Salsa Dance Terms

Learning how to dance salsa is challenging enough, and when you add in all the jargon and terminology that’s thrown around the salsa community, things can get downright confusing.

Luckily, we’re here to help. Below you’ll find some of the most commonly used salsa dance terminology, salsa dance terms and jargon, as well as their definitions. And if there’s a term we missed, just let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to the list!


Afro Cuban

A term used to refer to dance movements inspired by Cuban rumba styles such as columbia, yambú, and guaguancó.


Basic Step

The basic step or simply the ‘basic’, is the fundamental step in salsa dancing. The exact direction and form of the step depends on what style of salsa is being danced.

Body Movement

Refers to the movements of the upper body and hips, which can add character to salsa dancing beyond just the steps and turn patterns.

Break Step

The step in salsa dancing where the dancer takes a big step either towards or away from their partner, usually on the first or second beat of the measure.


Cha Cha Cha

Often referred to simply as “cha cha”, the cha cha cha is a type of dance from Cuba that is similar to a slowed down salsa, with extra steps.


Can refer either to the musical instrument, which is a pair of sticks or dowels which are struck together to make music, or the distinctive 3-2 beat pattern played with said instrument, which is found in most salsa music.

Colombian Salsa

A type of salsa dancing from the country of Colombia, characterized by fast and intricate partnered footwork.


A style of Afro Cuban rumba characterized by fast footwork and showy moves where dancers dance solo to the beat of the drum.

Cross-Body Lead

A common salsa move in salsa dancing used to bring the follow from one side of the slot to the other.

Cross-Body Salsa

A catchall term used to refer to styles of salsa that are danced in a slot such as LA Style salsa and New York Style salsa.

Cuban Motion

Typically used to the figure eight motion made by the hips during salsa dance. Can also be used to refer similar movements made by the torso and shoulders.

Cuban Rumba

A name for the various styles of Afro Cuban folk dances that developed in Cuba such as columbia, guaguancó and yambú.

Cuban Salsa

A style of salsa dancing from Cuba which is danced in a circular motion rather than linear, and often incorporates elements of Afro Cuban dance.


A style of Latin dance that originated in Colombia, characterized by leg kicks and breaking backwards.



A style of Afro Cuban rumba which mimics a mating dance, where the male dancer tries to “impregnate” the female, and the female attempts to rebuff his advances.


LA Style Salsa

A type of salsa dancing made famous in Los Angeles, California where dancers dance in a slot and break on 1.



A style of dance and music from the 1940s which greatly inspired the development of salsa. Also another name used to refer to on2 salsa.


Meaning ‘from the mountain’ in Spanish, Montuno can refer to either Son Montuno, an older form of Son played in the mountainous regions of Cuba, or to improvisational sections salsa music, often using piano.


New York Style Salsa

A type of salsa dancing that was popularized in New York, where dancers dance in a slot and break on 2.



Gods or saints from the Yoruba religious tradition which were brought over from Africa to Cuba which are often invoked in salsa music with Afro Cuban influences.



A style of music and dance that originated from Cuba in the 1950s, whose influences can be found in salsa music and dancing today.


Rueda de Casino

A type of salsa dancing originating in Cuba where dancers dance in a circle, and a single leader calls out moves which are executed by all the couples in the circle.


Salsa Animation

When a group of dancers dance shines together at a social, with one dancer demonstrating different steps and the rest of the group following along.

Salsa Caleña

Another name for Colombian-style salsa, which originated in Cali, Colombia, and is caracetrized by fast footwork and acrobatics.

Salsa Choke

An urban dance from Colombia that incorporates elements of salsa, reggaeton and hip hop.

Salsa Congress

A giant, multi-day salsa festival typically featuring dance workshops, dance performances, dance competitions, and social dancing.

Salsa Cubana

A type of salsa dancing originating in Cuba which is danced in a circular motion as opposed to a slot and is danced to timba music.

Salsa Dura

Also known as “salsa brava” or “salsa gorda”, salsa dura means “hard salsa” and refers to the original type of high-energy salsa music developed in the 1970s, as contrasted to the more recent salsa romantica.

Salsa On 1

A type of salsa dancing where the dancers take their break step on the first beat of the music. Usually used to refer to LA Style salsa, although it can also apply to Cuban and Colombian Salsa.

Salsa On 2

A style of salsa dancing where dancers take their break step on the second beat of the measure. Usually refers to New York Style salsa, although it can also apply to other styles.

Salsa Romantica

A romantic form of salsa music that emerged in New York in the 1980s and 1990s that is softer and slower than traditional salsa dura.

Salsa Rueda

A type of salsa danced by a group of couples in a circle, also known as “rueda de casino“.


Spanish for a female salsa dancer. Plural: “salseras”.


Spanish for a male salsa dancer. Plural: “saleros”.


A name for solo footwork that occurs during salsa dancing, where the partners break apart from each other for a few measures so they can each ‘shine’.

Social Dancing

Improvisational dancing in a social setting such as a salsa club or studio, as opposed to a dance lesson or a performance.


Steps and movements that happen between the counts, as opposed to on the counts.



A distinctive drum pattern found in most salsa and cha cha music, typically played on conga or bongo drums.

Turn Pattern

A sequence of dance moves done while in a partnered position.



An Afro Cuban folk dance where dancers (typically women) dance solo to slow tempo music.

We hope you found our guide for salsa dance terms helpful! If there are any terms missing from our glossary that you think should be include, please contact us and we’ll add it to the list!