There is a lot of confusion around the differences between salsa on1 and salsa on2. Hopefully, we can help clear the air about what each style entails and help you decided which one you prefer. We recommend trying both before making a final decision, and at the end of the day you may absolutely love dancing both variations of the salsa -- and that's A-OK!
New York-style salsa was born out of the mambo era of the 1950s and '60s, which was spurred by the influx of Caribbean and Latin immigrants streaming into the city before and after the Cuban Revolution. This era is known as the "Palladium Era," and the music at this time was just as important as the dancing. Salsa on2 is known as "modern mambo" because it emphasizes the percussive instruments in salsa music which often occur in the second beat of the music. This style of salsa was first popularized by Eddie Torres, whose teaching style required the follow to step forward on 2, contrasting the L.A. style of starting on 1.
Salsa on1 is known as L.A.-style salsa and is characterized by showy acrobatic moves, sharp hits, and flare. It's more influenced by swing, tango, and the Latin hustle than salsa on2.
To simplify, let's break down the differences:
Salsa On1 timing:
- Follows break backward on the 1 and forward on the 5
- Leads break forward on the 1 and back on the 5
- The slow counts are immediately before your break steps
Salsa On2 timing:
- Follows break backward on the 6 and forward on the 2
- Leads break forward on the 6 and back on the 2
- The slow counts are immediately after your break steps
World-famous salsa choreographer and dancer Frankie Martinez breaks down the history and vision behind these two distinct styles of salsa in the video below: