As a Greek folk dance teacher, I often find that my students are interested in different cultural styles of dance. For most of my students, I recommend that they consider salsa dancing, a wonderful form of exercise and a great way to improve their coordination. Salsa dancing is very different from performing tango or flamenco. It is also much easier to find a salsa class than one in the other dance styles. If you’ve ever been interested in the similarities and differences between these three dance styles, read this article before embarking on your first Salsa class.
Since flamenco dancing is a little less popular in the United States, I will write quite a bit about it. Flamenco is originally from Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain. The entire country of Spain is often credited as the creator of flamenco. Andalusia, however, is located in the extreme south of Spain and shares a border with Portugal. Flamenco dance originated in the 18th century. Over the years, the countries of Central America and Cuba have contributed to the evolution of flamenco dance.
The music used in flamenco dancing is attributed to the fusion of Mediterranean, Spanish, Islamic and Romani cultures along the trade routes of Spain. While major and minor scales are used in western music, flamenco dance also incorporates the Doric and Phrygian modes developed by the Byzantine church. The easiest way to explain these modes is to imagine a simple major scale, C major. If played on a piano, this scale plays only white keys and moves from C to C (CDEFGABC). The C Dorian mode starts at the second note of the scale, D, and uses all the notes of the original major scale. In this case, that means DEFGABCD. Phrygian mode begins on the third note of the C major scale (if the Phrygian C mode is played). This means that you start at E and play EFGABCDE. If you have a piano, play these notes to see what these modes sound like. Furthermore, flamenco music uses microtones (smaller units of vibrational change than western music).
Flamenco is often seen and performed with a single dancer responding to live accompaniment. The dancer skillfully uses her feet to create sound and move her body in unique ways. Flamenco is considered a very emotional and moving dance.
Salsa dancing originated in Cuba. Ballroom dancing has significantly influenced salsa dancing. This is one reason why it is easy to take a Salsa class – many places that teach ballroom dance can also teach salsa easily.
In salsa dancing, the weight is shifted between the feet. However, the upper body is supposed to stay still, so this creates a lot of movement in the hips.
Tango dancing, unlike salsa and flamenco, originated in South America. Specifically, it was developed in the Río de la Plata region, straddling Uruguay and Argentina. There are two main styles of Tango: open embrace and closed embrace. The open hug, as it sounds, consists of a couple having space between their bodies. In a close embrace, the dancers are essentially chest to chest.
Tango, more than salsa dancing, is a very emotional dance and has many romantic and seductive cultural associations.
If you are considering a new and cultural dance style that is likely to be offered in your area, but are more concerned with sporting benefits, I highly recommend salsa dancing. Taking a salsa class will improve your strength and endurance by using your leg muscles thoroughly.