Salsa is a syncretic dance genre created by Spanish-speaking people from the Caribbean. Salsa dancing mixes African and European dance influences through the music and dance fusions that are the roots of Salsa: essentially Puerto Rican and Cuban Son, but also with influences from Guaguancó, Rumba, Boogaloo, Pachanga, Guaracha, Puerto Rico's Plena, and Bomba.
Salsa is normally a partner dance, although there are recognized solo forms, line dancing (suelta), and Rueda de Casino where groups of couples exchange partners in a circle. Salsa can be improvised or performed with a set routine.
Salsa is popular throughout Latin America, and also in the United States, Spain, Japan, Portugal, France and Italy.
The name ''Salsa'' is the Spanish word for sauce, connoting (in American Spanish) a spicy flavor. Salsa also suggests a ''mixture'' of ingredients, though this meaning is not found in most stories of the term's origin.
The basic step of all styles of salsa involves 3 weight changes (or steps) in each 4 beat measure. The beat on which one does not step might contain a tap or kick, or weight transfer may simply continue with the actual step not occurring until the next beat, some individuals may insert an actual pause. The option chosen depends upon individual choice and upon the specific style being danced. One of the steps is a ''break step'' a little bit longer than the other two. Different styles of Salsa are often differentiated by the direction and timing of the break step (''on 1'' or ''on 2'' for example). After 6 weight changes in 8 beats, the basic step cycle is complete. While dancing, the basic step can be modified significantly as part of the improvisation and stylings of the people dancing.
As a salsa dancer changes weight the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Caught in the middle are the hips which end up moving quite a bit--the famous ''Cuban hip movement.''
The arms are used to communicate the lead in either open or closed position. In open position the two dancers hold one or both hands, especially for moves that involve turns, or putting arms behind the back, or moving around each other. In closed position, the leader puts the right hand on the follower's back, while the follower puts the left hand on the leader's shoulder.
In some styles, the dancers remain in a slot (switching places), while in others the dancers circle around each other.
Music suitable for dancing ranges from about 150 beats per minute (bpm) to around 250 beats per minute (bpm), although most dancing is done to music somewhere between 160-220 bpm. Every Salsa composition involves complex African percussion based around the Clave Rhythm (which has 4 types), though there can be moments when the clave is hidden for a while, often when quoting Changüí or Bomba. The key instrument that provides the core groove of a salsa song is the conga drum. The conga drummer slaps (high pitch) on the 2nd beat of each measure and strikes twice with an open tone (often on a 2nd lower pitched conga) on the 4th beat (see salsa music).Every instrument in a Salsa band is either playing with the clave (generally: congas, timbales, piano, tres guitar, bongos, claves (instrument), strings) or playing independent of the clave rhythm (generally: bass, maracas, güiro, cowbell). Melodic components of the music and dancers can choose to be in clave or out of clave at any point. However it is taboo to play or dance to the wrong type of clave rhythm (see salsa music). While dancers can mark the clave rhythm directly, it is more common to do so indirectly (with, for example, a shoulder movement).
Incorporating styling techniques into salsa has become very common. For both men and women, shines, leg work, arm work, body movement, spins, body isolations, shoulder shimmies and rolls, and even hand styling have become a huge trend in the salsa scene.