Pounding rhythms, Staccato beats, feet tapping, moving forward and the hips swaying to three-fold counts. Salsa is not your average dance form.
It is a way of life. It is about letting your soul take over your mind. Most dance forms thrive on precise movements and rigid postures, while being graceful. Ask salsa artists what makes the dance so special, and they will tell you that it is the absolute freedom it offers that makes salsa so easy to love. There are steps and specifications and controlled movements, yes. Then again, no art is complete without its set of protocols, because expertise in these guidelines is exactly what differentiates a beginner from a professional dancer.
Introducing it briefly, Salsa is of Latin-American origin, and stems from the Cuban Son dancing (prominent in the 1940’s). There are certain established solo forms like shines, but it basically is a partner dance. While its early growth was restricted to the area around South America, it has now grown to be a dance form of international importance and recognition, mainly due to the ease with which one can adapt to Salsa. There are now various styles associated with Salsa, their names derived from the area around which the particular style evolved, like the Colombian style, Cuban style, Miami style and New York style to name a few. Each such type relies on the original Afro-Cuban Rumba and Son dances for its basics, but moves on to add a few quirks that make it unique.
Salsa can be danced to any music, as long as it’s fast and has an affiliation to drums and the Clave rhythm. I make use of the word ‘danced’ and not ‘choreographed’ because Salsa is something that comes naturally from within. It calls to an individual’s base instincts, its earthy feel calling out for movement with abandon. It can be modified, it can be performed, but it can never be choreographed for the simple fact that performance calls for control and consciousness of movement while dancing with feeling is just that- dancing with feeling.
Like in the case of most other dance forms, India has shown promise when it comes to Salsa as well. Indians like Sneha Kapoor and Richard Tholoor are proudly and rather fabulously representing our nation at various international Salsa Championships and conferences. While some parents are reluctant to send their children for Salsa classes at a young age because of the proximity that dancers have to maintain while dancing this incredible art, it will be revolutionary if they understand and learn to appreciate the beauty and individuality of Salsa as an art. Indian children must be, as a matter of national pride and preservation of cultural heritage, be encouraged to learn indigenous dance forms, but taking a step towards learning Salsa or any other international dance form like Ballet will be an extra mile in making India a truly global country. One in which we are able to flaunt our diversity and cultural maturity as a nation is by keeping the traditions of Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, etc alive and thriving, and at the same time making a statement to the world that performing Salsa or other dances that are not of Indian origin, does not in any way threaten our culture, or for that matter, challenge the artistic abilities of our nation.
I do believe, from the depths my soul can reach, that Salsa in India can grow to be a small attempt at bringing the global community closer, and in making the world one big family.
Because, after all, we all do want world peace, and art is just the way to get there.