New York Style Salsa Hits The Mainstream - A Review
One has to wonder if becoming mainstream has had a positive influence on the dance genre of New York Style Salsa. Becoming mainstream increases the popularity of the style making it more available, visible and prevalent in the public eye, but what is our public seeing and learning about New York Style Salsa through this mainstream view point and interpretation? One has to ask themselves, are we only growing our dance in numbers and popularity while leaving the soul of the dance behind? Does mainstream mean that we come to generalize the dance instead of creating a more definitive connection to our style of dance through sharing it with the public?
The Influence of Ballet Training For Salsa Dancers
The sad truth is that while some dance companies still hold true to the essence of the New York Style, the mainstream of the New York Style has become an avenue for reaching mediocrity and blending with the whole, a sharp detour from the roots of the dance almost to the point of non-recognition. With Salsa instructors imposing Ballet warm-ups, postures and interpretation in performance, teaching with the inclination and intention of other styles outside New York Style Salsa, New York Style Salsa, affectionately known as Club Style Salsa, has turned the corner with it’s nose in the air and snubbed the earthy, gritty quality that once set it apart from other styles of Salsa dance and once made it unique to New York City and it’s predecessor – the Mambo.
Certain companies and one in particular, have made it trendy to impose fitness guru instruction and ballet warm ups as the staple of the mission to flatten, dumb down and “mainstream” the dance and have served to prove that even with all the conditioning in the world one can’t use those techniques to dance New York Style Salsa with feeling and soul or dance at all with any relation to New York Style. In fact, the same company instead uses every style of dance but Salsa to get an audience’s approval to tap into the familiar and market it as New York Style Salsa.
Disconnecting From Salsa To Connect To The Mainstream
By using mainstream forms of dance to train their students, they have entered the BADLANDS** of Dance, having no direct or relative connection to New York Style Salsa whatsoever, resulting in over accenting the dance in jerky movement and stark postures which flatten the dance and bare little resemblance to New York Style Salsa. Socially these methods translate on the social dance floor as “shine” choreography from their latest dance class, a monotonous routine, sucking the life out of the dance and creating predictability in a dance style originally built on a synchopated nature of abandonment and the ultimate element of surprise.
New York Style Salsa Is More Than A Number
While people see New York Style Salsa as “Breaking On2” and make reference to it in that fashion because the break step lands on the 2nd beat of the measure, we have lost the connection to the gritty feeling of the club style that emanated from the Mambo Era and the days of the Palladium and which sits at the root and base of the New York Style. Modern day mainstream Salsa fails to realize that New York Style Salsa is called New York Style Salsa because of its connection to the Mambo’s upspring in the Palladium and the Big Band Era of the 1940s and the pulse and drive of the music that created a certain overall feeling synonymous with the New York Style. Mambo is a specific driving rhythm, one rhythm under the umbrella of the term Salsa, indivisible with LIBERTY and justice for ALL – this is our New York Style and those who truly dance it, know it.
So my review of New York Style Salsa hitting the mainstream is, well, not as sizzling as I’ve known it. It is unfortunate that we in the New York Style Salsa scene have allowed the fancy advertising, bling and fancy terminology of mainstream to sell us out.
**"The term "badlands" represents a consensus in North America: the Lakota called the topography "mako sika" and Spanish colonists called it malpaís, both literally bad land, while French trappers called it "les mauvaises terres à traverser" - "the bad lands to cross". The term is also apt: badlands contain steep slopes, loose dry soil, slick clay, and deep sand, all of which impede travel and other uses. Badlands form in arid regions with infrequent but intense rain-showers, sparse vegetation, and soft sediments: a recipe for massive erosion."
Video About the Palladium - History of New York Salsa & Its Roots
If you have always wanted to learn to dance Salsa, here is your chance. Instructor, Gina Liccardo, will be teaching free basic Salsa classes at the Arlington Public Library starting on June 21, 2010. Classes will be taught throughout the summer on designated Monday nights from 6:00pm to 7:30pm. Classes will be for adults only. Classes will cover basic elements of the dance and practice with partners. Ms. Liccardo will also cover how to use what you know for those students of hispanic background who have Salsa dance experience under their belts to crossover to modern day club style, New York Salsa On2. For a detailed schedule and more information, contact Gina at (888) 857-0979/www.letherapy.com or contact the Arlington Public Library at (718) 277-6105.
When East met West there was no stopping the On2 movement but was On2 destined to become a novelty, a status symbol for the West Coast Salsero or would the West Coaster embrace that dancing on two was not just about breaking on count two in the music or about a number, it was about a feeling, a groove, a drive to a groove.
Nineteen ninety-nine was an interesting year. I relocated to the West Coast where the On1 style of salsa was king and On2 was a style untapped and uninvited but all of that was about to change and I was about to witness it first hand. I was about to experience the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the trials, tribulations and hopes of migrating a new form of Salsa dance to a scene unexposed.
San Francisco Instructor, Gabriel Romero
Three years into my stay out West, I met up with a local group whose director was venturing into unknown territories. His name, Gabriel Romero, a charismatic, friendly, smooth and talented dancer, performer, choreographer and instructor who became hooked on learning, instructing and performing the On2 style of Salsa after several visits to New York City and ongoing instruction with Seaon Stylist, a local dancer and instructor brought up in the New York Salsa scene who had migrated out West. After three years of agony, longing and starvation for the familiar groove of the On2 style of Salsa, a ray of hope sprung up in Berkeley, California at the Beat Studio where Gabriel and his team Mambo Romero began their On2 journey tapping the infectious New York Salsa Style familiarly referred to as “dancing On2.”
Although there was hope there, it became apparent to me after spending my formative years of dancing Salsa in the heart of the New York scene that starting up a different form of Salsa without the support of its original surroundings was definitely a brave move and quite a mission but it was one that Gabriel Romero dedicated himself to and in my last two years on the West Coast On2 began to take a foothold in the Bay Area.
Little did I know that the shortcomings of adopting a dance form rarely practiced outside its normal habitat would also end up being my introduction to becoming a salsa instructor. While attending rehearsals, I began to notice teaching practices given by an instructor that were not quite on point. After the instructor had taken several workshops at the famed Santo Rico School and attempting to implement their spinning technique in instruction, it was apparent that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. The Santo Rico Spin technique is one of the most intricate techniques to master, as the creator of the technique, Tomas Guerrero , comments on in his interview with LaVozdemambo.com. A few workshops weren’t going to do the complete job of breaking down such an involved and evolved form of spinning. What was misunderstood was that the follower’s hip rotation was used to assist in increasing the speed and power of the take off of the spin, not to spin on her own and disconnect from the initiation of the lead or her role as a follower. Aside from the technical misconceptions, there was a disconnect in the feeling of the New York Style. It was apparent to me that the On2 style was interpreted as just that in the beginning, dancing/breaking on count two of the music with none of the nuances that made it so infectious. I began to study the lead, feeling that perhaps I could translate what I was talking about by gaining experience as a leader. As fate would have it, that was the beginning of my venture as an instructor.
Feeling the On2 style
There was a particular dancer who would be relocating from the Bay Area to New York to study that I would run into a few years later upon my return to New York City. Upon bumping into her at a local club, I asked her a simple, direct question, do you understand what I was talking about now? “Yes,” she said emphatically, “I finally get it.” If you’re wondering what she got, turn on the classic Dirty Dancing film with Patrick Swayze, it's a very simple way to catch on to the meaning of dancing On2. There’s a scene in the movie where Swayze's character says to Baby, “it’s about a feeling;” he takes his fingers places them over her heart and makes the sound of the tumbao rhythm, “ga goong.”
The groove migrates abroad As with any migration, there is a period of adjustment, acceptance and that “ah ha” moment when the pieces of the puzzle find their way to a succinct picture. The On2 style is no longer just a New York thing and has definitely become more than a novelty. It’s become a staple around the world. Although there are still some moments of disconnect to the feeling of what it means to dance On2, the more the New York instructors circle the globe at congresses and expose the On2 Style around the world, the more enlightened, connected and curious we all become about what makes this form of Salsa so infectious. For a New York Salsera stranded in a distant place far from the Salsa and the scene that resonated in her bones, it was nice to know that there is an instructor by the name of Gabriel Romero who was brave and determined enough to swim up stream into uncharted territory.
San Francisco Salsa Instructor and Performer, Gabriel Romero with partner Adrian
Authentic salsa's hot spot Mood:
celebratory Topic: Hot Spot for Salsa Dance
In the last two years, have you been religiously tuned in to Dancing with the Stars? Have you spent every week voting for your favorite couple? Has watching these dance shows made you consider learning how to dance Salsa, Tango, Foxtrot or the Viennese Waltz? Well before you go to your local ballroom studio DON'T, take a detour to a local underground social club called Club Cache on West 46th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway and see the real deal. Don't expect a fancy club or even an entrance that you can find at first. This is not what salsa is all about. It's about passion, connection and expression. It's about leaving all the stresses of your day at the door and checking into the easiest, sexiest, most fulfilling workout and fun social time you will find. You won't have to say a word, your body will do the talking and it will be the most intimate conversation you will ever have without speaking. If you want to be a part of it, turn off the TV shows and go see what real Salsa dancing looks like danced to real Latin music.
Club Cache is one of the few clubs left in New York where real Salsa dancers go to dance every Thursday night. Expect to walk up and down the block a few times as there will be no big marquee as there was at the renowned Palladium back in the 1950s when Mambo, Salsa's ancestor broke all the racial, cultural and class barriers of the day, when Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and anyone who could get in the door and on the dance floor to experience the pulsating, addictive rhythms of the Mambo rushed the stage to hear the best musicians of the day make history. Instead expect to find Club Cache in the middle of West 46th Street behind a tiny little red door with a small rectangular sign that reads "Club Cache where the real stars of Salsa dance.”
If you want to learn how to dance and feel the real soul and joy of Salsa dance start here and when you’re ready to enroll in your lessons after you are totally inspired by the real dance, skip your local Ballroom studio. Not only will you be completely over charged at your local Ballroom studio, you will be taught the watered down version of a dance that is so passionate that one could never expect that it could have ever come to this state of being. Think about it, don't you ever wonder why they are dancing Salsa to La Isla Bonita? La Isla Bonita isn't even Salsa music; it's a pop song sung by Madonna! Do yourself a service, if you want to really experience the real deal, visit Club Cache and be sure say ask for Joey Salsa the promoter of the event. He's been keeping this underground party up and running for the past five years and hopefully many more to come.
Underground Salsa Party - Club Cache 221 W46th St., NYC (347) 385-6745