Dave teaches several kinds of Latin dances: Salsa, Rueda (a Latin round dance), Cha-Cha, Merengue, and Argentine Tango (several of these are commonly also considered Ballroom styles). Dave instructs both Level 1 and Level 2 classes, and you could probably come to a dozen Level 2 Salsa classes and see new things every time, since there's so much you can do once you have the Level 1 fundamentals down.
Salsa is a Latin dance whose pattern is six steps danced over eight counts of music. The six counts are often put into eight-count music by doing them in a quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow pattern, but it is difficult for many people to do something on some counts and nothing on other counts. A preferable way to do the footwork (and from my research, more historically accurate) is to put a "tap" on counts 4 and 8; this way, the feet are doing something on every step, not just most steps. In DancerGuy's teaching experience, the most common Salsa mistakes, by far, are timing errors caused by leaving out the taps.
Where did Salsa come from? The origins of Salsa are not clear. Did the Cubans invent it? The Puerto Ricans? Danzón, which was brought by the French who fled from Haiti, was mixed with African Rhumbas such as Guaguanco, Colombia, and Yambú. Then the Cuban Són was added, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats. Further variations were introduced in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. So even though Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, and each one had an influence on what is modern-day Salsa, Cuba appears to be the greatest contributor, so it is probably safe to say that Salsa is "mostly" Cuban.
Here is what is taught in the Level 1 Salsa classes; if you know these moves, you are ready for Level 2; otherwise, it is recommended that you take (or re-take) Level 1:
The Rueda is a delightful round dance, in which couples stand in a circle and do the moves that the Caller calls. Many moves involve the gentlemen passing their ladies to the next gentleman in the circle, so every gentleman gets to dance with every lady. Moves in Rueda are often based on, or are similar but not identical to, moves in Salsa, so a familiarity of Salsa moves is helpful for learning Rueda, but it is not required. Indeed, it could just as validly be said that a familiarity with Rueda is helpful for learning Salsa, for the same reason. Rueda is derived from Salsa and it is not uncommon to hear it referred to as "Salsa Rueda."
Where did Rueda come from? In the eighteenth century, with the presence of French fleets in the bay of Havana, and the French emigration coming from Haiti with the 1791 revolution, the French Contradanzas gained popularity in Cuba. The French "flavor," being danced by Cubans, gradually changed in form and became the Cuban Contradanza. The court of Luis XIV, the Creole aristocracy, and the Cubans performed the dance with pre-planned figures that all had to know, and that were directed by a bastonero (the Caller).
Where Rueda was "officially" created is a matter of some dispute: some say that it first appeared in the Patricio Lumumba school (the Spanish Casino Grammar School of Havana), and others say in the Sport Casino, but it is generally accepted that it began in Havana and spread from there.
Rueda de Casino (another common name for Rueda) became a national phenomenon after Rosendo, choreographer and dancer of the "Ballet de la Televisión Cubana," presented it in the television program Para Bailar in 1980.
Here is what is taught in the typical Rueda 1 class offered by DancerGuy:
The Cha-Cha is a relatively recent dance, coming into existence in the 1950s. It is an offshoot of the Mambo, and was originally called the "Mambo Triple" or the "Triple-Step Mambo," because of its characteristic "cha-cha-cha" steps. It quickly took on an identity of its own, and the Cha-Cha is now one of the most popular Latin dances. Below are the moves typically taught in a Level 1 Cha-Cha class:
The Merengue is a Latin dance that has a strong two-count pattern underlying most of the moves. Of course, most moves take longer than two counts to execute, so groups of these two-count chunks are collected together into patterns that are eight counts long, sixteen counts long, or even longer. There are the normal Closed Frame and Open Frame (plus a few more frames), and at the bottom of most, if not all, of the complex moves, is the two-count "marching" accompanied by accentuated hip movement.
The history of Merengue is a matter of considerable debate, but dance historians seem to agree on some basic ideas: It was largely developed in the Dominican Republic and Haiti; it has roots in French and Creole dances that have been influenced by African rhythms (introduced by the slaves). Merengue was most likely begun in the eighteenth or nineteenth century by the African slaves seeing their masters' European dances and copying them, but adding some rhythm and movement to make it less staid, snooty, and "proper." Originally, Merengue was a circle dance, and only later did it become a couples' dance.
The Merengue is very popular in all of Central and South America, and is considered one of the "standard" dances. It was brought to America via New York around 1964, where it did not immediately catch on, but it eventually didespecially in the '70s and '80sas more bands started playing Merengue music.
Below are the moves typically taught in a Level 1 Merengue class:
The Argentine Tango originated, surprisingly enough, in Argentina. The Tango uses both a closed frame (similar but not identical to the standard ballroom frame, where the man's hand is on the lady's back) and the close embrace (the chest-to-chest frame, where even the slightest turn of his shoulders can be clearly felt and followed by the lady, making for a beautiful and fluid dance). Centuries ago, even the closed frame was originally considered scandalous, but by the 1880s, when the Tango was becoming more well-known, the Waltz had already been around for some time, and dances with the closed frame and even the close embrace were becoming more accepted by the general public.
Having begun in Buenos Aires, the Argentine Tango moved to Europe. During the period between 1880 and 1930, Argentina developed very quickly, and it became one of the ten richest nations in the world. As a result, the wealthier Argentinians regularly had second homes in Europe and threw elaborate parties, attended by nobles and other rich Europeans. At these parties, the Argentinians introduced Tango to the upper-class of Paris and London. (The Europeans said, "That's nice, but we'll just change it a little." That became International Style Tango.) From there, it quickly grew in popularity and migrated to Rome, Berlin, and across the Atlantic to New York. (The New Yorkers said "That's nice, but we'll just change it a little." That became Ragtime Tango.) Then after a while, Arthur Murray got a hold of it and incorporated it into his studio franchises. (He said, "That's nice, but I'll just change it a little." That became American Style Tango.) So, the Argentine Tango is, so to speak, the "granddaddy of 'em all."
Below are the moves typically taught in a Level 1 Tango class:
Bachata originated in the Dominican Republic, and is now popular all over the world. It is an 8-count dance, done to 8-count music. Being a Latin dance, it has significant hip movement, though not identical to that of Salsa or Merengue. All three of the main facing frames are used: Open Frame, Closed Frame, and Close Embrace.
|DancerGuy's public large-group classes are not offered in December because of the busyness and unpredictability of scheduling during the Christmas season. Private lessons and custom classes, because of the inherent adjustability of their schedules, will continue as usual. The normal schedule of public large-group classes will resume in January, so stay tuned to this Schedule page. Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!|
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