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The Emergence and Celebration of Salsa

Salsa dancing emerged as a popular celebration of life in the 1970s. It drew together aspects of dance, style and culture from Puerto Rica, Cuba, African-Spanish and other Caribbean, Latino and Latin American nations and regions. New York was the hub very much central to the development of Salsa as a cohesive, independent style of dance and aesthetic pursuit. The dance culture grew from a kaleidoscopic ensemble of movements and traditions into a quite organized, socially structured, cohesive genre. It successfully and organically drew together movements and elements of the 1940s styles of dance such as Son, Son Monturo, Cha Cha and Mambo.

With such rich diverse roots, the emerging Salsa of the 1970's enabled people of all cultures and walks of life to engage with, and experience a way of being and moving that heightened the joys of socializing, sharing joy and celebrating life. The late 1970s saw the integration and addition of the Guaguano and Pachanga into the Salsa tapestry. These new additions also originated to a large extent from Cuba, Columbia and Puerto Rica.

The working class ethno-minority groups underpinning the continual growth of salsa reinforced the love affair many regions had of Cuban and Latino dance. What began as a grass roots celebration has evolved to today's ever growing, ever evolving Salsa. Today, we can join in this movement equipped with the dresses, the suits and the shoes that we love- and feel a part of something so much bigger then we realize.

New York was by no means the only early hub for the growth of the now global Salsa movement. It is, however, the most renown historical site due to New York's visibility of minority culture, the juxtaposition and cultural sharing of many different cultures in one space- and most importantly- the influence that New York culture had - and continues to have- on the rest of the cultural world as a leader in the arts, costume design, shoes and dance.

The influence of Salsa dance and celebration can best be understood as an organic cultural revolution. That is, it began as a party of dance in the social halls of the fringe ethnicities of New York (and most importantly- the aforementioned regions). It grew by means of people simply getting together and experimenting with more historically formed styles. They blurred the lines between the genres and created an entirely new social ritual and scene based purely on the pursuit of joy, sensuality, flirtation, cultural pride and diversification.

Salsa did not pose a cultural challenge to the existing and older dance movements of the 1970s and beyond. Rather, it can be seen by historians, dancers and admirers as an extension and diversification of the cultural and aesthetic celebration that already existed. It propelled interest in other dance styles and proved itself as an inventive, exciting addition to the array of feasts our senses can indulge in. It is a celebration of history, a celebration of people and a celebration of the old and the new- merging to create new ways of being- within ourselves and together.

That Salsa Dance was popularized largely in New York did not mean it was colonized by the Western lenses of dance and aesthetic sensibility. Remarkably, the grassroots evolving of Salsa meant that the very much authentic social and cultural roots of the dance were protected, embraced, popularized and heightened.

Salsa was not Americanized: America was opened up to new culturally authentic and diverse ways of being and sharing.