Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance brought us the salsa stylings of Cristina Santana, who shimmying her way from San Diego, through Vegas, and into the Top 11.
Today, we’re gonna beef up your So You Think You Can Dance vocab with a brief introduction to this style that Cristina did so well on the show, and that dance pros uneasily try to teach stars on Dancing With the Stars.
Not to be confused with the cha-cha-cha or rumba, salsa dancing stems from salsa music, which gained popularity in the 1970s. The style is performed to 8-beat music. Dancers move for 3 beats, pause for 1, then move again for 3 beats, and pause for 1; the steps would go left, right, left, pause … right, left, right, pause.
Salsa dancing doesn’t cover a lot of space on the dance floor, but rather emphasizes the slight movements of the dancer’s swaying hips and footwork. Dancers can add their own embellishments, such as a colorful movement of an arm or leg, leaving lots of “artistic freedom” within the dance form.
In a social setting, salsa dancing is mostly improvised. Salsa routines seen on So You Think You Can Dance can’t entirely follow their “freestyle” format. They might include elements of improvisation, but most of the movement is choreographed.
Check out an example of Salsa dancing from SYTYCD below.