Welcome to LaVoz Magazine!

The Mission of "La Voz Del Mambo Productions" is to provide a global voice for the underground salsa and mambo dance community. Our website contains articles, interviews, polls, discussion topics, and various artistic expressions that concern the salsa and mambo dance community.

We encourage all individuals to submit works that relate to salsa and mambo dancing for publication.

Oscar D’ Leon

An Interview with Oscar D’ Leon by Sharon German

Oscar D'LeonSharon: First and foremost thank you for giving La Voz Del Mambo an opportunity to interview you. I feel privileged in doing this interview with a legend like your self. I would like to thank you for your time.

I understand that your parents recognized exceptional talent in you at an early age. When did you realize you had passion and ability for salsa and how many years do you have as a professional artist?

Oscar: Well my parents were able to focus on me very well because I was an only child. I feel that salsa blossomed in me from the wound of my mother….I was born to be a salsero and now I have 32 years as a professional artist.

Sharon: You truly have an impressive artistic background. You have traveled the world! What can you say has been the highest level of your career?

Oscar: I have not yet reached the highest level of my career. I feel you always have to keep striving for more and continue to deliver more of you. I know I have to give more of my energy to the world, I mean after all this is what I was born to do and there are no limits.

Sharon: You carry a very well earned title, “El Sonero Del Mundo”. What does it feel like to know that everyone recognizes you by this name?

Oscar: It means I have a huge commitment with all of you.

Sharon: We all remember how you and your handsome son use to sing together on stage. You guys use to exert so much energy and let’s not forget those tight choreographies. It is not everyday that an audience gets the opportunity to see a father and a son connecting at this level. What did you learn form this experience?

Oscar: We continue to learn together and in fact we continue to perform together as well. The difference is he has moved to another side of the stage, he is now my timbalero and has been for many years.

Sharon: In the world of salsa what other artist do you admire?

Oscar: Really and honestly I enjoy all of them. They all have something special to share, but my favorite was and always will be Celia Cruz.

Sharon: Every artist has something or someone that inspires them. What drives and motivates Oscar D’Leon?

Oscar: Life it self is my inspiration, I’m actually in love with the gift of life and that is my daily motivation.

Sharon: The energy that you produce on stage is unique. This energy is it a reflection of the crowd or simply the excitement that runs through your veins?

Oscar: All you need is a band and a good sound and the rest is done. I make my own ambience and the energy is a reflection that I really do enjoy what I do.

Sharon: Some of us have had the pleasure in seeing you at the Salsa Congresses. What other events oriented towards mambo dancers are awaiting?

Oscar: Yes, there are opportunities coming up in the mambo dancing scene. I will be doing the Los Angeles Congress for the end of May, then from June 18 until August 17 I will be doing my annual European tour, a tour that I have been doing for 18 years. I always go in to this tour with the mind set of making my European people dance their feet away.

Sharon: Aside from the fact that you are an immense star, what else do you dedicate your self to? Is there another hidden talent?

Oscar: Yeah of course, making love………….ricooooo.

Sharon: What message do you send to all salseros?

Oscar: Throughout the beauty of music we can reach many things. I believe things that may seem impossible, but through music they are possible, like the dream of peace and harmony on earth. Let’s all fight for world peace.

Let’s love, live, and remember that we came to this world to do good. Let’s change drugs and violence for better things like music. “La Voz Del Mambo” thank you for your interest in interviewing me and believe me it was my pleasure.

Sharon: Thank you very much Oscar D’Leon you are truly admirable.

Oscar D’ Leon
Manager: Oswaldo Ponte

Johny Polanco

An Interview with Johnny Polanco by Sharon German

Johnny PolancoSharon: First and foremost thank you for giving www.lavozdelmambo.com an opportunity to interview you. I feel very privileged in doing an interview with such an exceptional artist like your self. “La Voz del Mambo” would like to say thank you for taking out your time. We feel immensely honored. Johnny, how did you become one of the most sought-after bandleaders in the US?

Johnny: In 1998 I retired from the Marine Corps and then I traveled to California. I ran into an old friend, Arty Web (outstanding flute player), we then started to play with local bands. Shortly, I then ran into Armando Castro, he knew a lot about music, especially the tres. Armando owned a restaurant and he wanted to get rid of an established band who played at his restaurant. Since 1993, I’ve been playing there every Monday. That’s where I started and I have a lot of love for that place.

Sharon: How does it feel to be managed by one of the head promoters of the salsa scene, Albert Torres?

Johhny: We’ve done many projects together. The West Coast Salsa Congress gets between 6 to 7 thousand people a day. We’ve been very, very busy. We started when I had a band and Albert Torres wasn’t in the dance scene. Albert wanted to start something and we collaborated. I brought the band and he brought the venue. It wasn’t successful in the beginning. The salsa scene here in LA wasn’t anything like it is today. There weren’t many salsa clubs, so we would go to R&B clubs and soon, slowly but surely it started to pick up. We both grew off each other and it has been a pleasure working with Albert.

Sharon: You have achieved a skill of playing 13 instruments which include the tres and cuatro guitar, trombone, vibes, and many more. Is your talent natural or is it build by practice along with a musical education?

Johnny: I never went to school, I never had a formal lesson. I was adopting instruments and then playing them. I would buy instruments from the streets; One time I purchased an instrument from a drug addict, it cost me $10.00, then I made music from the instrument.It is very rewarding when you perform. The music that I play I like it to be danceable. Dancers are creative people and I like to feed that. I always watch the movement on the dance floor.

Sharon: The majority of the salsa artists are from the East Coast, you are from the LA area. Is the love different when you travel to the East Coast?

Johnny: The scene in LA has gotten huge. The LA scene is incredible and I would say it is better than New York and Florida put together. However, the musicianship in the East Coast is a lot better. There are a lot more bands in LA, but they are not at the same level. Believe it or not the ambiance is no different. In New York the dancers are great and the scene is just as cool when you get there. In Los Angeles we have more clubs and the scene is bigger. We have a lot more musicians, but not at the same caliber.

Sharon: You have television credits that include Moesha, New love Boat, Buddy Faro, Fired up and others. Your film credits include, Death with Smoochie, Dance with Me, Contact, I Llike it Like That and others. You have also done commercials for Miller Lite Beer, Nike and others. There aren’t many bands or artist who get the opportunity to experience music at this level. How does it feel to travel beyond barriers?

Johnny: It feels good to go beyond the club scene. It feels good to know that there are enterprises and corporations that are realizing that they can benefit from the Hispanic market and want connections to Latinos. Salsa music is no longer supported by Latinos. Salsa music is supported by people all over the world. Today, they are playing salsa music in commercials and are also attracting the group of people who enjoy that music. It is not necessarily a Latin product. I’m thankful to have partaken in some of these acting roles as well as the musicianship of these materials. Lately, the Hollywood industry has been opening up opportunities for me in acting roles.

Sharon: Your band, Conjunto Amistad was formed in 1993 and for nearly a decade this band has influenced the growth and popularity of Salsa music. What are some of your potential ideas with the movement of the band for the next couple of years?

Johhny: We are making new changes with the band, adding a few musicians and getting the education out. We are currently preparing a new CD. The CD will have the sounds of, Cachao, son montuno, and mambo. The structure is going to be the same, but we are looking to get a sound that is going to intensify the band. Next year, we are considering in doing a live CD, since we are respected for being a great live band.

Sharon: Currently, Conjunto Amistad is preparing for a national and international tour that includes NYC, Washington DC, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Japan, China, Italy, England, and additional locations. What do you hope to deliver to these different cities and countries?

Johnny: Well, the salsa movement in the far east is getting big. Last year there was 3 thousand visitors a day for the salsa congress in Japan and we went to China last year. The 2008 Olympics will be held in Beijing and many Latin American countries will be participating, to entertain that crowd they will have salsa participate as well. The movement is big everywhere, the scene is great and I don’t think it will ever loose it’s niche. There are a lot of young people involved in salsa as well as a lot of older people involved in salsa. This is what salsa offers. It is good for all of us. It is our responsibility as artist to go and put the next movement, it is a continuous cycle.

Sharon: After 35 years of a professional musicianship, currently you are also in the production of your 10th Anniversary CD. What would be the meaning behind this album?

Johnny: Over production time, we decided to change the direction of the CD and make it a tribute to Cachao calling the album, “El Tumbao del Cachao”, in replacement of the 10th Anniversary CD. Cachoa is a legendary bass player who is one of the founders of mambo. He just also won a Grammy.

Sharon: What is the origin of the name of your band, Conjunto Amistad?

Johnny: I made the name up because, it was basically a group of my friends and some of them long time friends from my home New York.

Sharon: What message do you send to all Salseros?

Johnny: Well basically we have to continue to strive to keep our culture, continue to make it grow and for salseros to support live entertainment. This is very important because, the dancing and the music goes hand in hand. Keep dancing and keep on teaching so we can have salsa for ever.

Johnny Polanco

Mambo Cafe

Welcome to the Mambo Café


Jose: The politically correct salsero. Everyone on the scene loves Jose. This guy is everyone’s best friend. He has strategically figured out a way not to offend anyone at anytime and is welcomed by all salsa cliques.

Mendy: The nice salsera that everyone loves to dance with; and why not her dancing is off the hook! Mendy rarely tells anyone no, that’s why she’s always tired. She can dance at an advanced level on any count, so she frequently has a long line of salseros and mamberos.

JT: The angry/arrogant salsero. JT maybe one of the best salsa dancers on the scene; however, he dislikes almost everything and almost everybody. Although he does a good job of hiding it while in public, those close too have become very familiar with his disgruntled, self-centered attitude. Fortunately for JT, he such a good dancer, he never has a difficult time meeting new people on the salsa scene and deep down he’s not so bad.

Francis: The gossiping salsera. Francis knows almost everything about everybody on the salsa scene. Francis is a very popular individual that knows a significant amount of people on the scene, hence her pathway to information. She’s not the best dancer in the world but if you want to know what’s going on, she’s the go to person. She also runs a very popular salsa discussion board.

MAMBO CLIQUE: Recap on a night of dancing at The Mambo Café (MC)

Setting: Taco Cabana Restaurant (24 hr) after a night of social dancing at MC

Jose: So guys, what did you think about the dancing at MC tonight. I had a great time!
Mendy: I am so tired! My feet hurt so bad, I didn’t sit down for more than 10 seconds tonight!
JT: Maybe you should have told some of those off beat dancers NO! I watched a couple of your dances and some of those guys were horrible.
Francis: Which dancers are you talking about?
Jose: Come On JT, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh, everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t you remember when you first started, how nervous and lost you were.
JT: Are we talking about salsa dancing? Or something else 🙂 I was always able to keep the rhythm. I felt the music in my heart even before I took classes.
Francis: JT, my sources tell me that you weren’t that good a few years back.
JT: What sources! Francis, if you knew as much about dancing as you knew about people…
Mendy: JT, please! Don’t say anything you will have to apologize about before we finish eating.
Francis: Geez JT….I’m just saying, one of my friends was just talking about how much you have improved since the last time she saw you. She thinks you’re really good!
JT: Yeah I guess you’re right, I am really good! Did you see my shines when I danced with Mendy, everyone was just staring at me. I made those up last week. I also did some new turn patterns. I was really on point tonight.
Jose: Actually JT, I was staring at Mendy. Her styling has gotten really good! She looks so elegant out there!
Mendy: Awe Jose, you are so nice 🙂 That’s why everyone loves you!
Francis: Really Mendy, you’re getting really good. My friends in DC asked about you the other day. They remember you from the Congress.
JT: Well to be quite honest, Mendy’s really not all that great… I mean I’ve seen better, just go to New York or New Jersey, now those women have style!!!
Francis: JT, you are so mean!
Jose: Come on JT, you have to admit, Mendy is getting really good.
JT: Calm down guys I’m just kidding! Mendy you are always my best dance of the night and you are getting a lot better. Almost good enough for me to turn it up a notch or two.
Mendy: Awe JT…You’re not as big of a jerk as everyone thinks 🙂
Everyone: LOL!!!
JT: On another note, what was up with DJ Pronto tonight?
Mendy: I don’t know, he kept blending the songs over and over making my dances extremely long.
Jose: He usually doesn’t do that, may be he’s just experimenting. He’s really a nice guy.
Francis: I hear that they may be changing the format at MC to add more Reggeaton. They’re losing money because salseros don’t drink.
Mendy: What about water, they charge $4 a bottle.
JT: I’m sorry but DJ Pronto sucks!How hard is it to play good salsa music? I wish DJ Flexis was there tonight, he knows what I like!
Francis: I hope you’re talking about salsa music JT?

Everyone: LOL!!!

Waitress: Are you guys ready to order?

To be continued…
Disclaimer: “All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

Salsa Instructors

Rafael BritoBy Mr. Rafael Brito

Throughout the years salsa dancing has grown tremendously. The revolution of this dance has enabled many to learn it and look at dance clubs with a new perspective. Those who could not dance salsa and now are able to do so have another tool under their belt that allows them to socialize in the dance club scene. We must thank those that have dedicated so much time of their lives to teaching salsa either on1 or on2. From New York to Los Angeles, from Latin America to Europe, salsa dancing is well known around the world. Due to those salsa advocates, salsa dancing is becoming larger than ever. Unfortunately, there are big flaws in many of today’s salsa instructors.

The word teacher or instructor carries a lot of weight. Being a good salsa dancer does not necessarily make a good salsa instructor and vice-versa. Teaching of any kind requires having knowledge of the subject, patience, flexibility, respect and most of all professionalism. Being a public school teacher and a graduate school student of education helps me to identify a good instructor when I see one. The purpose of this article is not to offend any salsa instructors, instead, it is to make salsa instructors evaluate themselves and become better teachers.

For the most part, most of the salsa instructors of today seem to be knowledgeable about the topic. But, at times, they lack the other tools necessary to be a good instructor. If you want to teach, you have to possess patience. I have noticed that some salsa instructors lack this virtue. After showing a student how to do shines (Solo steps) for two or three times, their inability to be patient shows. Their tone of voice alters, most of the time they get loud, their body language changes making students frustrated and embarrassed in front of their classmates. How can the students learn when you have an instructor with increasing frustration constantly saying, “Come on papa why don’t you get it right?” First of all, why not call a student by his/her name. Believe it or not, a little thing like this can discourage a student from returning to your salsa class. It is an advantage for an instructor to interact positively with students.

A teacher must be flexible. This includes facing the possibility of not finishing a lesson due to pupils not mastering the steps soon enough during a class section. It is not about how many floor shines or turn patterns you teach in one lesson; it is about how much the students learn during a class.

Now, where is the professionalism in some of today’s salsa instructors? At times, I have questioned instructors in a very polite way regarding their teaching methods and I have been offended in response. As a teacher/instructor you have to be open to criticism. Do you want to be viewed as a professional salsa instructor? So behave like one. Please understand that your students know more about you than what you know about them. Most people research a salsa class and his/her instructor prior to enrolment. So when people take your classes show them that you are what you indicated in your web page. You never know if a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher is in your class. Highly educated people can easily determine who is a good instructor. Why students do not get a receipt after paying for a salsa class? I have attended salsa classes where upon paying the $15.00 fee I do not get a receipt.

A friend of mine told me about the frustration he obtained from his salsa classes. He explained to me that for six months he has attended a salsa class and feels that he does not know how to dance salsa. He communicated to me that his instructor only taught him how to do shines. I understood my friend’s dissatisfaction and suggested that he seeks another instructor. I wonder if my friend’s salsa instructor did not have any knowledge of pedagogy or was he just teaching only shines on purpose. As a teacher, I can easily compare my friend’s experience with an English class. Imagine taking an English course for the first time ever and all you learn are verbs and not how to conjugate them. How would you be able to put sentences together and hold a conversation with others? It is hard to dance salsa when your salsa instructor only teaches you shines. Could it be that some salsa instructors are willing to retain students at a certain level of dancing in order to make profit?

Where is the integrity and morals of some of today’s salsa instructors? Please treat everybody with respect and refrain from utilizing mediocre language in your classes. All it might take for your career as a salsa instructor to perish is for one student to start making negative comments about your classes. Make classes fun and if your are going to pressure a student for not learning fast enough do so in a friendly way. Some instructors seem not to be aware that a lot of students just want to learn the basics. For some people, salsa dancing is just a pastime that they want to enjoy when learning it. Furthermore, the last thing anybody wants after having a long day at the office is to attend a salsa class and come out of it with more stress than he/she already has from the daily life routine. I wonder if there could ever be an institution that can set rules and regulations and oversee salsa instructors to assure that they are performing a good job. Maybe if this occurs many people including myself can pursue the learning of salsa dancing.


Jose Alberto

An Interview with Mr. Jose Alberto “El Canario” – New York

Jose Alberto El CanarioSharon German: First and foremost thank you for giving www.lavozdelmambo.com an opportunity to interview you. I feel very priviledged in doing an interview with such an exceptional artist like yourself. I would like to say thank you for your time, I am truly honored. You are multi-platinum recording artist; you have played all over the world for very large audiences, yet you still play smaller venues. Which setting do you enjoy performing in the most?

Jose: I have no particular convenience. They all have the same exact value to me. My job is simply to put on my best performance.

Sharon: I have met you personally and I can say that you are truly one of the most genuine and humble individuals I know. How can someone in the salsa scene, in this case an artist, still be able to remain humble after so much fame and success?

Jose: Simple, don’t let air rise over your head, in other words don’t get cocky. I just keep my feet planted on firm ground and remember where my roots come from. I think this is very important. Hey, there’s only one life to live.

Sharon: I have been told that you are a great salsa dancer, is it true that you dance on2? Where did you learn?

Jose: Well that’s what people say that I’m a great dancer, but I try to do my thing on stage. The reason I dance on2 is because the salsa music is written on the clave. As you know Sharon, being a dancer and musician, the two is on the clave, so actually most salsa musicians would dance on2, however not all do. On top of that, I have been living in New York for a long time where most people dance on2 already.

Sharon: You have traveled all around the world and performed with the great Ms. Celia Cruz, how would you describe this experience?

Jose: I worked with Celia for 17 years and it was fascinating. We really had unforgettable moments that I would never be able to reproduce again. Together Celia and I traveled the entire world. Celia is the dictionary of salsa and I feel blessed to have become a part of that.

Sharon: What does ”EL Canario” stand for?

Jose: “El Canario” is my artistic name and which everyone recognizes me by. “El Canario” is a Spanish bird and is known for his beautiful singing tone. This was the name people started calling me during the beginning of my career and I just stuck to it.

Sharon: Amongst your travel around the world, is there any place that stands out the most?

Jose: There is no place in particular that I can say stands out. They all have their specialty and importance in my opinion. Well, every place brings something different and unique about themselves. That is actually one of the benefits about being an artist, you get to travel and see what every place has to offer, that is one of the many beauties.

Sharon: What has been the most enjoyable aspect of your music career?

Jose: All of the accomplishments that I’ve been able to attain, being able to work with stars and the hapiness that comes along the way.

Sharon: How does it make you feel to know that people all around the world LOVE your music, even though they may not understand everything that you are saying?

Jose: It feels very good and I feel honored at the same time. It feels good to know that my music has the ability to travel beyond my expectations and its language boundaries.

Sharon: In the music industry there seems to be a lot of competition. How can a person deal with this and not get distracted?

Jose: You know Sharon, everything is competition. Competition exist everywhere in life and it comes from all directions. Competition is ever- lasting and in my opinion it will never vanish. Competition is part of the game and without competition you don’t have anything that challenges. However, the way I play the game is to compete with myself; but everyone has a different way at looking at this. Nevertheless, just remember not to let others run you and to remain focused.

Sharon: What message would you like to deliver to your salsero brothers and sisters?

Jose: The message I send to the entire Salsa World is let salsa continue and have fun at the same time, if you forget about the fun then I’m not sure you have salsa.

Sharon: Thank you so much Mr. Jose Alberto you are truly one man to admire. Your music has touched all of us and I’m gratified to have done this interview.

Jose: Thank you Sharon for your interview, I hope our next encounter is on the stage. Thanks to “La Voz del Mambo” for their interest in interviewing me and remember “Que Viva La Salsa”.

Jose “El Canario” Alberto

Elvira Dominguez

Interview with DJ Elvira Dominguez – New York, NY

Elvira DominguezJJ: What inspired you to become a salsa DJ in an area that seems to be dominated by men?

ED: What “inspired” me to become a DJ, was to hear the same music over and over again at the night clubs that I went to in London when I lived in England 7 years ago. I became a salsa “fanatic” then; when at that time I met some of the best dancers in London (“Special” Tee and Robert Charlemagne) who inspired me and hooked me to the dance, starting to go out almost everyday of the week.

At that time Latin Business was dominated by men, but things have changed, and are changing as we speak. Actually they are a lot of influential and talented women out there, doing a great job, as good as or better than many men. I do not think good taste, professionalism, hard work or charisma can be defined by genre. “If you are good you are good, if you are bad you are bad” (regardless of your genre).

JJ: How long did it take to gain the respect of your peers and the salsa community?

ED: I have always been respected by other DJ’s and people in Latin business, since the very beginning until this day or at least that is what I think and I have felt all these years. As I said before, people respected and respect me because of my job, and for what I have done and for my contribution to the Latin business. In a few occasions when I arrived to play in a club or an event, someone seemed surprised that I was the DJ, thinking (I guessed) that I could not be good, just because I was a woman, but as soon as I played they smiled and enjoyed the music.

JJ: I have experienced “music by DJ Elvira.” This experience consists of hearing slamming’ song after slamming’ song. Unfortunately when a “Salsero” hears a great song, no matter how much they may need to rest their aching body, they just keep dancing. How many people have you hospitalized, as a result of your awesome music selection? What characteristics must a song possess in order to get added to a DJ Elvira play list?

ED: (LOL) I do not think I have hospitalized anybody “yet”. I think the opposite, I have cured some people of their everyday stress, and when I experience that, makes me very happy. In regards to my playlist, the answer can be long and technical or very short one; I chose the short one, I play “Music from the soul” (Salsa dura).

JJ: You have DJ’d in salsa events throughout the world. Is there any particular place the you love to DJ? Any particular place that provided a very memorable experience?

DJ Elvira DominguezED: I love to play anywhere, where there is at least one person that appreciates good music. There are many places, many wonderful experiences, and many great people with whom I shared the love for the music. I might say that it has been a great experience all along.

JJ: Is there any noticeable difference between spinning salsa domestically vs. internationally?

ED: In the last years the salsa seen has grown greatly in “non salsa places” (places where normally salsa was not always popular, opposite to places were salsa music and dance has developed and or lived since its beginning, (including New York, Cuba or Puerto Rico among a few others). When I first started to play, it was hard to find in “the non salsa places”, good dancers and/or people musically educated.

But nowadays things are different. More and more people around the world are getting bitten by the “salsa bug” and many are learning fast about the music and the dance. For me it is always exciting to go to a new place, because I know I will see and/or hear something different; maybe a dance move I have not seen before or a song I have never heard before.

JJ: Is there any advice that you would like to offer to aspiring women who would like to succeed as DJs or in other male dominated areas of salsa?

ED: My advice? Keep it real!(lol) Support others in the business, do what you really like and remember to have fun while you are doing it.

JJ: Any additional Comments:

ED: I would like to encourage people to support salsa events, promoters, DJ’s, dancers and musicians. In general people are not aware of the hard work that these people do to maintain the salsa community “hot” and going. Sometimes we take for granted musicians, DJ’s, dancers and promoters, and sometimes we do not support each other as a group, and that it is a shame.

We need to buy more music and support musicians; we need to be aware and recognized the important role of a DJ, we need to spend more money at events and recognize the endless efforts of promoters to bring salsa to our community and at the same time we need to recognize the immense hard work and hours behind the walls the dancers spend to put a show every time they are on stage or on the dance floor. And most important…Have fun while we are doing it!

DJ Elivira Dominguez

On1, On2, or On-Time

By Johnny Johnson

On1 or On2, which do you prefer and why? This is perhaps the most controversial topic discussed around world of Salsa at many studios, clubs, chat groups, events, and so forth. Many people may wonder why this topic seems to draw so much emotion out of a community of fun, loving, nurturing, and kind individuals. Why so many club corners are marked by these various styles? Why so many groups or cliques are created distinguishing the two? It’s unthinkable to accept something as simple as what beat you break on being responsible for so much salsa drama. The reason, culprit, or explanation is simple. Passion! Salsa dancers are very passionate about what they do and will defend it into the wee hours of the morning at the local 24-hour Mexican restaurant, Waffle House or IHOP.

Is one group more passionate about salsa than the other? Not at all, anyone who listens to salsa music constantly, dances at Salsa clubs several times a week, and wears salsa paraphernalia while doing non-salsa activities is definitely “passionate.” Anyone who wears white split toe jazz shoes in public (often mistaken for socks), never leaves home without their beloved salsa bag (equipped with a towel, shoes, and favorite salsa CD) is definitely “passionate.” Anyone who won’t buy shoes or clothes unless they are Salsa-proof is definitely “Passionate.” Anyone who won’t visit another city without checking the local website for a listing of salsa events is definitely “passionate.” Finally, anyone who considers an individual’s “capability of learning and loving salsa,” a dating criteria, is unmistakably “passionate.”

Is one style better than the other? No. As a “preferred” On2 dancer, I have made the mistake of calling one style better than the other many times. However, as I have grown as a salsa dancer, I have learned to respect both styles, realizing that no one style is “better” than the other. On the other hand, individuals do dance at different levels; this is just a reality. No matter how good you are, there is someone out there that will dance you under the table! Nevertheless, a dancer may execute turn patterns, tricks, shines, styling, or spinning very well, but this fact remains; if they are unconcerned with timing they are selling themselves short of a more optimal salsa experience.

Now that the politics are covered, let’s get real. It is not a secret that an individual learning how to dance Salsa, can get away without learning timing. In fact, many dancers can develop into pretty good dancers by just finding the first or third beat of a salsa song. Since music loops on the first beat, finding “One” is not a mystery (for some). On the other hand, when learning how to dance On2, many instructors force students to find all eight counts of the music, turning a salsa class into a music class. The first time I took an On2 class, I hated it. It was too difficult. I just wanted to learn the turn pattern, convince my instructor that I was going to try it On2 and run out to the local salsa club and do it On1. For me, finding all eight counts of a song was nerve wrecking. This is the reason many salsa dancers, performers, and teachers stand clear of timing. It is a humbling experience! If you are a local star, get ready to feel like a beginner. If you are a teacher, get ready to be a student. If you are a diva, get ready to be unnoticed. For these miscellaneous reasons, many dancers stay in the comfort zone of being local salsa star, never to step foot in the land of knowledge again.

Nonetheless, I went through the harsh training of timing and eventually learned the 8 counts in salsa, hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. I learned how to count music the way musicians counted it. As a result, I developed more respect for On2 dancing and joined the On1-bashing bandwagon. Although most of my local idols were established On1 dancers, they were not as good to me anymore because they didn’t dance On2. I admit it; I had a very immature mindset about dancing On2 in the beginning. Maybe because dancing On2 was a different experience for me. I felt like I was apart of the band now. My dancing was now an additional instrument. I could feel all those instruments hitting on 3, 4, and 7. So was On2 better? At the time, yes! On2 was definitely better and all the best dancers danced On2, so that had to make it official, or did it?

At that time, I had been living in On2 land for sometime, completely unexposed to the great On1 dancers. However, my eventual exposure to great On1 dancers revealed something. They were also using all eight counts of the music. Their style of dancing didn’t look like the abusive On1 style I had grown so accustomed to cringing at. These dancers executed tricks and turn patterns without injury and complete awareness of timing. They styled and shined with the best of them. Maybe it was not On2 that was better after all, maybe dancing to the music was what I fell in love with. But could I dance to all 8 counts of the music and still enjoy dancing On1? My research revealed that dancing On1 felt completely different when my awareness of timing came into play. In addition, it still felt different enough to distinguish an On1 dance from an On2 dance.

During my short time in the fabulous world of salsa, I have grown to realize something. Dancing salsa On2 is not necessary better than dancing on On1 or vice-versa, but dancing On-time is always better than dancing Off-time. Yes, I still prefer to dance On2, if the option (honestly) presents itself. However, I have learned to feel the music regardless of what beat I break on. So will this article solve the continuous On1 and On2 disagreement? Not even a little bit. Unfortunately, it’s just human nature to have conflict, however, we owe it to the salsa community to continue maintain respect for each other, while enjoying the salsa culture.

Johnny Johnson

Nik Caswell

Interview with Nik Caswell (DJ Nasty Nik) – Bronx, NY via Boston, MA

JJ: What is the major difference between spinning Salsa music and spinning other types of music (hip-hop, house, techno etc..)?

NC: Well, I can only say what I think the differences are because I’ve never DJ’d anything but Salsa. I think one of the main differences is that when DJing salsa, the crowd is most often made up of dancers who are looking to dance to different tempos, different moods of songs, and most importantly different partners.

When I go to a techno or hip-hop club…which is not very often but I think it is very important to check out what other DJs outside one’s genre are doing – I love hearing good hip-hop DJs on the turntables – especially if they play Eric B and Rakim, but that’s another story…Anyway, when I go to hear DJs in these other genres, they aim to mix continuous beats over long periods of time.

There may be subtle shifts in tempo but they are very, very gradual. Basically the goal is to keep the energy up and the dance floor full. In salsa the goals are similar but achieving them has to be done in a different way. I think the same general principles apply (like avoiding sudden shifts in tempo, establishing a nice groove, keeping the energy building), but things like mixing, looping and chopping songs prematurely, and using longs stretches of the same tempo can often be inappropriate for salsa DJing.

I don’t want to get into the big salsa mixing controversy but I’ll say that I don’t do it and most dancers I talk to (including myself!) don’t really like mixing when dancing. They like to hear the whole song and its natural build-up and ending, and then switch parterns if they choose. And they also like to hear different tempos and types of salsa. Too much fast tires people out, too much slow stuff puts people to sleep.

Sometimes a mellow song can be good after a series of real jams to cleanse the palette and begin the build-up of energy all over again. Basically Salsa DJing is like sex (or a sin curve if you want to be technical). You need a good build-up, plateau and climax, and then you do it all over again. How long these individual parts are and how they are composed is up to the DJ and his/her particular style.

JJ: When listening to new music, how do you know when you’ve come across a song that will move a salsa crowd?

NC: There are a number of elements I look for. The most important is that the song have a nice groove or “swing”. The song can be slow or fast but must have this type of rhythmic feeling. I think having played drums for 6 years and being a decent amateur mambo dancer helps me recognize these good beats. This “swing” is hard to explain but an example would be almost any Willie Rosario song.

Willie is known for having the tightest band around with almost unstoppable swing. The percussion parts interlock so smoothly and just percolate with polyrhythmic momentum. Most older salsa has this swing because the music was most often recorded with all the musicians in one room playing together creating a more organic, live feel.

This is in sharp contrast to the more recent trend of recording almost all the parts separately and then mixing them together later. This tends to make the music sound mechanical to me.

The second major element I look for is good momentum and energy. I hate dancing to songs that feel like they are going to build up but never go anywhere. Now, every song doesn’t have to end with a wild timbale solo (in fact I think too much of this is bad), but it must have good forward momentum and energy. Even a slow song can have this energy. Example: Frankie Ruiz’s “La Cura”.

Some songs, though, have a tough steady groove throughout without building to a crazy climax and can still be great for dancing. Example: Mon Rivera’s “Lluvia con Nieve”. A third important element is the presence of good breaks. It’s not essential but good dancers love to link up with the song and hit those tasty breaks. I know I do.

For me a fourth thing I look for is a certain “toughness” and “rawness” in the sound. I don’t like sappy music. Romantica is ok but I much prefer the Frankie Ruiz or Gilberto Santa Rosa style (as opposed to Frankie Negron or Mark Anthony).

JJ: What makes a good salsa DJ? What makes a bad Salsa DJ?

NC: For me the single most important thing that makes a good salsa DJ (or any DJ for that matter) is play selection. This includes shaping the set like I described earlier with a good build-up of energy and selecting a mix of tunes that are unique to the DJ. Anyone can get up there and put on Salsa Greatest Hits Vols 1, 2, and 3.

But the hard-core DJs and the best DJs work hard for their music and spend hours learning about the bands, searching record stores and the internet, talking with and trading with other DJs, etc. A good collection takes a lot of time and effort to build.

A good salsa DJ pays attention to details: The volume level and the equalization (bass level, etc). Also the mood of the room, who’s there, what they might like or not like. You can still keep your DJing identity and cater to the crowd. Do these people like fast music, slow music? Will they all go home and complain to the manager if they hear too many songs recorded before 1994?

Many DJs tend to spin for themselves rather than the crowd (this is something I sometimes tend to do which is bad). Catering to the crowd has its limits though. One time I was DJing at a salsa new year’s party at club. The party was called “Solamente Salsa”. Seems pretty clear to me. All these people came in from the party on the upstairs floor of the club (because it was too expensive) and were asking me to play Merengue, Jennifer Lopez and all this latin pop stuff.

My response is “Sorry to ruin your new year’s but you came to the wrong party.” I played a few merengues but hey I don’t go to a Tango party and ask the DJ to play ‘Wu Banga 101’ by Ghostface Killah! A bad salsa DJ plays jagged sets (i.e. no sin curve) that establish no mood with songs seemingly selected at random.

A bad salsa DJ is lazy and plays the same songs all the time taken from some salsa hits CD. This is inexcusable when there are 30,000 or more great dance tunes out there. A bad DJ plays the music too loud, causing hearing damage. A bad salsa DJ also plays too many long songs in a row, killing the dancers. And the absolute worst thing I think a salsa DJ can do the dancers is to cut, or mix a great song right when it is getting to the good part.

JJ: What are some of your favorite salsa songs? What are some songs that always receive a great reaction fromn the crowd wherever you go?

NC: I’ve listed some songs below which I’ve recently been listening to a lot and playing for the dancers. I don’t have any real “all-time” favorite songs. There are so many good ones. My all-time favorite artists are Angel Canales, Hector Rivera, Javier Vasquez, Palmieri brothers, and the great timbalero Kako.

Of course again this is hard because there are so many great ones. Hector Rivera is a very important and under appreciated artist. Besides being a grooving piano player and leading great bands, he did arrangements and wrote songs for many of the bigger stars of salsa. Many of the arrangements of the tunes on the seminal 1960s Joe Cuba recordings with Cheo on vocals were done by Hector. Hector’s album “Lo Maximo” is one of my all-time favorites. As far as songs which people seem to love anywhere I go, I can think of a couple: “Lluvia con Nieve” by Mon Rivera.

Besides being a historically important song (many argue that Mon’s 1963 album Que Gente Averigua introduced the heavy duty trombone sound to NYC latin music) that features Eddie Palmieri on Piano and the great great Barry Rogers on Trombone, this song seems to kick people in the ass everywhere.

The odd thing is that it is an instrumental which many people don’t like. But the groove is so heavy-duty and the hypnotic chanting and bone riffs just kill the dance floor. Who needs pretty boy singers to rock the dance floor? “Sama Thiel” by Africando.

Africando’s version of Moliendo Café is a sure fire dance floor killer that everyone seems to love, even people who don’t like salsa or haven’t really heard it before. The groove is so crispy (New York’s finest in the rhythm section) and when the soprano solo kicks in, forget about it! Another one that I’ve played a lot and am pleased that people love is Hector Rivera’s “Tumba el Quinto”. This has a fantastic breaks and great energy. Again the unstoppable groove being held down by the great Cachao is the key.

JJ: Any additional comments you would like to share?

NC: Nope. Just a big thanks for interviewing me on your website and good luck. And thanks to all the dancers and music lovers out there.

Nik Caswell


Is there ever an appropriate time to reject a dance request?

Burju Hurturk PerezBurju Hurturk – Boston

This is a controversial question.

When you are the one being rejected there is no appropriate time, being rejected just sucks. And when you are the one rejecting the dance, whether or not your excuse is valid, you risk having the label “mambo snob” attached to your name. But rejection is such a harsh word.

The way I feel is that unless someone has made me uncomfortable in some way by offending me, hurting me, trying to hit on me or grope me in any fashion, which are all very appropriate times to “reject” a dance, I use the postpone method.

The postpone method: If I’ve just danced a very long song or several in a row, and am obviously quite winded, or may need a water break, then that is a valid reason and an appropriate time for me to politely say “could we wait until the next song?” Some people may take this as a polite brush off but I try my best to make sure I follow through with the dance.

Is there ever an inappropriate time to reject a dance request? Of course there is. If you are standing on the edge of the dance floor looking like you are ready to go and someone asks you to dance and you say no because you don’t think they are good enough, that’s pretty inappropriate. People can tell. Especially if you just rejected a dance then accepted one with someone you know or like dancing with better.

Everyone has their moments of not feeling like dancing for whatever the reason may be. But what’s important is to exercise proper etiquette. Think back to when you first started dancing and when you were the one who was constantly rejected or never even asked to dance. I know I’ve been there. It makes you not want to dance anymore.

I would have loved an opportunity to dance with someone that was better than me or just looked like a lot of fun to dance with. Why not make people happy by such a simple gesture as accepting a dance.

Jami JosephsonJami Josephson- NY

Is there ever an appropriate time to reject a dance request? Yes there is… if someone just got off the floor and there looking all tired and out of breath or even just sweating to death and need a break it should be cool to say “no, need a break” “THANX”

Is there ever an inappropriate time to reject a dance request? YES!!! if you just turned someone down that you didn’t want to dance with and a few sec’s later someone asks you to dance and you say yes… that sucks… or if your standing on the edge of the floor looking to want to dance with someone and you say no to someone who asks you but your just not sure if there good… shame on you!

Dance with everyone! It’s good for the soul!


Magna GopalMagna Gopal – Toronto

Yes, there are appropriate and inappropriate times to reject a dance.

If you are engaged in a conversation with someone else and you are asked to dance, obviously, you should have the option of continuing your conversation without having judgment passed on you — ie/ she’s so stuck up, etc. Likewise, if you have danced with someone who is violently rough, does not know how to adjust his lead, is drunk and irresponsible on the dance floor, throws you into others or puts you in harms way, then by all means, rejecting a dance with this person is completely justifiable.

Occasionally, some people reject dances from people that they have witnessed being rough or where they have heard from others that they are rough. Personally, I like to know first hand instead. Some people have different leads/follows and therefore might not easily execute certain moves so a rough dance with one person could be the smoothest sexiest dance with another. Level of comfort is also an appropriate reason to reject a dance.

As a female, if you dance with a lead who does not respect your personal space, especially if you try to make it clear that you would like it respected, then you shouldn’t feel obliged to repeat such an episode. And the most obvious and most abused reason (lol) is if you are tired and taking a break.

The WORST thing you could do though is to say you’re tired to one person and immediately dance with someone else. That’s just plain rude. At the very least, hold out for a song, and then dance with someone else.

As for inappropriate times to reject a dance, well, I can only speak for myself because I don’t assume to judge others reasons. Restating the above, if you say you’re tired, stay tired for at least one song. If you say next song, also, stay true to your word. There are no contracts on the dance floor, all you’ve got is your word. So, be true to it.

If you don’t intend to dance with someone to the next song or later or if your reasoning is not because you’re tired, then simply respond with a “thank you, but no.” I know as a dancer progresses, he/she would like to dance with progressively better dancers as well.

Personally, I love dancing with better dancers because I feel challenged to be light on my feet, not anticipate, and match their style. But at the same time, I am aware of the fact that I was a beginner once and to a degree will always be a beginner with one thing or another. So, just as some very amazing dancers did not reject me when I asked, I too don’t always reject a dance from someone who is just starting out. Mind you, sometimes there are songs that I really want to throw down to, so I’ll seek out someone who would allow me to do that. But if I do reject someone for that reason, I’ve always caught up with that person later for a dance.

All in all, what’s appropriate or not depends on your own judgement. Generally speaking, being rude, is not appropriate. To assess your actions/words to see if they are rude, just put yourself in that person’s shoes (beginner, timid, etc) and think about how you would receive that rejection. We all started somewhere. It’s important to always keep that in mind.

As for dealing with rejection, my best advice is: don’t take it personally and don’t let it phase you. When I started out I was rejected quite often. Of course, the first dance was always a yes, especially if I was wearing a pretty dress. lol But, when they realized I couldn’t dance, they often found a way to let me down easy whenever I asked again. I never took it personally. I just came back later.

My goal in asking people to dance was to improve my dancing. If I allowed rejection to phase me and stopped asking people to dance, I would not have gotten here today and I will not get there tomorrow. Some people are just plain rude but for every one of those people there are at least a handful of people that are very nice and will dance with everyone (at least once).

Be positive, don’t take it personally, and just think about improving your dancing. The more you stick with it, the more you improve and the less rejection you will encounter in the future. And always be aware of the attitude you exude. In the salsa scene, I’ve found that your reputation often precedes you. So, although you may become the best dancer if your attitude sucks, you could easily be known as the biggest a**hole and your reception will not be that warm and welcoming.

Karen AguilarKaren Aguilar – DC

These two questions are very hard for me. Why? because I don’t like to reject anyone on the dance floor! Because you can learn from the most basic dancer to the most advanced. Basic dancers are great for advance dancers to keep you alert and in control of your dancing. Also keeps you smiling more because you already know what to expect and its great that they are on the dance floor with you. Advanced dancers because I love to expect the unexpected on the dance floor and it gives me a high energy of satisfaction and a challenge!

The first question, Is there ever an appropriate time to reject a dance request?

I want to say no, but realistically yes there is. It all comes down to enjoying the dance with who ever the dance partner is. So both partners should feel comfortable dancing with one another. Please don’t take any of these responses personally I would probably reject a dancer when:

  1. I have just danced a fast song that required me to work it, so I am gasping for air in the corner some where, so I have to say NO.
  2. I have danced with you before and I know that you will handcuff me when leading me on the dance floor and I might not be in the mood to be handcuffed 🙂 lots of love!
  3. I don’t like the song! and the DJ’s music, so I am getting ready to take my shoes off and leave!
  4. The last dance I danced, somebody stepped on my foot and I need time to heal and wipe the tear off my eye 🙂
  5. I am just tired and I have danced ever since I stepped into the place so its my time to just observe enjoy the music and the people dancing 🙂
  6. If you are wearing a shirt that is drenched in sweat and your sweat is dripping from your face. I know its hot sometimes but everyplace there is a dance floor there is also a bar with napkins and they are free. I definitely use them. There is also a bathroom 😉
  7. You are asking me to dance and you can barely stand up, because you like to drink a little too much,and it’s not h20 🙂

Is there ever inappropriate time to reject a dance request? I would call it an inappropriate time only if the dancer feels they are too good to dance with any other dancer. I think dancing is a social positive activity and if a dancer prevents themselves from dancing with anyone just because they put themselves above any other dancer they are projecting negative energy.

Janet TrottoJanet Trotto – NY

Is there ever an appropriate time to reject a dance request? The responses to this will definitely vary for everyone….I personally feel that I feel it is appropriate to reject a dance request if you’re either feeling injured (knees, ankles, or got elbowed, etc) , got stepped on pretty harshly during the previous song by a woman’s 3-inch mambo heel, or are experience a stomach cramp….The body knows its limits and if we are uncomfortable, then it is difficult for us to enjoy the dance, so there is no harm in sitting out a song or two and waiting until we feel a little bit better.

Some men still get offended if you turn them down for these reasons but they have to understand that it is not a personal thing and that we would be more than happy to dance with them a little later on. Remember, people are not machines !

Is there ever an inappropriate time to reject a dance reject? Different woman feel differently about particular male dancers, so it is difficult to answer this question from the general female perspective.

I personally feel its inappropriate to reject a dance for selfish, superficial reasons. I know a lot of woman who will only dance with “advanced” dancers or men who get a lot of attention while on the dance floor. It is wrong to deny someone a dance because you want to be “watched” all the times you are dancing.

Don’t get me wrong, if a woman is advanced and she’s dancing with an advanced partner, the chemistry is a great thing, but it is wrong to turn someone down because he may not have the same level of dance experience as you. We all like to be watched while we are dancing, hey it makes you feel good to know that people enjoy you’re dancing…but there is no need for a “diva-like” mentality!

We all began dancing because it was fun and we were all beginners at some point, and it does not feel nice when someone rejects your request to dance (A side note: I think a lot of men assume that because a female is a strong dancer that she will automatically reject their invitation to dance if they are not a “superstar” or “advanced”, and this is not true (for most woman at least). A flaw of the mambo scene is that a lot of assumptions are made…So fellas, never assume that a female will reject your dance if you haven’t even attempted to ask her 🙂

Salsa Cliques

By Jason Pacheco

I was having a late snack after dancing and I was trash talking with some people about life. Picking up the info on who was dating who and who left which dance company. We had a few veteran dancers but there was a new child on the scene. She made a comment that a lot of young dancers make. “The salsa scene has too many cliques.” I had to laugh because it was such naïve statement.

I grew up in a very strict evangelical home in the inner city of Chicago. Every social event from childhood through high school was surrounded by church. I went church, bible study and bible camp during the summer. Then I went to college and was exposed to many different social circles. I wasn’t sheltered to the point that I never had exposure to other social circles, but I never really saw them in depth like I did in college. It was a fun experience because I enjoy watching people interact. When I started dancing I realized that the salsa scene was by far the most entertaining social circle that I have ever witnessed.

“People are people” I say this all the time. Sometimes we become so involved in our social world we think it’s the exception. Really people tend to behave the same regardless of the scene. Growing up in church you meet good people and you meet not so good people. There is a church jargon and yes they have cliques. This goes for every social group where people gather together. The word clique has a lot of the negative connotations. (Except for the Hip- hop scene) If you were to look it up in the thesaurus it’s synonyms are faction, gang and elite. Ouch… Who wants to be described as elite faction or gang? There isn’t anything wrong with cliques. Yes I agree that the dancing scene has many cliques. No one should apologize about wanting to hang out with his or her friends. That’s what humans do. People who complain about cliques are usually jealous that they are not part of a clique. Their complaints subside once they have their own niche. Newbie’s will always make this complaint until they gather the skills to hang with advance dancers. Everyone goes through it and no one likes being humbled.

I use to play basketball in high school religiously. I would play for to 4 to 5 hrs straight everyday during the summer. Even within athletic circles groups would form. These revolved around your skill level. There are three outdoor basketball courts in the park. On the south end all the kids and busters would run their games. In the middle was the High school and mid level players ran their games. On the north end was where the giants roamed. These were grown men and a few large teenagers. No one complained about cliques on the basketball court. You played at your level until it wasn’t challenging and then you attempted to make the jump. If you weren’t good enough you wouldn’t get picked to play. How much fun would a grown man have going over to the south end of the courts and totally dominating a bunch of kids? Not only wouldn’t it be fun it’s dangerous.

It’s the same thing with dancing. You want to dance with people who are going to challenge you. Of course you should dance with beginners and make an effort to welcome new people. No one should expect that if they are just learning the fundamentals that they are going to be dancing every song. If you are not dancing it’s not because these cliques want to deny you a good time. Truth is no one gives it that much thought. (Expect for over analytical people like myself). So just keep dancing and practicing soon enough people will complain about how left out you make them feel. “