Salsa dancing and salsa music is a genre that emerged during the 1960s in Cuba and it is known as an Afro-Cuban music genre.

This genre is characterized by its distinguishable upbeat rhythm and many other elements. For instance, it includes bell patterns, the son clave, and rumba clave rhythms are the most common bell patterns in salsa music.

It is also characterized by the Afro-Cuban rhythms which trace the roots of salsa to Central and West Africa. Salsa music is played with a wide variety of instruments that include bongos, timbales, and conga drums, all of which are instruments found in West African music.

Salsa music is also accompanied by Spanish-language lyrics. Vocalists in salsa are called soneros and they are known for singing mostly about love and romance. Although love is not the only thing they sing about, they also have lyrics talking about culture, life, and more.

Finally, salsa is characterized by being a combination of many other different genres like mambo, bolero, merengue, cumbia, rumba, Brazilian samba, and bossa nova.

This complex music genre is popular for its upbeat rhythm and fascinating use of instruments. There are 14 classic instruments used to create salsa music. Some are the piano, guitar, trumpet, saxophone, congas, timbales, trombone, and more.

Learning how to dance salsa can be an enchanting journey where you'll learn to move your arms, torso, and legs to a very distinct rhythm.

In this article, you will learn about the history of salsa and how it came to be common in the US. To learn more about this music genre you can hire a private tutor right here on Superprof who can teach you all about salsa music.

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When did Salsa dancing first appear in the US?

Dancing with your partner
Most of these Latin musical genres have lyrics in Spanish but in our globalized world, it is becoming more common to find artists doing mixes of Spanish and English. Foto de Tim Gouw en Unsplash

There are many different theories as to where exactly salsa originated. However, there cannot be one exact moment, year, or place that can be pointed to as the exact origins of the genre and dance.

Some historians argue that salsa was created during the first decade of the 20th century, others say that it started to originate early during the century but was consolidated during the 1960s and 1970s.

The truth is that salsa is such a historically complex music genre that all of the versions of its origins are true and false at the same time because there was not an exact time or place. The only thing certain is that salsa is music and dance that evolved and all those years of accumulated characteristics have given us what we have today.

There are four different styles of salsa dancing, New York, LA, Cuban, and Puerto Rican styles. These are the main four because these are the places where salsa emerged first.

Salsa music and salsa dancing were common in the Latin American region, especially in Cuba and Puerto Rico, during the 1910s. However, it truly became popular and started to cross frontiers when Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians in New York started to popularize it. From then it started to spread and become popular in the rest of the United States during the 1970s.

If you want to learn how to dance salsa you can learn about the different styles and ask your teacher to teach you one specific style or all of them. You can search for tutors on Superprof and look at their profiles if they teach the style you are interested in learning and see how much experience they have as tutors.

Salsa dancing through the years

As we mentioned, the exact year of the origin of salsa music is highly debated. However, the origins of salsa dancing and salsa music date back to the early 1900s in Easter Cuba.

Salsa originated from combining different musical elements, rhythms, and styles. It took a while for this genre to spread and become known. It took almost 50 years for it to make it to Havana. From there, the music started to absorb influences from other local Cuban music and American jazz as it continued to evolve.

Dancing in a dance academy
There are many Latin dances beyond salsa, cha, mambo, or cumbia. There's also reggaeton, merengue, salsa choke, and many other genres that have African roots but originated in Latin America. Foto de Frank Rolando Romero en Unsplash

It made it to America due to the Cuban Revolution and the relocation of the Cuban population to the US. Many think that most Cubans went to Miami but a large percentage of people (amongst them musicians) went to New York City. The Hispanic musician community found the best environment to develop the rhythm and music we would come to know as salsa.

The record label called Fania Records —established in 1964— is usually given credit for popularizing the music in America. The label became famous for producing one hit after another.

Many of the artists who signed with this label are now regarded as legends of salsa, particularly the team of ''Fania All-Stars''. This group included celebrities such as Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, and Rubén Blades, among others.

What Fania Records did was create a rhythm based on the sounds brought from Cuba but edited some of it to make it sound more catchy and make it easier accepted by the Latin community in New York. To better merchandise their music, Fania called this new sound salsa.

This is why salsa is popular in the United States, even if it might seem like it was brought to the US, many people don't know that what we know today was developed in New York.

Remember that you can learn how to dance if you hire a tutor now on Superprof. The tours on our platform are highly experienced and you can learn all about their techniques, trajectories, and fees in their profiles.

Salsa dancing is very common across the US, especially in places and cities with a big Hispanic population. Those cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Diego, Miami, and much more.

The popularity of salsa is directly correlated to the Hispanic community but it is not the only factor. There are many salsa events and festivals across the United States and every time its popularity is increasing.

However, the cities where it continues to be very common are New York and Miami. There is probably more than one ballroom dedicated to salsa dancing in each of these cities. Finding a salsa ballroom in Miami is like finding a casino in Las Vegas!

Dancing as a profession
If you danced when you were little and you'd wish to dance more you can search for musical events in your city, learn the steps with the help of a tutor from Supeprof, and dance again with other American dancers. Foto de Andrey Zvyagintsev on Unsplash

Keep in mind that many of these clubs offer people more than one type of Latin dance, and they might offer music like mambo, cumbia, cha, son, Latin jazz, and more. There are many differences between all these genres but the ones that are hard to spot are the differences between cumbia and salsa.

To learn with exactitude every single one of these styles you should consider working and learning side by side with a private tutor. Tutors can be of great help when it comes to helping their students during their learning process.

Many people think that tutors can only be for academic matters, however, you'll see that on Superprof you can find tutors for anything and everything you can imagine, including learning how to dance to salsa music.

A tutor can teach you every different style, you can learn from different dancers, and learn the moves of all the different beats.

Salsa dancing today

Dancing with friends at sunset
The movements of some dances like salsa depend a lot on the steps and the beats of each Rueda, son, clave, or term, so to learn the moves of these dancers, dancers must learn to let their bodies lose. Foto de Javier Allegue Barros en Unsplash

This dance is now highly common across borders and even beyond Spanish-speaking countries. You can find a salsa ballroom in almost every city in the region.

Salsa has turned into one of the emblematic characteristics of Latino culture. Kids in Latin America grow up listening and dancing or watching their families dance to the rhythms of the classics of salsa.

This music genre isn't evolving as much as it is spreading and even now many artists of all genres are merging their sounds with salsa. For instance, pop star Camila Cabello released a single with Ed Sheeran called "Bam Bam" that has the musical instrumentality of salsa but pop-like lyrics.

To learn more go check out our article about the different salsa styles in the US.

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