Cali, Colombia is known by most of the Latin America as the world’s Capital of Salsa, not simply for the dancing but also for its richness in music. The Feria de Cali is the largest Salsa festival in the world and is held every December, with the world’s top dancers and salsa groups performing. Cali, is also home of some of the largest collections of Salsa Music in the world, including associated rhythms such as Son, Mambo, Bolero, Guaracha, Vallenato, Fox, Tango, Cumbia, Pachanga and Boogaloo as well as a further 145 folkloric Colombian dance rhythms and other dances from Cuba/Latin America. It is unique in that many Salseros in Cali are able to dance all the major styles of salsa Cuban, Los Angeles/New York, Puerto Rican, Miami and of course Cali Salsa. The lack of popularity of Colombian Salsa in the UK and other countries used to be due to the fact that that there were so few teachers outside of Cali that were able to teach this style.
Luckily this has changed due to many of the Salsa Championships being won by Cali Style champions Swing Latino. And now, Colombian style is back in the picture and Colombian Salsa Dance Schools like Swing Latino and Salsa Rhythm with their current five world titles are the main reason why the Salsa world is taking Cali style salsa so seriously. Swing Latino group members learned their trade in the popular quarters of Cali where Salsa is a way of life, and are responsible for the new Colombian style called Cali La Style, where Colombian salsa has been influenced by the LA Cross Body style. Colombian Salsa is generally not danced to the Clave rhythm, or to the count 1, 2, 3 – 5, 6, 7 etc. This style is danced to the instrumental rhythms, the beat and to the sound of the instruments themselves, with steps that vary in speed and timing in accordance with the main instrument being played. The advent of Cali LA style has made Cali style more accessible to the LA and NY salsa dancers.
The development of Colombian style Salsa owes its roots to Pachanga and Boogaloo which were its forerunners. Pachanga is a rhythm that was developed by mixing Cha Cha Cha with Mambo in the early 1960’s. It comprises of 7 original steps and literally hundreds of new steps. Pachanga started to decline in the mid 1960’s being overtaken by The Beatles and Rock’n’roll. By fusing Latin music, the twist, rhythm’n’blues and Rock’n’Roll a new dance called Boogaloo was born. This new music had a mix of English and Spanish lyrics and was created to appeal to both the Black and Latin races in North America who led a hard life in the 1960’s. This original Boogaloo rhythm was fairly slow paced with only twelve dance steps. One of the most famous Boogaloo songs of the era was I like it like that by Pete Rodriguez who was known at the time as the King of Boogaloo.
Modern Boogaloo was developed by speeded up many of the original Boogaloo tracks from 33rpm to 45rpm and adding more percussion, instrumentals and a harder beat. Two of the most renowned musicians for Pachanga and Boogaloo were Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz; almost all of their songs were hits. This new faster music traveled to Cali, where Boogaloo dance as we know it today thrived and grew into 30 new steps that were faster and more complex, as well as the original 12 steps. Boogaloo reigned supreme until the 1970’s before being overtaken by Salsa, which was developed by mixing a number of rhythms including Boogaloo. In addition many of the New York Style Shines are taken directly from Colombian style. The main difference being In NY style, shines are part of a choreographed routine of steps, generally danced individually; In Colombian salsa the steps are danced in unison with a partner, incorporating spins dips and turns to the instrumental beats, speeding up and slowing down as the music dictates.