who say Cuban, Casino style salsa is less "posed" than LA or NY styles. The LA style in my humble opinion, is great for TV and movies... very glitzy with lots of dips and flips that have absolutely ZERO to do with salsa. You may be interested in reading an article I wrote about what IS Cuban Casino style salsa. You can find it here:

    A seguir bailando, pues la salsa es la fuente de la juventud eterna!

  10. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    A warm welcome to the forums Jacira!! We are very happy to have another knowledgable person participate in our discussions! :D I have enjoyed browsing your site, learning history from the CD reviews, etc.
  11. Jacira

    Jacira New Member

    Thank you! I wish I had more time to participate in forums, but with over 500 pages to keep updated, not to mention private salsa classes, other client's web sites (I do web design), the occasional international congress and my son's activities... that is pretty difficult! Feel free however, to ask anything about Cuban style and I will try and get you the answer if I don't know it myself!

    Deseandoles mucha salsa a todos en el nuevo a~no!
  12. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    And I never planned to. If you love dancing that style more power to you! No need to try and take shots at another style because of your distaste for it. There are plenty of variations to satisfy all of us.
  13. brujo

    brujo New Member

    There is a difference between taking shots and trying to understand why people prefer one style over the other. I usually have fun dancing with LA / NY style dancers, but I've never developed the love for the style for the reasons I mentioned. Come on, NY dancers, why? why? why? This is a discussion board, for crying out loud!
  14. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Brujo, why do some prefer NY City style? Have you been to NY City? Why do you think the article describes the average NY City dancer going any where in the world and being one of the best upon arrival? Just like it takes years of practice to do ballroom, is the same with Mambo style dance. Why do some like driving a 100 miles an hour? The same reason some drive the same vehicle at 50 Mph. Preference.

    Mambo isn’t something the average Joe off the street can do. It is something generated by desire, willingness to do a dance above what the norm is, something that compiles Cuban style, Colombian style, Rican style, hustle, jazz, tap, you get the point. That some people don’t do it is a completely different thing. But that it is called for in the music, as well as the dance, indeed.

    Mambo style calls for just about every dance, minus the aerial shows, neither Colombian, nor Cuban style call for such dances to be incorporated into them. Mambo style does. Hence, why you need to be able to spin, on time, without wobbling around, move feet around, move your body around, to master the dance. The lady has to be strong solo dancer because, Mambo mastery isn’t the Jail house of 2 dancers, where the male says you go here and shut up, I’m the leader and I’m going to take you there! Rather the game played when dancing solo. The mastery of dancing mambo must be greater than that of Cuban style as well as Colombian for someone to dance it well. Hence, why a person who doesn’t know a lick about mambo dancing can’t do it. Because if you can’t drive a car what makes you think you can fly a jet? Then have the right to complain because you can’t fly a Jet, hence, it isn’t as good as car.

    What is NY City style? It is only the stepping of 1,2,3 5,6,7, but breaking on 2, nothing else. The preference of the dance is to dance on the slot, however, incorporation of circular, angular, etc, go just as well with the dance. If the person lacks the body movement you speak of, it has more to do with personal ability than hindrance of style. Ala Rumba movements, something salsa calls for, but is absent in Colombian style, however, it is called for and danced in NY City style. Again, that people don’t do it is different than the style no having it.

    The fundamentals of NY City style? You can’t move the body as much while stepping over the 4 on way to the 5 or, 8 on way to the 1. That is all that pretty much hinders the amount of body movement. That New Yorkers have attitudes? Yes. Does it come out when they dance? Yes. So, does everyone else’s attitude. The movements are artificial only to those that can’t do them, and because of those that do them are more worried about the move than the dance, hence failing to feel the dance. Again brujo, it isn’t a limit of the dance but the limit of people that dance it. Remember that dancing well and looking like you enjoy it because of a smile isn’t feeling the dance.

    I don’t like momentum based moves. Why? They stress too much strength-control over the partner. Salsa isn’t about momentum, nor egotistical control. It is about a sharing of power and grace, which should display the women more, because the word “woman” alone means sensuality. How much sensuality is there on momentum? None. It limits itself in that is the way you are coming and where you must. Instead of masterfully guiding the lady to a completely unexpected spot, yet ever so smoothly. The side and back stepping with one leg are of an on1 dance form(the cumbia basic step has its origin on1 dancing where the body calls for side to side motion, hence allowing a circular dance), I dance on2, so I enjoy dancing back and forth and on the slot. On2 calls for a back and forth motion, less arm sway across the body. The body is going back and forth, why fight it and swing the arms across the body side to side. See, the incorporation of on1 to NY City style on2.

    Easier to follow? Sure, it isn’t advanced; it requires no prior knowledge of any beat, form or technique. Remember, if the average Joe off the street isn’t ready to fly a Jet, then don’t blame the Jet for being complicate. It just is, the problem is that it takes time to learn to fly it. I don’t want to grab someone form the street and make them dance. I want to dance with someone. I don’t care to know that I can make someone dance and follow me. I already know I can. I want to be able to share something with someone. Not my egotistical gain of how well I manage to move around a girl from the street that never danced before. Why? Because leading someone isn’t dancing!

    There are hindrances to every style. Personal preference, guided by geographical embedded ideas acting as the driving force for why the style I dance is better. Had you been born in NY City, you would be asking why isn’t everyone dancing NY City style, and why it is better. Nothing to do with the style, but how the self needs to acknowledge that it is doing something how it needs to be done and the why, which it has forgotten that it can be applied to the complete opposite of what it is doing.

    Remeber, the music is complicated, so why must the dance not be? If musicians need to be educated and learn percussion to play salsa. Then the dancers better go through equal dance education to give thanks to those people who are making us shake our souls. The more we know, the closer we can get to dancing a genre that incorportes just about every other genre, even cumbia. Now, NY City style calls for all of that, that people don't do it, is something different.
  15. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Welcome to the forums! Lovely to have another salsera aboard. :D
  16. MapleLeaf Salsero

    MapleLeaf Salsero New Member

    Boriken, just to say I really enjoyed reading your post.
  17. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Thank you MapleLeaft. :D
  18. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Interesting points, Boriken.

    Yes, I have been to NYC. There are great dancers there. I have also seen great Cuban dancers. What's the point?

    I never said that the traditional styles can be done by Joe from the street. I said they are easy to follow. The difference is that Cuban and Colombian moves are more closely related to body movements and don't have as many rules to the carefully choreographed nature of NY / LA styles. Using your analogy, mambo would be like learning to fly a Cesna. You can do highly sophisticated tricks with the Cesna, but nothing else. Learning to dance the Cuban and colombian styles is learning to fly airplanes in general, the level of the person following should not affect the type of moves that you do.

    You seem to confuse influence with essence. Sure, mambo has its roots in son. Does this mean that son just stopped evolving after its essence was completely sucked up by mambo? So an island of 11 million people who dance all day just decided, you know, this style we have is good enough, let's stop there and let the New Yorkers make it better. Cuban Casino is very hard to master because it is subtle, very simple looking moves are actually more intricate and sophisticated than they look. LA / NY style is the exact opposite, very difficult moves to the observer ( double spins, etc ) are easy due to the understanding between the dancers. If you pluck one of the dancers from New York and put them somewhere else, their dancing will stink because the woman will not know how to compensate for him, he will be expecting certain moves, but she will not be able to do them and would be confused as to why she can't follow him.

    No understanding of the beat? How can you like Grupo Niche and Oscar De Leon and completely dismiss the musical cultures that raised them? Cubans have been dancing on1 and on2 for ages, but it doesn't really matter that much to them because one person keeps the beat so the other person shouldn't have to worry about it. Your "Dancer's Jail" is nothing more than that, a different shift in responsabilities. The leader is going to decide the moves and the timing, the woman can accept, or she can do her own thing.

    Digging deeper, mambo is a big city dance with all the flash and glitz of the big city. The great Metropolis is very concerned about the way you look. You said it yourself,
    . My question is who the hell are you displaying her to? Can't she display herself? Isn't that why you asked her to dance in the first place? Are you dancing with her, or the people you are displaying her to? In a culture where material things and looks are everything, salsa seems to be equated with being seen dancing with the perfect woman that is sexy and styling and slim. Is this why the older women at the clubs never seem to get a dance?

    How do I look at the sensual aspect of the dance? The woman is sensous, she is sexy, she is already all that. The man can really do nothing to accent this. A beautiful woman in a double spin is no sexier than a woman sitting by herself. I dance with her, I make her feel like a queen by looking out for her on the dance floor, I try moves that are fun, that feel good to her, if people look, fine, if they don't, even better.

    In Latin America, dancing is about fun. People might not be able to do sophisticated double turns, underarm dips and dance with their body, but their dancing is an extension of their unique personalities. It's not about moves and patterns and the right way of doing stuff. It's about using your body to flirt, to be funny, to express whatever the hell you want to express. It's not about dancing like everyone else, it's about your own, unique, individual style. Problem with this? Unless you are very good or have good guidance, you can't really open up dance schools all across the board and make money off it.

    Mambo has its strengths. It's easier to teach. It is more structured. Its focus on individual dancing is a lot stronger. It is more technique based. It has really interesting shines and spins. Would I dance this after I have experienced the other styles? Only if the girls dancing it are really hot..
  19. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    The point is stressed by the article you quoted. An average NY city dancer is among the best anywhere in the world. Again, making someone dance isn’t dancing.

    Easy to follow is dependent on lead. Every dance has its complicated patterns as well as easy patterns. Which means that skill is needed for any one follower and leader to be able to do the complicated patterns of any given dance.

    It seems that you really are misunderstanding the NY City style dancer. As an example, I do rumba, cumbia, merengue, reggae moves yet using NY City style. Why? Because I’ve learned how to. Those, who do not, don’t. Hence, the people you refer to as NY City dancers. You speak of them, not the style. Remember that it isn’t the game but the player. I can refer to many, many Cubans who rueda, yet can’t do much of anything with anyone besides the same moves over and over. It’s about skill brujo, and why you are learning rueda, because if you weren’t taught the little ins and outs you wouldn’t be as proficient. That its learning curve is not as steep has nothing to do with seeking a skill.

    The level of the follower is directly related to the level of the pattern. Had that not been the case, you and I would be competing in salsa world competitions with anyone girl at a club and have a chance to win. If the patterns are simple, then yes, anyone can follow. But we can’t say that a merengue player can play salsa because he is a musician and all music is the same. Not one and the same, any why there is complicated music and not. Salsa is a complicated music, so is its dance. Original Mambo music in cuba was simple, in today’s salsa standard, hence a dance that fit it. It takes skill to do those things that are higher in sophistication. There is no way around that. So, yes to follow NY City mambo, you have to know how to dance, not just wing it. Mambo is like flying a X-14 hovering fighter jet. You can make it purr like a baby, glide it through the skies like a bird, gently start and stop it, or make the sky its dancing grounds limitless of what it can do.

    The essence wasn’t sucked up by mambo, but so by the people that dance it. Cuban Mambo, isn’t the same as NY City mambo. They are two totally different dances. NY city Mambo involves son, charanga, pachanga, jazz, tap, merengue, cumbia steps, etc. Cuban mambo originally didn’t and doesn’t.

    Yes, when you see advance NY city dancers, the moves are difficult to observe, as they should be. These people have spent countless hours to do things others can’t. Done so, not only to pay tribute to themselves, but the music. So, if the music is difficult, the dance should be as well, the intricacy of the moves, to he who don’t know a thing about mambo, should look difficult. Yet, they should see the grace, mastery, and easiness of how flawlessly the dancers make it seem.

    A great dancer compensates for the level of lesser dancer. No ifs and buts. If a NY City dancer chooses to do sophisticated moves to women who can’t dance it, then he will look like he sucks. That goes even in merengue. The best dancer must always go down to the level of the lesser dancer. And there are more than enough simple moves who the average Joe down the street can do in Mambo. It is about how the person dances a given style, not what can be done to that style. If anyone chooses to do any kind of advance moves to someone who can’t even walk, then they deserve to look like they stink in any style.

    1- No, the leader doesn’t decide the timing. Timing is decided by the music. Cubans, folk dancers don’t let one person keep the beat, so the other person doesn’t worry about it. When done so, it is because one dancer must never loose beat while the other dances doing his/her thing, he must be one with the music and keep rhythm at all times. That is a street belief, one generated from a lesser understanding of what dancing is about. Anyone that tells you otherwise doesn’t understand Cuban music, its origin and true purpose, even if they are Cuban.
    2- Both dancers need to worry about the timing. If all the musicians in the band are worried about being in synch. Then dancers must too. How nice would it be for you to lead me Cuban style on1 and me dancing it on2? If you are forcing me to be on1, then we aren’t dancing, we are fighting each other. Both dancers must worry about the beat. If they don’t, they aren’t dancing to the music, with the music, nor each other, but 2 selves fighting to dance as one.
    3- A dance Jail is when the man decides what is happening all the time without regards to the music or the woman. Except for romantic Cuban music, their music has never been danced with the man controlling the woman 100% of time. It is only done so by those who do not know the complexity of Cuban rhythms. They don’t know what dancing to Afro-Cuban rhythms is all about. It’s a matting ritual brujo, on top of that religious implications which were done more of a solo dance than not. Remember where percussion came from and what it was used for, and how it found its way to European rhythms to form what we have today.

    Despite what anyone tells you, you are, one and foremost dancing for you and your mate, 2- the crowd. Why? Because as long as someone is looking at you, even if you don’t care what they think. They are enjoying the same dance as you to a different perspective. They, as spectators and you as the sharing of the music with your other half. Who are you ultimately displaying her to? Yourself! You are allowing her to give all of her to the dance to show you what coming together will be like. Example, the mating ritual of birds. They’ll fly around each other for long periods of time, it is expectacular to watch. They are “fluriting” with each other, but because we are looking, they are putting a display for us. Difference of perspective, it is what is happening to everyone around, not only us, despite how to ourselves we dance.

    Not looking because you are shy to display what you are doing to that woman? You don’t want every other woman to know what will await them when brujo holds them within his arms? You don’t want them to know that, hey, this guy brujo is going to take care of me! I want to dance with him because he is going to take me from this world and put me in his arms. Regardless what you think, that is what will happen. You are dancing for Brujo alone, but those around are responding to it, only because they just happen to be participant-observers. In a world where everyone shares social events, you are doomed to share your dancing inner pleasures with everyone around you.

    To people that want to have fun dancing in latin America is about fun. To those who seek further events it is about such, seeking something further than fun. I should know, I grew up in a latin American country. In every country music has always been dances for fun, then there are those who seek to further it to an art form, because of the love and passion they have for it. To some it is simply about fun but to others it is a lifestyle. So, we take all of what the people are doing for fun and we add one thousands things to it to take it to places where the person having fun has never been.

    Dance for love brujo, not for looks, regardless of what style it is. They are all art forms, they are all beautiful, they shouldn’t be compared, and its saddening, they should be taken for what they are. A form for of self-expression, and implanting egotistical beliefs upon them not necessary for us to share and enjoy the dance.

    Darn, Let me apologize for the length of the post. I talk too much, but crapola, I sure enjoy interchanging ideas with you.
  20. peachexploration

    peachexploration New Member

    Boriken, no need to apologize. I could read your posts all day and never get tired. Thanks for always providing us with good information about the "beauty" of Salsa! :D I can't wait for my next On2 class! :banana:

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