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Salsa - From Cultural Fringe To A Global Phenomenon

The history of Salsa, and the dance styles that underpin it, is one of cultural pride and ritual within the Caribbean, Latin American and Argentine regions. It grew as a response to historically monumental attempts at sharing cultural identity and communicating the sense of what life was (and is) about. Therefore, the history is a journey of pride and cultural independence.

As explored in our other essays, The 1960s and 1970s proved to be pivotal in the development of Salsa dance in New York and other Western cities and regions. The populations of cultural fringe developed weekly dances in halls and explored the more traditional ballroom and tango dance styles to branch out and diversify. The rise of Salsa in New York meant that other Westernized cities soon followed suit - New York defied time and space in its sharing of ideas and dance. The cultural shift meant that people of ethnic minorities were now increasingly seen by the mainstream as contemporary pioneers of dance in these cities.

Tango and other dances were now not just a phenomenon in areas such as Puerto Rica, Cuba, African-Spanish and other Caribbean, Latino and Latin American nations. Salsa and its accompanying array of aesthetics was booming in the West, adding to the already growing interest and respect for these dance genres. The fringe ethno-minority centers of New York opened a way for more traditional dance culture to embrace the Mambo and Salsa. Dance Halls, parties, pubs, church halls and discos began to offer weekly and even nightly events where people could meet, drink, dress spectacularly, dance or relax in the buzz of the hybrid of old world meeting the new world.

Contemporary Salsa culture has become a global phenomenon, both in the traditional regions of similar dance- and in nations which have little history of such culture. The authenticity of Salsa dance and culture is maintained primarily by means of respecting the history of its development. The postcolonial practice of cultural appropriation: that is- the taking and mistaking of others' culture as one's own- is central to intellectual analysis of dance and culture. Some historians and cultural analysts may assert that this has taken place, however the dominant analysis of those fascinated and adoring of Salsa would argue otherwise. Salsa is in fact alive and true to its historical values and context. The very essence of Salsa is about change and diversity- therefore the niches and sub categories of the Salsa movement and celebration is in adherence with its values, regardless of who or where it takes place- and regardless of who appears to be reinventing it.

With any popularization of culture comes commercialization. This has not hindered the authenticity and grass roots nature of Salsa. It remains as an interaction between people and music, people and time, people and each other. We can still pick the music we prefer - and choose the venues which best accommodate our desires. The Salsa dance has always been about the experience of being alive and we do not see this changing any time soon.

May we celebrate this life with dance!