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Salsa Articles

On2? Which On2?

Hello everyone

I am writing this post to all experienced salsa dancers out there, and in particular to all salsa instructors. I have a question which hopefully will spark ane-mailexchange from which I may understand a few things which are unclear to me. In order to put this into context, first a few 'facts'.

Fact 1. Roughly speaking, most people dance salsa either On1, or On2 Modern Mambo (NY style) or On2 Classic Mambo (Puerto Rican style also similar to Cuban contratiempo). Today Modern Mambo is used more frequently than Classic Mambo at congresses and salsa classes around the world.

Fact 2. Back in the old days (late 90s, say) whether you danced On1 or On2 was not a matter of choice: like the language you speak, it was merely a matter of where you lived. Today, with more and more frequent salsa travels and weekly congresses, dancing On1 AND On2 is a must: we all need to be salsa multilingual.

Fact 3. (here things may start to become a bit more controversial, but I proceed nevertheless).

  • Converting a turn pattern or a shine from On1 to Classic Mambo (PuertoRican style) is very easy.
  • Converting a turn pattern or a shine from On1 to Modern Mambo (NY style) is surely less easy.

Question(s) : Would it not be easier for the 'international salsa community' as a whole to adopt dancing Classic Mambo (PuertoRican style) as the standard 'On2' dance, in place of Modern Mambo (NY style)? Would this not make it much easier to convert from On1 to On2? Would this not make things much easier for travelling students as well as for instructors at congresses? Am I missing something here?

PS1. Just to clarify:

  • On1 = [1,2,3-5,6,7] - Break on 1
  • On2 Modern Mambo = [1,2,3-5,6,7] - Break on 2
  • On2 Classic Mambo = [2,3,4-6,7,8] - Break on 2

Let's not worry about whether the man steps forward on 2 or on 6 in Mambo; this is a matter of symmetry between the dancers which we can ignore for now.

PS2. Eddie Torres explained to me the historical reasons why he introduced Modern Mambo (NY style) counting. I respect it, I believe it was a very clever idea and I have profound and unlimited admiration for him. This post does not intend to question his style, his dancing and what he has done for salsa. I am just considering a possible simplification to how salsa is danced around the world.

PS3. According to a very small survey I did, some established international instructors who were originally On1 dancers in fact dance Classic Mambo (PuertoRican style) when they dance On2 socially. According to what I see on YouTube (oh dear, I hope I won't offend anyone now...) many declared Modern Mambo dancers in actual fact dance to Classic Mambo counting when they dance socially (you can check on YouTube yourself). How often is Modern Mambo (NY style) counting actually used, outside salsa classes and workshops?

I would love to hear your opinion, so please send me ae-mail

...and what about the break?

I add this because some costumers write to me saying they are confused about the break when they dance on2. Does the man break forward or backward on 2?

Of course they are confused, the issue is confusing, and unnecessarily so. I say ‘unnecessarily’ because no one gets confused dancing on1 and the confusion around on2 is the result of a number of cumbersome and contradictory conventions.

Anyway, to summarise:

  1. in classic mambo, men break forward on2
  2. in modern mambo, men break backward on2 in their partnwerwork
  3. however, both men and women break forward on2 in modern mambo when they study footwork or shines in a class, because in modern mambo classes footwork is usually shown in the lady’s version.  

Said differently, if you are in an on1 workshop/class, a shine will be shown as if it was danced by a man. If if you are in an on2 workshop/class (NY style), a shine will be shown as if it was danced by a woman.

I have used the same convention in our DVDs.

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