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Salsa is considered a dance of courtship. The literal significance of word "salsa" is "sauce" and the dancers should show a very hot and spicy contact with each other.

Salsa is still developing because it is relatively new compared to other Latin-American dances, such as the Cha Cha Cha or the samba.
Salsa should be sensual and fluid, with the dancers moving around each other and the floor in circular movements. In the music and in the dance there is a strong Afro-Caribbean influence. Today, the "Salsa" is a North American interpretation of the older styles. New York's Latino community had an energetic musical and dancing scene during the '50s but found limited success with the "Anglo" mainstream.

Salsa styles

A style can be identifying because it has many characteristics. There may be diverse step patterns, diverse timing of steps, characteristic movement on the dance floor (ex: slot, circular), dancer preference of turns and moves, attitude, dress code, and others. The existence of one or more of characteristic elements does not basically describe a particular form.
Here are brief descriptions of main "identifiable" styles.

Cuban style

Cuba style salsa is also known as Casino, can be danced either on the down beat ("a tiempo") or the upbeat ("a contratiempo"). Hits 1, 3, 5 and 7 are downbeats and 2, 4, 6 and 8 are upbeats.

A special Cuba step is known as Guapea, where the leader does a rearward basic on 1-2-3 and a forward basic on 5-6-7. Typically the fourth beat is not counted.
Another feature of this form is that in many patterns the leader and follower circle around each other.

Los Angeles style

This style is extremely influenced by Hollywood and by the swing & mambo dances. Los Angeles style is danced on 1, in a slot and emphasizes sensuousness, theatricality, and acrobatics.

The two indispensable elements of this dance are the forward/backward basic as explained above, and the cross-body guide. In this pattern, the leader steps forward on 1, steps to the right on 2-3 while turning 90 degrees counter-clockwise (facing to the left). The follower then steps forward on 5-6, and turns on 7-8, while the leader makes another 90 degrees counter-clockwise. After these movements, the leader and follower have exchanged their situations.

New York style

New York style focuses efficiency of movement, elegance, and body isolations. By center on control, timing, and accuracy of technique, dancers aim for smooth execution of firmly woven complex patterns. In New York City this style is danced strictly On 2, even though dancers around the world regularly incorporate elements and repertoire from New York into their dancing On 1.
In a social setting, New York style is danced more compactly than Los Angeles style.