What is Salsa?

Salsa is a popular form of social dance with strong influences from Latin America. The music is a dynamic rhythmic blend of congas, piano and the characteristic claves, which bears likeness to high energy Mambo and Cha Cha. It has the perfect mixture of technical detail and the opportunity for improvisation. The basic footwork, common moves, and technical details such as spinning and smooth shifting of bodyweight provide a language, which all Salsa dancers understand. Although there are several local varieties of Salsa dance styles for example Cuban-, New York- and LA-style, the basic language remains the same and is the perfect medium for social interaction and nurtures the Salsa community.

Are there different types of Salsa?

Yes! The main types of Salsa danced in the UK (and Oxford) are Cuban Salsa, and Line-Style Salsa.

  • In Line (or L.A.) Style: is also known as Cross Body Salsa, as it tends to consist heavily of variations on the cross body move. In line-style is danced along a line, including lots of spins and flashy breaks and styling. In line Style comes in 2 flavours – On1 and On2.

  • Cuban Salsa: no spinning, stepped turns, dancers circle round each other. Cuban salsa is the basis for Rueda de Casino.

OUSS has mainly taught In line-Style On1; however, we also teach Cuban Salsa! Of course all styles of Salsa are very welcome at our social nights, and you will see a mix of In line-Style, Cuban, and Rueda on any night at the Retreat.

What is Bachata?

(Courtesy of Sergio Fernandez)

Bachata is a traditional dance from the Dominican Republic. It became very popular in the last few years and is now danced around the world. Bachata music has become mainstream across global dance floors alongside Salsa and Kizomba music. Its musical origin is Bolero infused by Merengue and Son Cubano, but Bachata Music evolved in many ways since the sixties. Musical influences include R&B beats and pop song covers mixed with Bachata rhythms, making Bachata music even more attractive for non-Spanish speakers. Bachata is a social dance based on leading and following. It is counted in a 4/4 beat in which the 4th and 8th beat are usually marked as an accent. Bachata has it’s own range of steps, but reflects inspiration drawn from different dances such as salsa (footwork and turn patterns), tango, kizomba, zouk, ball-room and contemporary dances.

Are there different types of Bachata?

(Courtesy of Sergio Fernandez)

  • Bachata Dominicana (Dominican Bachata) or Bachata Tradicional (Traditional Bachata). This is what Dominican people would call Bachata. It is danced in a square, alternating between close embrace and open hand-hold and based on travelling, footwork and many syncopated steps (cha-cha’s).

  • Bachata Moderna (Modern Bachata). This is what non-Dominican pople call bachata. It is danced moving side to side in a close embrace and open hand-hold with salsa figures being applied to it. In this style the accents, usually called TAP (rather “slow” in salsa), are specifically important. Bachata Moderna is influenced by many other dances such as tango, kizomba, zouk, ball-room and contemporary dance.

  • Bachata Sensual (Sensual Bachata). This is the most recent style of Bachata, although it is not as popular in the Dominican Republic. It adds sensual moves such as body rolls and waves to Bachata moderna. It’s based on musical interpretation of the moves in which the connection between the partners and the music is more important than the steps.

  • Bachata Fusion. It is a blend of all styles of bachata. Since most Bachatas have the same musical structure, it is possible to dance all styles throughout the course of one song. It is, alongside Sensual Bachata, the most popular Bachata style.

What is social dancing?

While there are salsa performance groups and competitions, Salsa is primarily a social dance. Rather than learning routines, the aim is to learn to lead/follow individual moves, so that you can dance with anyone, anywhere, by improvising. This is the beauty of Salsa – with just a few moves, you can walk into a salsa club anywhere in the world, and without speaking the language or knowing anyone, you can still join in and dance the night away! Our lessons are the perfect place to learn moves and technique, and also to practice and see what Salsa is really about! So why don’t you come to our social nights? All levels are very welcome! (Including Absolute Beginners – Salsa dancers are very friendly and all remember what it was like to be a beginner, so don’t be nervous – come along and get dancing!)

How to choose your class?

If you would like to come to intermediate level, you need to know turn patterns such as cross-body inside and outside turns, hammerlocks and copas. You should also know the material covered at the beginner’s level. If you are not sure what the terms mean, you would benefit from the beginner’s lessons. Previous experience in other styles of salsa or other types of dancing are surely beneficial. If in doubt, please consult with the lesson instructors before joining a more advanced level.

Do I need a partner for lessons?

If you don’t have a partner, that’s fine! Come along and we’ll pair you up. Unlike lots of dance classes, Salsa uses the wonderful rotation system. Everybody pairs up at the start, and stands in a circle around the teachers. If you don’t have a partner – stand in a gap. Every couple of minutes everybody rotates… this way even if a class has uneven numbers, you only have a few minutes to wait, and you get to meet and dance with everybody in the class!

Do I need special footwear?

If you join the intermediate class, we recommend wearing dance shoes. This applies to both leaders and followers, though followers typically need them more because of spinning. Often, dancing in socks is better than in non-dance shoes, like trainers, as spinning can be demanding on your ankles and knees.

Salseros: Something comfortable that will move easily on a wooden floor. Trainers are fine.

Salseras: It is important to have a shoe that will not fall off your foot – anything that is strapped or tied on, like a trainer or sandal with a buckle is fine, or boots. At the Beginner and Improver level, flat shoes are fine, or heels if you are comfortable in them. At the Intermediate level and above, one should dance on the toes, so wearing shoes with a heel will help.

What should I wear?

The most important thing is to be comfortable. Just wear something that won’t inhibit your movement in any way. There is no dress code for lessons.