The Salsa Club’s “triple-m theory” is simple: more makes merrier—the more people there are dancing at any given time (whether it is at a salsa social or some other party) the better off the dancers and the world are in general. Dancing, especially group dancing, brings joy to both participants and spectators alike. For dancers, moving in unison and contributing to a cooperative beauty project creates a sense of purpose—each dancer needs to practice and remember their steps and timing; everyone has a role to play in the creation of the grand design. For the viewer, there is a reward in being a witness: art, after all, is made to be enjoyed; someone—a viewer, listener, or diner—has to be enriched by any artistic experience.
In this way, group dances, ensemble music performances, dining experiences, and athletic endeavours are similar: they are communal undertakings by the individuals involved in their production and a specific pleasure for those who have the privilege to witness them. Without either side, neither wins.
Whether choreographed or informal, simple or complex, old or new school, involving large masses of people or only a handful of dancers, all group dances only work their magic when the dancers taking part in them are able to harness their individual dance competencies and synchronise their movements. Some dances involve a limited number of steps while others constantly develop newer and more elaborate movements. Some are wedding reception staples while others, because of their viral popularity, are great for impromptu flash mobs. Yet others, due to their highly specialised nature, demand hours of practice and choreography to master them. Nonetheless, each dance—from the Macarena to Rueda De Casino—is proof that dancing was made to be enjoyed with other people.
In the latter half of the nineties there was no escaping the Macarena. It was on every radio station and television channel. It played at every party whether it was a birthday or twenty-first. Anyone—grandparents, newlyweds, and even American Vice-Presidents—were caught in its tow. Arms out, fold into elbows, tuck behind head, hands on waist, sway, switch—the Macarena was so simple it was almost criminal not to know how to dance to it.
Although the dance has become a strange artefact of time, the Macarena continues to be one one of the most popular group dances around.
Learning curve: easy.
Best songs to dance to: Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix) by Los Del Rio.
The Cha-Cha Slide
Much like the Macarena, this group dance is popular because if its straightforward and directed choreography. All any participating dancer needs to do is follow the lyrical cues.
One hop this time!
Two hops this time!
Listening is half of the dance’s rhythm mechanics.
If drawing with numbers could be translated into dancing with numbers, then the Cha-Cha Slide would be the best iteration of instructed group dancing.
Learning curve: easy.
Best songs to dance to: The Cha-Cha Slide by Mr C The Slide Man.
The Electric Slide
A well-known scenario: at a party a song plays, amid the uncoordinated mass of bodies moving to their own rhythms a singular body’s gravity attracts others to it; first one, two, three, and then ten people move in a coordinated pattern; more people join, rushing from the bar and abandoning their dessert; those who know the steps, join in, those who do not, watch.
There is only one dance with such universal appeal.
Freeze, Cowboy Motion or Boogie, Bus Stop, or the Charlie Brown—The Electric Slide, originally choreographed for Marcia Griffith’s Electric Boogie goes by many names and has varying step counts depending on where one is in the world. Regardless of the location, though, the appeal remains the same: the fun chance to be part of something bigger, a dancing collective moving as one.
The Electric Slide has a unique reputation: if you know it, you know it; if you don’t then you don’t. For those who have never learned its steps, it can sometimes seem like the dance is a birthright passed on from one group to another—like there is a secret cabal of groomsmen or girlfriends who teach a select few its steps while condemning others to wallflower status when a choice song comes on.
But all dancers are made: everyone can learn how to dance—salsa, bachata, and even the Electric Slide. All one needs to get started, like with any dance, is curiosity, enthusiasm, and a teacher.
Part of the Electric Slide’s longevity comes from its ability to be choreographed to so many genres of music—country, funk, R&B, rap and hip hop, pop, and rock—the Electric Slide is a one-size fits all kind of dance that should be in every dancer’s back pocket.
Learning curve: easy.
Best songs to dance to: Sexual Healing by Max-A-Million • Gettin’ Jiggy With It by Will Smith • Do Better by The Layabouts featuring Portia Monique
Tip: If you can dance bachata to it, you can do the Electric Slide to it.
In the early days of the global lockdown, a strange video found its way to the internet. In it, a group of Angolan friends are seated around a courtyard enjoying what seems to be an ordinary and quiet lunch. Then, in the background, Master KG and Nomcebo’s Jerusalema, a gospel house song from South Africa, begins to play. Caught up in the song’s rhythm—and clearly still too hungry to stop eating—they kill two birds with one stone: dance while eating.
Making its way onto various social media platforms, the Jerusalema Dance Challenge quickly became the most popular group dance of 2020. Like the Macarena before it (and for a brief instance Psy’s Gangnam Style) the “Jerusalema” became the dance everyone was doing. In those early days of confinement, being part of the dance challenge provided some form of connection to the wider world, reaffirming that movement created community, even if it was through digital means.
Much like the Electric Slide, the footwork accompanying Jerusalema is relatively easy to master with practice. Once that crucial threshold has been reached, the fun really begins when one discovers new music to which the steps can be applied.
Learning curve: easy.
Best songs to dance to: Trick Me by Kelis • One More Time by Daft Punk • We Break The Dawn by Michelle Williams.
Tip: If you can dance bachata to it, you can dance the Jerusalema choreography to it.
Rueda De Casino
As far as group dances go, this list would be incomplete without mentioning Rueda de Casino (also called Rueda or Casino)—a favourite at The Salsa Club. Filled with the spontaneous use of Afro-Cuban dance vocabularies, Casino dancers typically reference and integrate steps or movements from other dance disciplines into their routine. Developed in 1956 in Havana, Cuba, the circular version of Casino was developed at Club Casino Deportivo and remains, for the most part, similar to modern versions.
Filled with multiple partner swaps, elaborate dance combinations, and constant movement, Casino is a visually stunning dance which easily lends itself to professional choreography as well as informal social dancing.
A typical Casino dance involves pairs of dancers forming a circle and executing synchronised dance moves called out by a líder or cantante (the leader or caller). The calls are typically made in Spanish although other languages are now incorporated because of the dance’s spread beyond its country of origin. Hand signs are used in noisy venues where calls cannot be heard. In large, choreographed Casino circles, the specific moves are memorised instead.
Most Casino calls are common in the salsa dancing world. However, specific towns or dance studios often create their own own unique calls and steps. In this way, Casino continues to create and differentiate salsa dancing communities wherever it goes.
Learning curve: variable
Best songs to dance to: Arranca by Manzanita • Abre Que Voy by Los Van Van • Salsa & Choke by ChocQuibTown featuring Nējo.