The Musicality of Salsa: The Hunt for The Beat
The Salsa Hunt seems like an endless task to achieve the ultimate dance experience: from finding a dance partner, the right class, the right shoes, the right place to dance…and the list continues. See what we do for a chance to dance? But it’s the Hunt for The Salsa Beat that drives the dancers back for more. The salsa energy is the reason.
Observing two dancers connecting on the dance floor is spellbinding especially if they create a seem less flow of patterns and styling. Take the same couple and if one is off-beat….the entire dance is awkward. No matter the pattern, finding the beat and following it is the key to connection on the dance floor.
Finding the Beat:
First start with knowing what kind of salsa is danced in class or on the dance floor (salsa on 1, salsa on 2 or cumbia). The Salsa On 1 foundation comes from a system of a 4/4 timing (1 2 3 4 then 5 6 7 8) following two measures. The dancer breaks with a stronger accent on the first beat of the measure on the 1 and 5 while transitioning the weight on the 4 and 8. This melodic rhythm repeats with various musical elements, such as, clave, piano, hooks, conga tumbao, bass rhythm and trumpet phrases. A dancer should express all beats within the two measures and not stop for the midbreak. This causes a missed beat or directs the dancer into a faster or slower tempo.
Here are some suggestions
1. Start the dance by counting 5,6,7,8 to bring you to the first break.
2. Listen for the downbeat or clave.
3. Practice listening everyday. I listened to Gloria Estefan’s Mi Tierra everday in my car. Make yours a concert! Soon everyone around you will join in.
4. Develop an ear for various tempos to distinguish the beat from slow to fast.
5. Watch and study seasoned dancers as they express the beat.
6. Keep an inner count, but don’t count out loud or loose your breath!
7. Pick an instrument in the band to follow. More about the instruments of a salsa band in the next article.
8. Develop a library of favorite salsa songs. Here are just a few:
a. Sonora Carruseles Heavy Salsa. I always play Micaela
b. Susie Hansen-The Salsa Never Ends-La Salsa Nunca Se Acaba
c. Salsa Fresca compilation-all the songs are great for beginner salseros.
d. Rough Guide to Salsa volume 1 and 2
e. Old School Salsa Classics compilation filled with hard driving salsa rhythms.
f. El Gran Combo-a classic band from Puerto Rico and a fav amoung many musicians.
Your salsa journey should never end. Keep listening and finding out more about what you like and don’t like in a salsa song and make it yours. Listen to it every morning and then ask a friend to dance to it. Your salsa will never be the same.
I’ll be covering new topics in Latin dance every other week for your salsa hunting and gathering needs. Let me know your experiences, questions or concerns. It will make the hunt a lot easier.
Check out www.kamasalsa.com for all class information.