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All you need to know about Salsa

Salsa dancers
Salsa is back on everyone’s mind with the recent release of Cuban Fury, starring Nick Frost as a former dance prodigy trying to revive his career, but in fact the dance craze has infiltrated society in more ways than the latest film. At Arthur Murray, we want you to be comfortable with the Latin-lover’s hottest dance so we’re stripping back the layers on Salsa.

A little bit of history?

The term Salsa was originally coined in New York in the 1970s to describe a dance which was heavily influenced by styles from Cuba and Puerto Rico and had evolved from other Latin dances such as the Cha Cha and Mambo. The name is variously attributed to the fact that it’s a mix of moves, like the sauce it’s named for is a mix of ingredients – the Salsa dance is hot and spicy; or is it simply the word shouted by musicians caught up in the rhythm – whatever its origin, the meaning is the same: fun.

Salsa style

In Salsa six steps are performed to an eight-count beat, so essentially there is no movement on counts 4 and 8, giving the movement its quick-quick-slow feel. Choreography is flexible and you can either ‘Salsa’ on the spot, while in motion, or in turn with your partner. Although you can Salsa solo, it is usually a partnered dance performed in a relaxed version of the formal hold where the arms are allowed to follow the movement of the body. Steps are taken in each direction with the toe first on a bent leg; the contrast to the straight leg you step off from creates a natural figure-of-eight hip action, giving the Salsa its sexy ‘sauce’.

Salsa clubs

Many clubs now advertise Salsa nights, so once you’ve learnt a few moves it’s easy to get practice in a social setting. The key to a good Salsa session is to let your hair down and have fun. If you keep your eyes up and a smile on your face you’re half way there, so be brave and try dancing with several partners to see how different people interpret the moves.

Salsa benefits

The benefits of dancing are well-known – it’s a full-body workout and stress-reliever and by getting your brain around the fancy footwork, you’ll also improve your mental agility, not to mention your co-ordination and balance. But Salsa is more than that, it’s a highly sociable dance which cannot help but make you smile, lift your mood and spice up your life.

Salsa sightings

Cuban Fury is just the latest in a long-line of Salsa references in popular culture, with other notable appearances in Dance With Me, Along Came Polly, Salsa, Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights, and Shall We Dance … the list goes on. But other than at the movies, you watch out for the flavour of Latin dancing on stage in the hit musical Forever Tango or on any of the hit TV shows such as Dancing With The Stars or Strictly Come Dancing. You will also find Salsa influences in fashion: short ra-ra skirts and strappy high-heeled sandals for the ladies, bandanas and see-through or sleeveless tops for men.