Thursday, November 09, 2006

What happened to salsa?

I miss salsa.

Sure, there are now more salsa clubs and salsa classes and even salsa conferences than ever before.

But it's not the same salsa that I first knew. Somehow, salsa has lost its soul.

Back in the late 70s, when I was a college senior and Gloria Estefan was just one of the singers in a new band called "Miami Sound Machine", I learned how to dance salsa in the apartment of my Venezuelan friends. It was simple, and it was fun. Grab your partner, feel the beat, and move.

If you wanted to get fancy, maybe occasionally you and your partner would throw a turn in there. Or you could add that little extra beat with your foot ("la patita") before stepping into the next step.

But mostly, you wanted to feel the music and enjoy dancing with your partner. You could even chat while dancing. Either way – verbally or nonverbally – salsa was about communicating with your dance partner and enjoying the music.

Not so anymore.

Salsa has somehow become a competitive sport. How many turns can you do in one beat?? What's your signature flash move? Don't forget to throw your arm up in the air with a flourish every time you turn or step away from your partner! And do you dance on 1 or on 2?

Communicate with your partner? Enjoy the music? Not a chance. And converse? ¿Estás loco?

Give me old-style salsa any day ... and give salsa back its soul!


nelida said...

It is very sad that now many women don't get asked to dance because men are so intimidated by the new way of salsa dancing. They just stand around hoping to be asked to dance. Sad but true...Feedback from men.

Ruth Kunstadter said...

I'm intimidated, too! (Especially by the double and triple turns, since I have terrible balance.)

On the flip side, it's a bit intimidating for women to have to dress up really "hoochie" so that they'll even get asked to dance in some places.

I mean, sometimes you really just want to dance.

This is why, many times I will just dance with my girlfriends. My dream is to really learn how to lead well, so I can avoid this issue altogether... until the perfect dance partner materializes, who I'm guessing will either be a very nice older gentleman (takes care of the new vs. old style issue), or gay (takes care of the dressing like a hoochie issue) ....