“1 or 2?” a lead asks me as we start dancing at Salsa in the Park with MetaMovements, a beautiful gathering every Monday night throughout the summer. People from 13-70 years old dancing in the warm summer heat as dusk begins to creep up, unnoticed by the rhythm of feet moving over a gridlock of linoleum outside the Blackstone Community Center. They are asking me succinctly if I would prefer to dance salsa on1 or on2. Though I usually respond “either,” on1 is generally the more popular style here in Boston.
Just down the street, Urbanity Dance is gearing up to launch its first ever NY Mambo (Salsa on2) class.
The difference between the two can seem very subtle or technical. In on1 salsa, the pattern of steps “quick-quick-slow” starts on quick on 1 and 2, and a slower step that encompasses beats 3 and 4, this repeats quick quick on 5 and 6, and slow on 7, 8. With on2, the quick quick steps are on 2 and 3, and 6 and 7, while the slow are across 4-5 and 8-1.
According to Victoria Cruz, one of our NY mambo instructors, on2 allows you to, “take charge of a song.” She and Juan Lopez, our second instructor, emphasised that dancing on2 gives you the opportunity to dance more rhythmically rather than with the melody. Dancers must listen carefully and feel the music. The dance utilizes the percussion section greatly, and they focus on hearing the different rhythms within a song. “The overall feel is much smoother, and fully immersed in the musicality.”
To them, practicing on2 gives a greater appreciation for the music. Dancers in their class learn to hear these different rhythm changes in a song, “a song may change rhythms three or four times and you should be able to adapt with and play with it,” Juan explained.
Victoria continued, “He might be dancing to the trumpets, when we are doing a shine, while I might be listening to the piano… however we both remain very rhythmic.” This added variation creates more texture to a dance, a complex conversation between your partner, yourself, and the musicians.
When asked what is most important to them that new dancers walked away knowing, the immediate and resounding answer was “the history”. Juan went on to explain how mambo came about in NYC, and the importance of the Palladium Ballroom bringing in Latin music in 1948. The history of mambo will be weaved into the class, having as integral a part of learning as counting beats.
But why Urbanity Dance?
“People want to learn on2… there is a tremendous need, but not enough studios providing it in Boston”. They went on to add that most of places to dance and learn salsa are across the river in Cambridge.
The other unique part of Urbanity Dance is the proximity of very different styles of dance being taught and performed together. Our dance students may dance hip hop or contemporary, and have the opportunity to continue the conversation and share choreography with our community on our Urbanity Dance adult programs Facebook group. Learning these different dances allows a dancer to pull from very different vocabulary and develop their own personal movement. We are thrilled to be able to add NY Mambo to the mix.