As a Greek folk dance teacher, I often find that my students are interested in many 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 the Tango or Flamenco. It is also much easier to find a Salsa class than one in the other styles of dance. If you’ve ever been interested in the similarities and differences between these three styles of dancing, read this article before embarking on your first Salsa class.
Since Flamenco dancing is a little less popular in the USA, I will write quite a bit about it. Flamenco is native to Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain. Often the entire country of Spain is credited as creating Flamenco. Andalusia, however, is located on the southern tip of Spain and shares a border with Portugal. Flamenco dancing originated in the 1700s. Over the years, the countries of Central America and Cuba have contributed to the evolution of Flamenco dancing.
The music used in Flamenco dancing is attributed to the merging cultures of the Mediterranean, Spanish, Islamic, and Romani cultures along the trade routes in Spain. While major and minor scales are used in Western music, Flamenco dancing also incorporates the Dorian 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 (C D E F G A B C). The C Dorian mode begins on the second note of the scale, D, and uses all the notes of the original major scale. In this case, that means D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D. The Phrygian mode begins on the third note of the C major scale (if playing the C Phrygian mode). This means you begin on E and play E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E. If you have a piano, play these notes in order to see what these modes sound like. Additionally, Flamenco music uses microtones (smaller units of vibrational change than those in Western music).
Flamenco is often seen and performed with a single dancer responding to a live accompaniment. The dancer skillfully uses her feet to create sound and move her body in unique ways. The Flamenco is considered a very soulful, emotional 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 dancing can easily teach Salsa dancing as well.
In Salsa dancing, the weight is shifted between the feet. However, the upper body is supposed to remain 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 Rio de la Plata region, straddling Uruguay and Argentina. There are two main styles of Tango: open embrace and closed embrace. Open embrace, like it sounds, consists of a couple have space between their bodies. In closed embrace, dancers are essentially chest to chest.
The Tango, more so than Salsa dancing, is a very emotional dance and has many romantic and seductive cultural associations.
If you are considering a new, cultural style of dance most likely offered in your area but are most concerned with athletic benefits, I recommend Salsa dancing. Taking a Salsa class will improve your strength and endurance by thoroughly using your leg muscles.