Salsa dancing in Latin America
This page is intended for salsa dance lovers who are travelling around Latin America. Surprisingly, it is quite difficult to find good salsa clubs while travelling in Latin America.
Salsa is a popular form of social dance that originated in the Caribbean. The movements of salsa have origins in Puerto Rican bomba and plena, Cuban Son, cha-cha-cha, mambo and other dance forms. The dance, along with salsa music, originated in the mid-1970s in New York. Different regions of Latin America and the United States have distinct salsa styles of their own, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Cali Colombia, Los Angeles and New York styles. Salsa dance socials are commonly held in night clubs, bars, ballrooms, restaurants, and outside, especially when part of an outdoor festival.
In many styles of salsa dancing, as a dancer shifts their weight by stepping, the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Weight shifts cause the hips to move. Arm and shoulder movements are also incorporated. Salsa generally uses music ranging from about 150 bpm (beats per minute) to around 250 bpm, although most dancing is done to music somewhere between 160–220 bpm. The basic salsa dance rhythm consists of taking three steps for every four beats of music. The odd number of steps creates the syncopation inherent to salsa dancing and ensures that it takes 8 beats of music to loop back to a new sequence of steps.
- Asia Bar, Mitre 774. Salsa evening every Friday, 1–5AM.
- Azúcar Abasto, Avda. Corrientes 3330 y Agüero (Subway B "Carlos Gardel" Station - Colectivos 24 - 71 - 124 - 142 - 168 - 180), ☏ . Th-Sa evenings. Has a great reputation. Old style Cuban and Puerto Rican salsa.
- La Salsera, Calle Yatay 961, Villa Crespo (a short taxi ride from Azúcar Abasto), ☏ . All styles of salsa. All ages.
- [dead link] Maluco Beleza, Sarmiento 1728 (a short taxi ride from 9 de julio & Av. de mayo). Th midnight-5PM, Fr/Sat 1AM-6PM, W 9:30PM-midnight. Brazilian music - samba & AXE.
Generally you can find lots and lots of salsa music in Colombia. Most of the people would know how to dance and move with the rhythm. However there are two problems for the advanced salsa dancer. First is that they usually don't do any turns, most Colombian girls get confused by Cross-Body lead ("Dile-que-no"). Second, usually people get to the clubs by pairs and sit around tables.
The elements of Cali-style salsa, also known as Colombian salsa and salsa caleña, were strongly influenced by dances to Caribbean rhythms which preceded salsa, such as Pachanga and Boogaloo.
The central feature is the footwork which has quick rapid steps and skipping motions. Colombian style does not execute Cross-body Leads or the "Dile Que No" as seen in other styles, but rather step in place and displace in closed position. Their footwork is intricate and precise.
Cali is also known as the "Capital de la Salsa" (Capital of Salsa); due to salsa music being the main genre in parties, nightclubs and festivals in the 21st century. Cali has the most salsa schools and salsa teams in the world. Cali hosts many annual salsa events such as the World Salsa Cali Festival and the Encuentro de Melomanos y Coleccionistas.
- Blues Brothers, Av. 6AN No. 21-40 Barrio Santa Mónica, ☏ , [email protected].
- Tin-Tin-Deo, Calle 5 # 38-71, Barrio San Fernando (in Calle 5 & Carrera 38). Th-Sa 8PM-3AM. It claims to be recommended by The New York Times as the Cali site to visit for its musical identity and its salsa culture. 15,000 peso entry includes 10,000 peso credit at the bar.
- Zaperoco, Avenida 5 # 16-46 (close to Avenida 5 Norte & Calle 14). Th-Sa 8PM-4AM. Quite crowded (but not too crowded), good music. Mostly pairs. Authentic Colombian salsa. Upscale bar.
- La Topa Tolondra, Calle 5 # 1437, ☏ . 10PM-. Large dance floor. Caters to old and young, foreign and local dancers. Come at 9:30PM or 10PM to avoid the queue. Free salsa lesson on Mondays.
- Club Changó, K3, Cavasa, [email protected]. Th-Sa 8PM-6AM.
- Cafe Havana, Getsemani, corner of Calle del Guerrero and Calle de la Media Luna, ☏ , [email protected]. W-Su 8:30PM-4AM.
- Donde Fidel Salsa Club, Centro Portal de Los Dulces #32-09, in between De los Coches Square and Aduana Square, ☏ . Seating inside on two floors, and outside in the plaza. The owner's name is Fidel. Since the late 1980s. Large variety of old salsa. In old city of Cartagena, close to the clock tower (torre del reloj), in the plaza where the candy sellers are under the arches.
- Quiebra Canto, Getsemaní Carrera 8B Nº 25 - 119 (near the convention center in the old city). An up-market salsa joint with a tile dance floor (shoes slide effortlessly even with rubber soles); all tables get a great view of the dance floor. If you have a table there is a minimum liquor consumption charge.
Thete are lots of clubs around Carrera 70 (near Estadio Metro Station), including:
- Eslabón Prendido, Calle 53 # 42-55, near Parque Berrio Station, ☏ , [email protected]. Tu Th-Sa 7PM-2AM. An institution in the salsa circuit of Medellín and its best option for a Thursday night. Intimate, cheerful and the host of great bands, this bar is in the busiest area of Parque Periodista. It is very popular on Thursdays when, for a cover of 8,000 pesos, you can experience a great night of salsa. The place begins to light up at 10:30PM. One block from the renowned Parque del Periodista. On Tuesdays there is jam session in which artists of the local scene are assembled in a large orchestra. There is also a live orchestra on Fridays, sometimes with talented bands from the city. You have to arrive early to get a table. The salsa selection at this bar, especially when the orchestra is on break or not playing, is generally commercial, perhaps oriented toward the less discerning ear of the foreign audience. When there is live music, cover is typically 10,000 to 12,000 pesos.
- El Tibiri, Calle 44B #70, near the Estadio Station, ☏ , [email protected]. W-Sa 10PM-2AM. This down and dirty, informal basement salsa bar is one of the most famous in Medellin for a hot and sweaty salsa experience. What it lacks in style is compensated by a good atmosphere. The drinks are cheap, and over the weekend, it's the favorite place of the young salsa fans. Typically Colombian-style and/or Colombian street salsa (Salsa callejera). Charges cover only when there is live music.
- Son Havana, Carrera 73 # 44 - 56, near the Stadium Station, ☏ , [email protected]. W Th 9PM-midnight, F-Sa 9PM-4AM. For a taste of Cuban salsa, go to Son Havana near El Tibiri. Good mojitos, of course, and be sure to check the schedule for live bands. Timba, son, charanga, guaguancó and other Afro-Antillean rhythms. Its musical focus is on the timba, one of the rhythms that makes up salsa. Cuban dance is popular at this venue in the formation of a wheel, known as the Cuban Casino/Rueda. Casino/Rueda practice on Wednesdays. They usually have live music at least once a week with their group Son Havana All Stars, and sometimes several times a week, varying between young orchestras in the city. ~12,000 pesos when there is live music.
- Bururú barará, Cl. 44. From La Sonora Matancera, through the Great Combo of Puerto Rico and other great artists, this place brings together the energy of salsa in a single space. An excellent dance floor invites you to move to exhaustion.
- Convergencia, Calle San Juan (Calle 44 at Carrera 73), ☏ . Convergencia Bar is a place with a tradition of salsa classics in its musical programming.
In Cuba, a dance known as Casino became popular in the 1970s. Dancing Casino is an expression of popular social culture; Cubans consider casino as part of social and cultural activities centering on their popular music.
Casino traces its origin as a partner dance from Cuban Son, Cha Cha Cha, Danzón and Guaracha. Traditionally, Casino is danced "a contratiempo". This means that, distinct from subsequent forms of salsa, no step is taken on the first and fifth beats in each clave pattern and the fourth and eighth beat are emphasised. In this way, rather than following a beat, the dancers contribute in their movement, to the polyrythmic pattern of the music. At the same time, it is often danced "a tiempo", although both "on3" (originally) and "on1" (nowadays).
What gives the dance its life, however, is not its mechanical technique, but understanding and spontaneous use of the rich Afro-Cuban dance vocabulary within a Casino dance. In the same way that a "sonero" (lead singer in Son and salsa bands) will "quote" other, older songs in their own, a Casino dancer will frequently improvise references to other dances, integrating movements, gestures and extended passages from the folkloric and popular heritage. This is particularly true of African descended Cubans. Such improvisations might include extracts of rumba, dances for African deities, the older popular dances such as Cha Cha Chá and Danzon as well as anything the dancer may feel.
In the 1950s salsa rueda or more accurately rueda de casino was developed in Havana. Pairs of dancers form a circle ("rueda" in Spanish means "wheel"), with dance moves called out by one person. Many of the moves involve rapidly swapping partners. "Rueda de Cuba" consists of about 30 calls.
- Casa de la Musica, 20, La Habana (in Miramar neighbourhood about 20 from the old city). Live bands every night. Taxis tend to overcharge on the way home. 10-15 CUC cover for foreigners (4 CUC for Cubans).
- Casa de la Musica, Calle 31 esq. 2, Plaza de la Revolución (in downtown Havana). Table reservations are requiered for Cubans, foreigners are allowed to enter without reservations but at a higher price at the entrance. 10 CUP for Cubans, 10 CUC for foreigners.
- Piano Bar Delirio Habanero, Teatro Nacional, Paseo and Calle 39, Plaza de la Revolución (in downtown Havana next to Casa de la Música), ☏ . Daily 10PM-6AM. A small but popular place serving good and relativelly cheap drinks. Live performances are hosted frequently. Entrance for foreigners costs 5 CUC.
- CH Salsa Club, Aguila 165, Between Animas and Trocadero, ☏ . Dance school.
- Casa de la Musica (off Plaza Mayor Casco Historico), ☏ . Hosts live performances every night starting at 10PM. Miss of tourists and Cubans. Open air bar. 1 CUC.
- 1 Mama Rumba, Queretaro 230, Roma Norte, Mexico City, ☏ . 20:30 - 03:00 (Wed-Sat). Lively club with live bands playing almost purely salsa. Crowd is a nice mix of ages and some obvious foreigners scattered among the locals. Everyone is friendly. They have a great bar with an extensive variety of tequilas, mezcals, and rums. Their mojitos are outstanding. Get there early and get some salsa lessons. The place gets pretty busy by about 9:30-10 and the band starts at about 11. The club is spread across 2 levels with the band downstairs. There are open dance spaces on both levels. M$60.
Lots of places around the main plaza. All of this places teach salsa for free every night. Usually after midnight the music is changed for mixed music. Cusco is a great place to start learning salsa. but the experienced dancer would probably satisfy with dancing only with the instructors.
Stock up your water prior to dance. Dancing first time dancing above 3400m will make you thirsty.
- Mama Africa, Portal de Panes 109 3rd Floor. 10PM to midnight. Mama Africa is on the second floor high above Plaza de Armas and is one of the most popular nightclubs in Cusco. It attracts relatively young people. There are locals and also many tourists. It’s a great place to dance and to enjoy music. Teaches Cuban style, and sometimes LA style (depending on the teacher).
- Mythology, Portal de Carnes 298 2nd floor, ☏ .
- Salsa Dance School, Collacalle 480 (close to the plaza Limacpampa Grande), ☏ , [email protected]. Group and private lessons.
- Son De Cuba, Calle de la Pizza 277, Miraflores. Every night. This club is popular with tourists. The music is salsa, bachata, and merengue.
- La Casa De La Salsa, Av. Bauzate y Meza 169, ☏ , [email protected]. This club focuses on dancing salsa with live band all night long. It's La Victoria district, which can be dangerous for travelers. Attracts a mainly local crowd.
- Cohiba, Avenida del Ejercito, Miraflores, ☏ .