Salsa is a style of Latin dance performed to an eight-count beat. These counts are usually accented in the music by means of a percussion instrument known as the clave (key). Salsa dance is performed according to a variety of different styles: for example LA style, New York style, Casino Rueda, and Cuban style.
The basic step for the male lead in LA style salsa goes as follows:
- Beats 1 and 2: Forward with the left, in place with the right.
- Beats 3 and 4: Feet together, and change weight from right to left.
- Beats 5 and 6: Back with the right, in place with the left.
- Beats 7 and 8: Feet together, and change weight from the left to the right (so that the left foot is free to begin on beat 1 again).
Note that LA style salsa is an example of a salsa style danced "on 1", that is, with the male lead beginning to move forward on the first beat.
The basic step for the female is the same, except that she begins stepping back right instead of forward left, so that the two partners' feet move together.
In addition to the basic step, there are five more fundamental steps in LA style salsa: the clock-wise turn, the cross body lead, back-breaks, side-breaks, and the grape vine. Slightly more advanced steps are the right cross-body lead and the counter-clockwise turn. Of these, by far the most important are the clock-wise turn and cross body lead.
To execute the turn, step forward on the 1, and pivot on both toes 180 degrees on the 2. Then (on beats 3 and 4) with weight primarily on the right foot, continue pivoting 180 degrees, bringing the left foot next to the right foot (without lifting it off the ground at any point). Since the turn requires the dancer to begin by stepping forward, the male leads this turn by making a clockwise motion over his partner's head while he is stepping back with his right foot.
LA style performances offer dramatic displays of technique: with acrobatic lifts, gravity-defying drops, and multiple spins.