2
Tropical Latin Dances

Salsa’s magic has always been transmitted from skin to skin—in
a silent, seductive dance clinch, and through a sheet of dried goat
skin—the voice of the drum. To many displaced young Latinos
all over the world salsa is a validation—it is home, a flag, and
grandma.

Willie Colón1


Generalizations about Tropical Latin Dances

Founding salsero Willie Colón refers to the international, pan-Latin social dance known as salsa in the statement above, but his apt comment applies to all tropical Latin dances. Many of them have gone into making salsa what it is today—a topic taken up in greater detail in Chapter 4. So to some degree, by starting out treating these tropical Latin dances as separate kinds of dances—by defining their steps, figures, moods, music, venues, and histories—we lay the groundwork on which a discussion of Latin jazz and salsa can be understood.

To dance is to state who you are, where your roots lie, the community to which you belong. And the way in which couples, individuals, and groups respond to the beat—as simple as whether or not to take a step on the first or second note of the music—announces the nature of those roots, regardless of where and how the many branches of Latin dance may grow. Latin music provides the “closed hold” between tropical Latin dances and the pulses by which they are identified, to the core of

-27-

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Latin Dance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Spanish Latin Dances and Others under the Influence 1
  • 2 - Tropical Latin Dances 27
  • 3 - That Latin Beat- How Latin Dance and Music Got into the United States 51
  • 4 - That Latin Beat- What They Did When They Got Here 73
  • 5 - Latin Exhibition and Art Dance 99
  • Conclusion 123
  • Appendix I - Online Resources 131
  • Appendix II - Latin Dance on Film 133
  • Glossary 137
  • Selected Bibliography 153
  • Index 157
  • About the Author 163
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