How to tell what style of salsa best suits the song?

Question by User orualandpsyche

Some songs seem to suit certain styles making it easier to dance. What type of salsa song best suits Cuban, LA and NY and cali style salsa? Or can they be danced to any salsa music?

User projektako 

Tito Puente has previously said that NY on2 is the correct way to dance to his music. While I mostly agree with that stance, that style of “salsa” is now considered salsa dura by most. And there are so many subgenre now.

Imho NYon2 can handle fast songs just fine… It’s the open footwork structure that makes it “feel” more difficult at speed because for beginners and early intermediate dancers who haven’t learned how to “ground” their footwork and control their balance and weight, it’s feels chaotic because of their lack of balance.

Where on1, the closed neutral structure is more naturally comfortable at speed.
The situation is somewhat reversed for slow songs like boleros, guajiras, etc. Open structure means you can “milk” the movement more naturally. To me it looks and feels more contrived trying to “milk” neutral/feet together. Any body movement isn’t connected to the natural weight shift happening from ground up anymore. It’s “added”.

There are subgenre that lend themselves to being danced with particular styles… Boogaloo matches naturally with NYon2 because it was born from the NY scene.

As you progress, the “feel” of the song will dictate how you dance in your chosen style, whatever that is… Except salsaton… That… I can’t even.

User double-you 

My rules:

If it is timba, you dance cuban/casino to it. If it is timba I generally don’t dance to it as my casino bores me to death and if I dance On1 musicality makes me dance in a way that I don’t want to dance for a long time and so I can take max 1-2 songs of it.

Otherwise dance On1/On2.

A big thing is tempo. If you dance casino you can dance comfortably to much faster songs than on1/on2. Similarly, if the song is slow, many casino dancers seem to be bored out of their minds. Timba tends to be fast.

If you like dancing to the tumbao, the congas, and they can be clearly heard in the song then On2 is a better choice than On1.

After that it doesn’t really matter. Some songs have hits and breaks that are nicer On1 than On2 and vice versa.

I don’t know how Cali salsa fits this since it practically does not exist in the salsa circles I am in.

User timbera 

Hhmm I wish I could explain better rather than just saying some songs just “feel” right to dance to in a certain style. I do understand what you mean though. As a spectator, I do cringe when I see dancers do LA salsa to a Timba song, or when a casinero does endless tangly moves to a linear salsa song, or worse(!) to see people dancing bachata to a beautiful Son track (argh! just because both derives from Bolero, you can’t simply dance Bachata to Toda Una Vida!). Also, I have almost zero knowledge outside Cuban music to be able to compare. With that disclaimer, here’s my 2cents: if it’s a poppy Salsa song, like Bailando or Yo no se mañana, then I think you can dance any style to it (ok maybe not Cali 🤔). If it is Timba though, not only you need to do Casino, you also need to know enough vocabularies from other Cuban dances like Rumba or the Orishas/AfroCuban, even a bit of hip hop, because the instruments do call for them. You don’t want to do a crossbody lead or a spin when the Rumba clave is strongly audible for example, you want to get grounded and throw some guaganco or columbia to it. I guess what I’m saying is that all comes down to musicality rather than about tempo etc. But then again, you see someone like Maykel Fonts who just breaks all the rules and simply dance wonderfully to any songs. Hey ho 🤷🏻‍♀️

User digitalsmear 

They can all be danced to whatever style.

Anyone saying otherwise is an intermediate dancer and doesn’t have tight control of their steps and is likely still doing things like rocking toward their heel on the backward breaking step (On2: 2 for men, 6 for women. On1: 5 for men, 1 for women.) and are missing timings.

One of the most common ones I hear is that very fast songs like Aguanile are not “comfortable” to dance on2. I wanted to link a youtube video of a guy who is kind of famous for dancing on2 shines incredibly fast, but I suddenly can’t remember his name. Haha, oh well.

User digitalsmear 

They asked what style is best for certain songs. The only true answer is; Whatever you feel like.

Comments in the vein of, “Oh, that’s an on2 song, I don’t really like it.” or the flip, “This song is really for on2.” come up fairly frequently. In every case I’ve encountered this kind of thinking, I’ve asked for clarification and I have yet to find someone making this kind of claim for stylistic reasons. They’ve always been making some kind of assumption that there is a technical reason for it. There is no technical reason for it. If it’s music that is a 4/4 count at a reasonable tempo (140bpm+ typically, and rarely much over 200bpm), you can dance salsa to it pretty comfortably. It doesn’t even have to actually be salsa music, as long as you have an understanding of the structure of the music, you can make it work (however sacrilege that might be! :P)

So the idea that some styles make the dance easier is patently false, and is an indicator that OP is missing musicality skill and knowledge, or dance skill and knowledge. Most likely a little bit of both.

It’s not an elitist thing for me to say, like you seem to be implying (Your college example doesn’t make any sense to me outside of nudging toward that kind of idea, so I’m guessing here).

I simply don’t know anything about OP, or their dancing beyond this question. So how is it helpful?

Because once they know it has nothing to do with the music, they can refocus their efforts on the parts of the music that matter to a dancer, namely timing and learning to hear and anticipate changes. And focus on improving the technical aspects of their dance so songs are not “harder or easier.”

Leave a Reply