Performance & non-performance salsa dancing or ballroom & street?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by Offbeat, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    This is not about another ballroom vs street dancing thread. My issue is more about how this debate gets framed and carried away. As Flujo rightly asked What is this street style salsa dancing?. At least with Ballroom dancing we know what it is, it is well defined etc. Street style salsa dancing? Almost anyone whether they know how to dance any particular salsa style well or not, claim that they dance 'street style':)

    The following article:

    I think that the author is contrasting "Ballroom dancing" vs what she calls "street salsa". And not "Ballroom salsa" vs "street salsa".

    Is there such a thing as "Ballroom salsa"? I echo what Hyh's said in another thread:

    Ofcourse there is Ballroom Latin/American smooth (which also includes Ballroom Mambo?). Clips shown below... (copying from a post by peach exploration)

    I can say that 99% of salsa dancers I watched or dance with don't dance Ballroom Mambo, which is the closest ballroom discipline to salsa dancing.

    Do some people confuse salsa style on the display in performance dancing and competitive dancing (at Salsa Congresses or Albert Torres's WSC) with Ballroom style salsa. Contrast to what is danced in the clubs being street salsa (in their mind).

    An anecdote I have written about before. Once unknowingly I led a casino/Cuban dancer in my usual NY/LA style xbl/slot. After the dance she remarked "you danced ballroom style, I don't dance that". I chuckled. It was first time I heard the term ballroom style (was a while back, since then I heard it a lot in discussions).

    So what is this street salsa and street style? Isn't it same as most of the salsa-addicts, like on this forum or at any regular salsa club, actually dance.

    Why so much discussion about ballroom dancing and salsa dancing? The ballroom dancers don't dance anything called "ballroom salsa" (as understood by self proclaimed street salesr@s) or most don't care about it (unless they also dance salsa).
  2. gprefix

    gprefix Changui

    If you want to know where people are coming from when they refer to "street salsa" take a few Rueda classes and (social) dance Casino style. For one thing there is no spinning in street-style, because street dancers don't wear special ballroom shoes and concrete floor is not exactly ideal for spinning. So dancers end up doing turns by stepping on all counts with minimal spinning. Lack of spinning opens two options: 1) to lead with both hands (which gives better control), and 2) to do more contortion patterns. But I am digressing. I think some people associate slot style with ballroom and circular (Cuban) to street salsa. I am, off course, conflating Cuban with street salsa just to make a point. A Colombian girl I worked with tried to teach me her style of "street salsa" (that she picked up while growing up in Bogota) and it was quite different from Cuban (and she is a damn good dancer). It is worth noting that there is a Colombian ballroom style salsa as well. To me, street style salsa means no spinning. When you cannot spin your partner you adapt a different type of patterns and leading technique. A follower who danced "street style" (even inside a ballroom) all her life will find it very difficult to follow a leader who spins (they abhor spinning -- think it is robotic, soul-less and causes unnecessary dizziness). OTOH, imagine the confusion on a street-style leader's face when a ballroom-style follower finishes (spins) her turn in half the time and either waits (looking bored) or proceeds to do her "styling". I am no expert and I am curious as to what others think on this subject.
  3. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    I don't remember Reuda/Casino instructors calling it street style. You are either taking a Casino/Rueda class or Salsa on1/on2 class. To best of what I seen, I haven't seen any class called "street style" being advertised around in San Francisco where you seem to be from.

    Do you think there is as much spinning in Ballroom genres as you see in NY/LA style dominated salsa clubs and performances ? I may be wrong and someone like Terence could correct me, but spinning (in terms of frequency and number of spins) within a NY/LA style salsa dancing is far excessive of anything in Ballroom.

    That is one sub-group's interpretation of street salsa. BTW based on what the author of the article posted above wrote, she (Nina) is categorizing all styles of salsa dancing as street salsa.

    So there is a street salsa and there is a street salsa :)

    So that's your definition. What if you dance NY/LA style without doing any spins but only the turns? Will it qualify as street salsa as per this particular definition? :)

    Technique to spin or lead it and techniques to lead non-spin patterns will naturally differ. In fact technique to lead any one pattern will differ from that to lead any significantly different pattern. You can choose to either lead the pattern or not lead it. Doesn't mean removing some pattern or technique, adapts your skills differently to another non-related pattern.

    "Street style" as per your definition...right?:)

    Define "ballroom-style" please.

    Do you also mean "ballroom-style" = NY/LA style (or what you termed slot style) as the other people you mentioned above think.

    Depends on the turn he is leading and which style they are dancing.
    BTW turn is not same as spin. Usually a right turn will need 3 steps over 3 beats. Are you saying in "street style" (as per your definition of it) a follower needs 6 steps over 6 beats to make a right turn (since you said that in the other style she finishes her turn in half the time?) :)

    BTW I googled on "street style" and "Salsa" on Google. Only one class link came up in the first page and here is how it distinguishes "street style":

    Street style salsa, is a real term used in dancing circles to describe a particular style of salsa dancing. It is a bit difficult to describe to beginners. Actually, it is easier to start by describing what street style salsa is not. Street style salsa in NOT about formality. Street style salsa in NOT about the rules. Street styles salsa is NOT about perfect technique.

    Street style classes do teach about rules and technique. It is essential to have a grasp on these fundamentals. It is when you begin to break away from the rules and standard moves to express yourself, whether you're silly, funky, or sexy (or all of the above) that street style salsa begins.

    Although the emphasis lies in individuality, street style salsa is still a partner dance. The styles of the follow and lead (girl and guy) must meld into one dance. Consequently, street style salsa also focuses on communication and connection between the follow and lead.

    Street style salsa is the style danced in most American salsa clubs. It is also extremely fun and highly addictive.
  4. There is no such thing as "street" or "ballroom style" salsa. They are used to describe certain perceptions people have about myriad of ways one can dance salsa, i.e. those terms mean different thing to different people. You can argue until you're blue in the face and get no resolution.

    LA style salsa does have ballroom influence, but it's not ballroom. I believe when people refer to "ballroom", that just means generally that the dancers took a lot of lessons, and believe in "posture", i.e. spine erect, "holding the basketball"...etc. They tend to do fancy moves that are difficult to follow unless the follower also took similar lessons. And the moves are better suited for dance floors with dance shoes. Street style tend to have more body motion, even the men shake their booty, and no one cares about posture, and they can be danced anywhere.

    And of course now someone is going to say so and so can do 100 spins a second wearing giant clown shoes dancing in a tar pit. Yes, there are exceptional dancers that can do amazing things. There are circular dancers that like to dance with ballroom posture, there are slot style dancers that like to get down like it's a house party. There are "street salsa" dancers with lots of intricate techniques, there are "ballroom salsa" dancers with lots of "sabor". This is just in general, and how I personally interpret these terms. But keep in mind that these terms describe perception and possibly attitude of the dancer, but not something that's defined like American Tango vs. Argentine Tango or something.
  5. gprefix

    gprefix Changui

    I have heard the word "street style" coming mostly from people who grew up in places where Salsa is part of the heritage (ex Cuba, Columbia). They learned by observing others, through trial-and-error, and without taking formal classes. They have evolved technique that is best suited for dancing on concrete floor or streets (as is usually the case in these countries) with partners who are not exactly adept at spinning. When they see NY/LA dancing in the clubs they see a lot of ballroom influence. They cannot lead/follow this type of Salsa with even marginal comfort. The single most distinguishing element being the way dancers spin, especially multiple spins within 3 counts, instead of turning on all 3 counts. In addition the lead is not explicit enough (it is too suggestive), not to mention the lack of familiarity of staying in a slot.

    I have not had anyone who dances NY/LA (= ballroom style) on wooden floors claim they dance "street-style". If they exist, it is up to them to defend what is so "street" about their style. If the defense rests on defining street-style dancer as having a distinguished flair, unique style, and perhaps less adherence to ballroom practices like rigid posture -- then it only exposes the difficulty in agreeing as to what is universally "street style".
  6. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    YES there is ( sorry HYH ).. it is step listed ( with exams ) in the major Soc.of the UK .( Mambo is not ??..strange ? )

    The reason the term " b/room salsa " is applied, is to denote a specific type of hold and frame which is consistent with the latin taught by most ENGLISH schools of dance.

    Having taught in both for multi yrs, the American system stays much closer to a more indigenous style of " frame " .

    And, B/room mambo is still taught with virtually the same variations that have been around since the 40s... much of this is not transposed to Salsa .

    They ( some english schools ) even teach salsa with the feet turned outwards as in the Intern. style , and the hold is also very B/Room oriented .

    I think this points to an obvious difference in has a far more casual approach to its declaration .

    I should add, that the exams with the UKA, are more freeform in style ,and do not require any specific break beat .They also require additional dances to be demonstrated in the exam ( Merg... Bachata or Cha )

    The exam. is far more substantive in other aspects of being a teacher, than just variations.

    The bottom line is this...we all dance to the same music.. our "styles " are preferential.. we all have the same variety , from which to choose.. HOW we dance that, seems to define who we are, as dancers .
  7. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    And salsa dancers dont ?..

    . and unless you do ALL your dancing literally in the street, then why would you not wear a decent type of shoe ?
  8. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    "ballroom" and "street" often get used simply to mean "formalized" and "vernacular" respectively.
  9. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    Ahh.. concise and succinct .
  10. KP-salsa

    KP-salsa Shine Officer

    You see, MY understanding of the term Street Salsa is nothing like this. I think of Street Salsa as salsa that's absorbed Hip Hop dancing. I wouldn't be thinking of cuban or casino styles at all.

    Maybe is just what my street's like though.
  11. Offbeat

    Offbeat Maestro 'Fania' Pacheco

    Is either of the salsa styles really formalized? I don't think so. As the poster above said, it is more about perception. And it seems this perception is more one sided coming from certain sub-segment of dancers. Most good dancers of any style that I know have taken instructions from another equally good dancer.

    Some of the leading Cuban instructors who originally are from Cuba proudly list which dance academy/troupe they learnt their dancing from in Cuba. I don't know much about Cuba, but certainly the better dancers over their too must be taking classes.

    The fact that everyone struggles to define street salsa or style and there is hardly any uniformity in how it is define points to a non-existent metaphor.
  12. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    Yes.. the B/room schools attempt that.. and, is not perception tinghed with reality ?

    The numerous latinos with whom I have danced and socialised with have NEVER taken a formalised lesson in their life, they simply " absorbe " style and movement from their peers, but have little conception of what ,or why they dance the way that they do .

    It is generally fraught with bad techn. etc.. but it doesnt matter to them.. the " sabor " remains .They always look upon it as a social gathering, where as the non latinos have elevated it to, in some cases, a battleground !

    The reason that the " street? " style has become watered down ?.. many studios and independants, attempting to emulate what THEY believe to be the path to a more structured way of making class work efficient and expedient , whilst trying to maintain the essence of the genre ( sadly, most fail ).

    And, ballroom schools, by and large, draw on past experiences, trying to make "1 size " fit all.
  13. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    Hmm, this starts as a reply to Offbeat, but then rambles. Apologies!

    As soon as you said "either of the styles" then you are formalizing! As soon as you say "Santo Rico style spinning" or "Eddie Torres timing" or "the slot" or "stepped turn" then you are formalizing.

    Of course you can't neatly sort styles into formalized and unformalized. At least, not without formalizing them all somewhat.

    Formalism is very useful for talking about and transferring skills, but I think you have to be careful that it's not also a limiting influence. Writing down African rhythms in (Eurocentric) musical notation throws away a lot of the subtlety because it simply can't be reflected in the formal language. Similarly, writing down how a dance or a move is done, or should look, while very useful, cannot capture the whole essence and should not be expected to do so.

    I think every individual should maintain a balance between learning skills in a formal way, and keeping the door open to learn something from dancers that the formalists would call "bad".

    Like I learned in the last year or two, thinking that a dance is "simple" or inferior in some way does not necessarily mean that you have all-the-skills-and-more than the person you are watching. It may mean that you do not have the internal language even to perceive what they are doing. Staying open and "humble" will avoid the mistake of ruling out possibilities that you have not been spoon-fed by your professor!

    I recently had a dance with a Puerto-rican visitor to my town, right there in the street, to a live band, in the wrong shoes, on sloping concrete. Right through the dance I was finding that my usual leads simply weren't working, and the break step kept shifting around all over the measure. In the end it was like a fuse blew from the effort of trying to rationalise what the heck the system was, and I stopped rationalizing and focussed entirely on my partner for clues. It was at that point that I noticed there were lots of tiny shimmies and bits of body language going on in her dancing, which I started reflecting back at her. I tried initiating a few "conversations" like that, and it worked. I tried a few very simple moves, taking her lead for the break step then guiding her through. Afterwards I was feeling like I had fallen in the washing machine on heavy soil cycle but she thanked me and said I was a really good dancer.

    That was "street" salsa to my mind. It's not a case of ignorance of the rules, but of the rules being largely irrelevant. When someone who dances in that way views a highly technical dance, they see emptiness, in the same way that a technique-obsessed dancer will see emptiness watching a style that they haven't had explained.

    Balance, balance...
  14. antigone

    antigone Pattern Police

    I've been waiting for sweavo's voice of reason
  15. Because maybe I wasn't clear enough, but I tried to point out my post was a generalization, just like "ballroom style" and "street style" are nothing more than collections of common salsa stereotypes. I just listed some of the stereotypes. If you don't agree with the stereotypes, of course, they're just stereotypes.

    Also things are different in other countries. As far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong, but Cubans do dance mostly in the streets or someone's backyard. Nice "ballroom" type facilities are not as accessible as some of the other countries. Plus I'm not sure if they can afford "decent type of shoes". But you can't say they're not salsa dancers.
  16. i think sweavo put it perfectly. the terms i use, which are not official or anything are "club style" and "cuban". but that is because that is all i'm familiar with. i would tend to describe cuban style as more folkloric instead of using the word "street". that being said, my cuban teacher (from santiago but schooled in havana) who dances/teaches what some of you would call "street" (casino and rueda) has a masters in contemporary and folkloric dance, and his formal training is evident in his movement (spotting, etc..) and in his choreography for contemporary pieces. and of course people take classes in cuba (and other places where dancing is 'native'), although i have a feeling it's sort of merit based, so young people who exhibit talent may be more likely to get the training they desire. cuba is well known for their ballet schools as well. i think also things like salsa suelta might fall into the street category... regarding shoes, this is a real issue, and my teacher told me that he loves shopping for shoes (!!!) and then each year when he goes home to visit his family he brings the shoes for them. i think in any hot climate, it's always nicer to dance outside with a breeze than be stuck in a hot sticky room. sorry i'm kind of rambling, in no particular order.
  17. Big10

    Big10 Shine Officer

    I think "street salsa" is a term that actually described a meaningful distinction several years ago, but is getting much more blurry today, which is where the confusion arises. I currently do some teaching for a dance school called "Strictly Street Salsa," which was started 10 years ago. I first took lessons as a student there about 8 years ago, and what I was learning at that time was very different from what other studios in town were teaching.

    Way back then, "street salsa" was just a simple way to say "not ballroom-style" -- and that time (at least in my experience) there wasn't much stylistic overlap between what would be taught in most studios versus what people were dancing in Latin nightclubs or informal house parties. Most official studios with wooden floors and mirrors would teach a style of Salsa that included the specific ballroom hold, posture, exaggerated hip and leg movements, etc. To learn something different, you'd have to learn more informally, like at somebody's house. So, to say "street salsa" still referred to at least having a basic set of rules that are necessary for any partner dancing, but much more relaxed than the ballroom rules. I kept taking classes at "Strictly Street Salsa" because I learned rules that felt much more natural in a nightclub setting, and allowed me to have fun with untrained dancers. I had the lead-follow concepts, but my body could be more relaxed.

    Nowadays, the gap between "ballroom" and "not ballroom" is much closer. Over time, "street" dancers wanted to get flashier and flashier, and borrowed more and more moves from Swing, Hustle, Tango, etc. Of course, to execute higher level moves and spins, the amount of allowable "slack" in your technique becomes less and less. So, today, now we have people who started as "street" dancers and still think of themselves that way but, if they took a step back, they'd realize that over time they've gotten very close to the ballroom dancers they used to view with disdain. The same is probably true from the ballroom side, where hip-hop or "street" movements have slowly crept in.

    Along those lines, in my opinion, there isn't much current difference between "New York style" and "L.A. style." Those are terms that at this point are probably just buzzwords for On2 versus On1 -- yet we know that there are plenty of On1 dancers in New York, as well as a growing number of On2 dancers in L.A. Instructional videos and YouTube are largely erasing many of the regional distinctions that used to be more clear.

    The arm-twisting "Cuban style" is still fairly unique, as is the quick shuffling referred to as "Colombian style." The rest of the stuff taught in studios should all be lumped together as just generally "Educated Salsa" or "Trained Salsa," in my opinion.
  18. opm1s6

    opm1s6 Sabor Ambassador


    hmm, that's a great paragraph that I think time will prove you right, but I'd refer to the "uptown salsa" I think sweavo mentioned in a different thread the other day. There are a couple of styles within each region, and I don't know much about the LA scene so I can't comment, but this uptown style is what I associated more with NYC.

    As far as the New York scene and on1 dancers, I go to one of the few schools that teach both (primarily on1), and to be honest, while there are on1 dancers in New York, they are so rare that you'd think they were just random tourists. Furthermore, none of them are anywhere as dedicated or serious about salsa as the on2 dancers. Still fewer have an understanding or concept of what it takes to be a great salser@ or it's ties to the music. Some would be lucky to be able to get through a two spin. Sometimes it seems like in NYC on1 people are the ******* stepchildren that have been locked and chained in the basement for far too long, unaware of what the world is doing.

    The NYC on2 scene is stubborn, snobbish and generally won't stand for any sort of on1 intrusion. It's not like people go around with anti-on1 signs, but from time to time the on1 vs on2 debate just comes to the surface. For example, I saw an instructor try to teach on1 intro steps at a public event only to have all the advanced on2 people boo the instructor until she taught on2. on2 people are very, very defensive about it. Personally, I don't think there's that much of a difference to have an attitude, but people definitely have a feeling that they are New York, that they are doing it the way it should be and that the rest of the world is not, although some of that is playful banter.

    If you think that's harsh, you should hear when they criticize each other performances :eek:
  19. sac

    sac Tumbao

    gosh....that sounds mean:(
  20. KP-salsa

    KP-salsa Shine Officer

    Booing doesn't sound like playful banter - and would have completely put any of the dancers who were there for the very first time off salsa forever, whether on1, on2 or whatever. They'd have thought those in the crowd booing were among the most ill-mannered people on earth - and if they were the advanced dancers, then that makes the whole thing even worse.

    Not a credit to the salsa scene in any way, shape or form.

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