Salsa, Merengue and Bachata
The course aims to investigate knowledge of the body’s expressive resources in a context of flexibility and movement within the Caribbean sphere. At the base is the goal of describing in detail every movement of the body, and specifically of the pelvic region, a fundamental element which is especially difficult to control, particularly for men.
Salsa music was born around the turn of the 20th century and brought together a variety of Caribbean rhythms such as rumba, son montuno, conga, guaracha, mambo, chachacha and others. This musical mix is the result of contributions from different ethnic groups, in particular from Africa and Europe, which are numerous in the Caribbean zone. People of African origin had a fundamental role in the musical development of the New World. In the colonial period, the port of Havana became one of the most important docks in the New World, and ships from numerous European countries stopped there. In this way, French and English colonies were formed on various islands and Cuba was populated by people of various cultures.
During this period, in the hills, countryside and sugarcane plantations, a popular song, called ‘son’, was born. Subsequently, many variations took shape including son montuno, which provided the rhythmic basis for Salsa.
Another rhythm which left its mark on Salsa is rumba, a Cuban rhythm originally interpreted by black Africans and synonymous for parties, fun and dancing. Like rumba, also conga and guaracha contributed to the birth of Salsa.
Cuba played a fundamental role in the evolution of Latin American music, dance and customs, and this country’s musical expressions melded with those of other Caribbean countries to give life to the “magic of Salsa”: a music for love, conquering, seducing, dreaming and of a highly contagious nature.
No one can deny the Cuban origins of Salsa, the music which the people inherited from the Blacks from Africa. But, in reality, Salsa was produced in the Puerto Rican ghettoes of New York. It was the music of those places where you lived in complete poverty and where only music had the ability to hold the community together. Called ‘son’ by the Cubans and ‘bomba’ by the Puerto Ricans, it eventually became known as Salsa. Indeed, numerous Puerto Rican musicians gave life to the form. It is said that, “Salsa was born in the Latino barrio of New York from a Cuban mother and a Puerto Rican father.”
After the Cuban Revolution, New York became the point of reference for all the Latino musicians seeking success. The Big Apple, with its night spots, theaters and record industry, was the center for the development of Latin American music. Among the most important people responsible for this musical renewal, we should mention Willie Colòn, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barreto and Larry Harlow.New York was the only city able to amplify and experiment with the new sound, and a name was needed for this fusion of rhythms so that it might be spread throughout the world.
The term ‘Salsa’ was actually a publicity or commercial invention applied to music played with energy, warmth and passion. However, in the 1970s-80s, Salsa returned to being a patrimony of the entire Latin American continent, yet its spread to other regions continues. Salsa, as a dance form, is elaborated based on the sensitivities of the people who express it. It is a very sensual dance for couples, and is full of seduction.The Venezuelan style, like the Colombian style, is rather simple and does not require particular study, although it is very elegant and seductive. It is characterized by keeping time to the music while staying in one place, gently embracing your partner, and moving your hips with sensual motions.
Instead, the Cuban style is more complex and has “figures” to follow. It, too, is very sensual, yet requires study and practice. However, it is clearly the most captivating Salsa style and is generally the most widely danced and taught. These Latin American dances have played an important role in modifying the way people enjoy discotheques, how they dance in couples and how they socialize.
Merengue was born in the Dominican Republic in the 16th century, thanks to the African slaves brought to work on sugarcane plantations, and it is the authentic expression of the folklore of the island. This music has permitted the people to face life with cheerfulness, despite rampant poverty.Merengue never rests and is found everywhere: in the streets, discotheques, during the day and night, and it captivates everyone it touches. It has an infectious rhythm and great popular appeal. It is danced in couples and is very sensual, passionate and erotic. Merengue is the seductive tool used by a man to court a woman. It has a highly improvisational aspect and is easy to learn.
This popular dance was born in Santo Domingo, then spread to other communities in Central America, as well as New York and in Europe. Bachata is slow and romantic, the dancers hold each other tightly, and there are not complicated steps or turns. Also this form was born as a way to court a woman while dancing sweetly with simple-to-follow steps.