Cuban Salsa grew from a fusion of other dance styles, no one is too old to dance it!

I decided to spend close to a month in Cuba, to learn to dance the Salsa in the country from which elements of it originated. It was an interesting experience, learning more about Cuban music, that Salsa is a ‘commercial’ overarching name for a dance incorporating steps from a number of other dance styles, and that I had to come to the conclusion that I do not like most Cuban Salsa music. I was told that Salsa has no age limit, one never being too old to dance, it even being used remedially with older persons. 


I did ten dance lessons at the MariSuri Dance School, owned by Madeline Garcia, just around the corner from the BnB at which I stayed in Centro, Havana. It had been recommended by the BnB, and its proximity to the BnB made it ideal. I connected with Cintia Guevara, the receptionist of the Dance School immediately. 

Requesting an interview with MariSuri, her professional name, I sat down with both Madeline and Cintia, the latter translating for us. MariSuri started teaching dance professionally 25 years ago, and opened her first dance school 20 years ago. In her current Dance School she has an outside terrace as well as an upstairs mirror studio for the dance classes. My classes were held in both, and we sometimes shared with another teacher and student, Roger my teacher taught me the rhythm of the Salsa, being 1-2-3 / 5-6-7 / .

Madeline told me that the Casino style is the base of the Cuban Salsa, created by bands such as Los Van Van. When Americans came to Cuba, they observed the local version of the dances in Cuba, and took elects with them, creating a new dance style, consisting of a mix of Cuban, New York, and LA dance styles, and called it ‘Salsa’, adapting it to the music of their country. They popularised Salsa, giving it the ‘commercialised’ name for what is a fusion of different dance styles. Salsa music and Salsa dance styles are not always linked, she said. Using the Casino style as a foundation for the Salsa, Cuban teachers and dancers have improvised over time, adding figures, movements, and their own favourite moves. Afro has strongly influenced Cuban music and dancing. 

The overall Salsa dance style was born from a fusion of Son, Casino, Fusion, and Despele, the latter using a timba instrument, with a fast beat. While Latin America enjoys Salsa music too, its dance style differs from the Cuban and American. The Rhythm root of the Salsa differs from country to country, made of these sub styles:

#  Son

#. Rumba

#  Cha Cha

#  Afro

#  Mambo

#  Pelón

#  and more 

The different Salsa styles are the following:

#  Cuban Salsa – the hip movements are very pronounced, expressing sensuousness, Cuban dancers listening to the beat of the music, enjoying the music slowly, Afro music giving dynamic movements. The Cuban Salsa is a love/hate relationship between two dancers, provoking each other, as one dancer makes a move(ment), the other dancer tries to outdo the other, expressing sensuousness and sexuality. It becomes a contest of who can make the more pronounced movement, being increasingly sexually explicit. One provokes, but then moves away, or one asks for more, Madeline explained. 

#  New York Salsa – influenced by Rock n Roll and jazz, with stylised movements, and more rigid in their dancing. 

#  LA Salsa – acrobatic figures are predominantly used

#  Columbian Salsa – this is a mix of the Plena and Bomba dance styles, with very fast foot movement, but with little body movement.

Madeline does remedial work with older persons living in retirement homes, to stimulate them, and their brains, dancing known to be a good therapy. Language is unimportant in dancing, the body doing the speaking, she said. 

The MariSuri Dance School teaches Cuban Salsa and its substyles of Danzón, Son, Chachachá, Pilón, Mambo, and choreographed combinations; Cuban Afro, including Yambú, Guaguancó, and Columbia; and Yoruba. Other dance styles one can learn at the School are Cumbria, Reggeatón, Bachata, Merengue, and Samba. 

MariSuri Salsa School, Consulado 19, Centro, Havana, Cuba. Tel +53 78676640 Facebook. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


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