A Challenge

This is a great topic. But while there are numerous complains that too many people in the salsa community place more focus on complicated patterns and technique than on musicality, I've yet to see discussions of musicality in terms of what each movement expresses or what each sequence or combination of moves is appropriate or inappropriate at a particular part of a song. We've been taught tools like basic steps, CBL, cross over breaks, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Nth positions, right turns, left turns, multiple turns, Cumbia steps, suzie q's, etc.. and we've been taught combination of the aforemention, but we haven't really been taught how to use them. i.e. with a song that starts out soft and calm and gradually crescendoing into a more rhytmically complicated chorus or the body of the song, it is inappropriate (this is prob not a good word) to execute a complicated set of sequences of fast footwork and spins at the beginning. Rather, you'd want to start with something simple and build up to more complicated squence. I know there many variables involve, but I'd like to hear from you, esp. the salsa teachers, how you'd teach musicality. Pick a particular part of a song, any song. Describe what sequence or movement would go well with that part and what would not in your opinion. Let's see if you could put it in words.
To try and answer your question Latindancer, I'm not a choreographer or dance teacher, but I've always felt I had natural "choreography" type skills. :) When I dance to songs at home, I seem to think like a choreographer (or so I believe)! I always apply certain moves and speeds to different parts of a song.

You are right in that many salsa songs may start out slow, or slower, and so the movements should correspond with that. I feel that the most rapid parts of a salsa song are best for the intricate, fast turn patterns, or else for a couple to do a simultaneous shines routine.

There's a song I like alot.... "Estoy enamorado d'una chica, si pero no, d'una chica, si pero nooooo". Then there's a part of the song ... I guess you'd call it a refrain... where they say "no pero si", "si pero no", etc. And I was visualizing that for that part of the song, in a performance, it would be nice for the couple to be facing each other holding hands, and to separate one hand only and turn away from each other in a dramatic fashion at the word "no", and then to act like they've changed their minds, and that they DO want to be together, at the word "si", and to then face each other again and hold hands. You know... the whole "no pero si, si pero no" thing..... Naturally I don't think they should repeat that for the entire refrain, but just one or two times so that they are physically showing the ambivalence that is being talked about in the song.

I don't know if that helps in explaining how I personally look at songs. I guess for me, songs can often be looked at or danced to in parts. Some parts have a silly feel to them and call for more lighthearted steps. Some parts are intense and fast paced and call for more rapid fire dancing. But you also have to look at the song overall. A song like "Coco".... "a mi me gusta el coco".... to me, that's sort of a silly, light-hearted song ... I mean, a song about what is your favorite fruit? I would never expect to see rapid fire dancing to a song like that. For me, that song would be more appropriate for a more casual level or speed of dancing. But then you take a song like "Fuego a la Jicotea", and overall, it's a much "stronger" song, which for me would mean more serious type dancing, with stronger moves and lines.

There are some songs where, at the end of a verse, I feel it needs a certain emphasis or move, and so I might stomp my foot down very hard on the floor, sort of like a flamenco type "stomp". Then there are some points where I feel there is a bit of a lull between the lines of a song, and where both lines are somewhat slow or "dreamy", and so to "connect" the two lines, I might drag my leg around to the side and then to the back, somewhat slowly, sort of in a jazzy or ballet-type way, and then pick right up again with more salsa-type moves.
A song like "Coco".... "a mi me gusta el coco".... to me, that's sort of a silly, light-hearted song ... I mean, a song about what is your favorite fruit?
Sometimes I am doing a move while dancing salsa, and I think to myself, "I sure hope this song isn't about my favourite fruit" :).


Well-Known Member
Latin dancer

Will agree-- it,s a very good q. Nearly impossible to delineate in the written word. Reason--there are several moves in certain dances ,that are possibly " established " moves, but again , very subjective, and a personal choice. Having said that . there are passages in music that require interpretation, so as to rhythmically stay within those musical boundaries. There is a classic example in salsa, where for 4 bars, sometimes more, the majority of the band, give way to male chorus,( no lead vocal ) base, conga and clave . The term used by teachers from way back was " Swing Mambo " , and a defined move was generally danced.
Today, this is now commonly danced as a time step ( an in place movement ) There are several more examples, but , from my experience, it is nigh impossible to generalise, as each song" speaks " to me , with a new meaning.
In my classes,I eventually demo. examples to different songs but always with the proviso that it is MY interpretation and only illustrates a point .

From a teaching viewpoint, this is something that can take a long time to develop, and in many cases, never will; most students, are happy to be able to dance on time and execute sequences fluidly , and the more in depth learning is chosen by the very few ( sadly )
Some while ago I was watching an On2 workshop. The teacher said, that On1 we are more "on" the music, while dancing On2 we are more "in" the music.
Given that, a fullfilling interpretion of the music, dancing On1, is quite complicated:p. CBL-spin-CBL-spin-CBL...:confused:

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