There are many styles to the Salsa dance. The L.A style, New York style, Columbian style and the Cuban style are the most common ones. The Cuban style can be easily recognized by its circular motion on the dance floor, and the Columbian style is recognizable by his very fast footwork. The difference between the L.A style and the New York style is less visible to the naked eye.
In order to understand the difference between these two styles, we have to talk about the composition of the music. Salsa music is played in a 4-4 format. It has 4 beats per measure and we dance within 2 measures to create a basic step. The musician’s measure has 4 beats, while the dancer’s measure is technically composed of 2 musician measures, giving 8 beats to a dancer’s measure. This is where the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 comes from.
In a musician measure (4 beats), the 1st beat is called the downbeat and the 2nd beat is called the upbeat. Since the dancer’s measure is composed of 2 musician measures, the 1st and 5th beats are downbeats and the 2nd and 6th beats are upbeats in a dancer’s measure. The L.A style is referred as dancing “On1” because it stresses the downbeats, 1 and 5. The New York style is referred as dancing “On2” because it stresses the upbeats, 2 and 6.
In the “On1” style, the leader breaks forward with the left foot on the 1st beat, and the follower breaks back with her right foot. On the 2nd beat, the right foot for the leader steps in place, and the left foot steps in place for the follower. On the 3rd beat, the left foot for the leader goes back (past his right foot), and the follower steps forward with her right foot (past her left foot). In both styles, the leader starts on the 1st beat with his left foot, and the follower steps with her right foot.
In both styles, the dancers have to follow a quick-quick-slow tempo. In both styles, the dancers are using the 4th and 8th beats as pauses. The real difference between the two ways of dancing salsa lies in the way the pauses are used on the music.
In the On1 style, the 4th and 8th beat are marked with both feet on the ground, giving to the pause a more static feeling. By mastering the art of continuing the body motion through the pause, you can create a stylish and energetic look.
In the On2 style, the pause is in the air as the 3rd and 7th beats are traveling steps to transition between the front and back basics. This transition gives to the On2 style a smooth and continuous feeling. On1 or On2, salsa is a fun way to dance and can be enjoyed in any style.