Love salsa dancing! ^^ Pandora's podcasts has a great program on Salsa….
from: The Economist magazine
ASKED to mention exports to Europe or the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean, many people might mention coffee, bananas or, less happily, cocaine. Now add to that list a hugely successful cultural export: salsa has become the biggest international dance craze since the advent of rock'n'roll in the 1950s, and dwarfs even the popularity of tango during the 1920s. It has spawned a new niche for the tourist industry, as stiff-hipped northerners fly south to learn to loosen up.
Salsa has also helped to fuel a revival of interest in tango. But whilst tango, with its slow, strenuous movements and melancholy music, remains a minority interest, salsa's worldwide appeal shows no sign of weakening. Almost every city in Europe now has a cluster of clubs offering classes at all levels, with Britain, Germany and Scandinavia especially well-served. Salsa is also a passion in Japan, and is taking hold in India and China.
Salsa's history is much disputed. As the name implies, it is a “sauce” of several ingredients: Cuban son and mambo figure, but so do moves inherited from American jitterbug and jive. A style broadly identifiable as salsa (though the name came later) evolved among Puerto Rican and Cuban exiles in the United States in the late 1960s, and then moved back to Latin America.
Its appeal spread outside the region in the 1990s, for reasons that are not hard to divine. A fast, intimate couple dance, it allows much contact between partners, generating sexual frisson. Salsa music is intricately textured, offering rich melodies and virtuoso musicianship at a time when its main European consumers, the over-30s, see mainstream pop music as bland.
Cuba, with its hunger for tourist dollars, has been quick to see salsa's earning potential. “Lady Salsa”, a musical featuring spectacular dance routines dramatising a government-sanctioned potted history of Cuba, has toured the world since 2000. British, European and Japanese tour operators now offer salsa holidays in Havana, including two hours of dance tuition daily with professional dancers and nightly visits to clubs. It is also easy to arrange private lessons in a cramped apartment; though technically illegal, these will earn the instructor a month's white-collar salary in two or three hours.
Cuban salsa is vigorous and athletic, with much clockwise circling, its African roots clearly evident. Puerto Ricans prefer the “New York style” developed in the 1980s. This involves straighter movements, the dancers moving to and fro as if on tracks. Many Americans go to Puerto Rico for salsa lessons; a few European operators now market it too.
Colombia and Venezuela share an elegantly restrained style, with much back-stepping, smaller hand-movements and little use of the elaborate, arm-tangling moves beloved of Cuban dancers. Despite a profusion of world-class bands and venues, neither country has yet attracted many salsa tourists. Cali, Colombia's third city, boasts perhaps the densest concentration of dance clubs in Latin America. Residents of Juanchito, a Cali suburb, are said to learn salsa as soon as they can walk. At weekends the clubs hold contests where dancers as young as six don glittering tuxedos, or high heels and lipgloss, to compete in frenetic dance routines.
The Dominican Republic is an anomaly. It has produced several top bands but salsa is barely danced except by tourists. The locals prefer merengue, at carwashes equipped with bars. At weekends the forecourt is filled with tables and a live band. Salsa may come, but for now if you want to spend Saturday night at the carwash you'll need to dance merengue.