Salsa as a Folk Dance

Salsa lovers,
It has taken me these last four years to understand the mystique of Salsa. In 1999, I was Jim and Myrna Myron's quest at the Grand Ballroom in downtown L.A., and for the first time in my life observed Salsa dancing with some 1500 dancers on the same floor. My reaction was a bit mixed, since they were dancing to Mambo music but their rhythmic accenting was different than the Mambo. For the next four years I was always comparing Salsa with my version of the Mambo that I was addicted to in the 1950's, and could not break through the mental block I had concerning Salsa.
But last June 7th, I was invited to an Armenian Sweet Sixteen party by one of my students, and I witnessed a folk type group dancing similar to the Greeks, the Jews and the Sicilian Tarantella. And I recalled a ritual I took part in when in 1972, I visited Athens and some villages in Southern Italy and Sicily where every day in late afternoon the villagers took a 'Promenade' through the main streets in two different groups; one traveling clockwise and the other counterclockwise, so that in the course of the Promenade, villagers would pass each other by several times with various salutations being exchanged between the two groups from smiles to jumping over to the other group traveling in the opposite direction.
What I did not 'get' from these promenades, and what I did not 'get' from the Salsa dancers I finally understood when I attended this Armenian Sweet Sixteen Party with about 150 relatives when they danced their ritual Group Dancing, interchanging partners, dancing in small groups but forever changing locations on the dance floor so that they visited everyone in the group while dancing a fairly simple rhythmic pattern, easy to learn just by observing for the dancers for a few minutes. Their group dancing reminded me of the first time I saw Salsa dancing at the Grand Ballroom in 1999, and the Greek and Italian Promenades inn 1972: These Salsa dancers and these villagers Promenading were 'BONDING with each other, a ritual that has existed from the beginning of civilization.
So the Salsa finally made an indelible impression on me and that experience at the Armenian Sweet Sixteen Party solved the mystery of Salsa's popularity, and I realized the value of the Salsa for the first time. The secret of the Salsa's success is it's simplicity so that one and all can join in on the Ritual of BONDING with their neighbors.

Black Sheep
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