Strictly San Juan- learning to salsa in Puerto Rico
Although the debate still rages as to who invented the salsa, the Cubans or the New York Puerto Ricans, (Nuyoricans)there’s no getting away from it in the streets of Old San Juan,Puerto Rico, where the infectious beat thunders from every doorway after dark. It is impossible to leave the town without giving it a go.
Up stairs at the famous Nuyorican café, tucked in an alleyway of San Francisco Street in Old San Juan. our lesson is about to begin.
Above: Raffi puts one of the group through her paces
‘If you can walk you can dance,’ says Raffi, the salsa instructor, although he looks sceptical as our group shuffles in. The salsa dance is, in essence, no more than a step forward and a step back, with a rock in between. Salsa dancing is usually performed with a partner and is a 'spot' dance - rather than travel across the floor couples stay in their own space, circling around each other and changing places.
The basic Salsa rhythm is quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow, using the 1,2,3 and 5,6,7 beats (beats 4 and 8 are skipped). The Salsa music is typically around 180 beats per minute, although it can be slower or faster than that.
Only three dance steps are made for every four beats with one step to each beat and one beat being skipped. The skipped beat is called a tag, a tap, a kick, a flick, or the like. The steps can be from side to side or forward-backward and in circles. When dancing you must keep a straight upper body posture and move your hips as much as possible.
Raffi teaches salsa to anyone and everyone from judges and accountants to tourists and cruise ship passengers and he claims it can change lives. People he says, who were friendless and lonely are now sociable and sexy. People who used to hit the bottle now hit the dance floor instead.
ABOVE: Old San Juan by night
In our case, our lives haven’t changed but we leave with slightly more rhythm than we arrived with. Raffi is a hard taskmaster and head downstairs to see how it should be done as dozens of gyrating bodies hit the floor at
Styles:Salsa & Merengue, Argentine Tango. Francisco Torres
Toa Alta, San Jose