Why I prefer dancing On2 (and why this doesn’t make me a salsa snob)

ImageOk, firstly I want to say that I am more than well aware this can be something of a controversial topic in the salsa community. Secondly, if you’re a salsa dancer (which you probably are if you’re taking time to read this blog), then there is a good chance you are going to think I am a salsa snob for making this statement.

This post (and this blog)  is about my thoughts and opinions. I love dancing On1 also…it’s simply a preference!

 I in no way consider those who prefer dancing On1 to be in some way inferior or ‘not feeling the music’ or any of the other stuff that On2 enthusiasts like to sprout. Not at all…. But let us take a quick rewind to nine months ago..

I must confess that when I arrived in Paris, (originally a London girl, born and bred), one of my first and foremost aims was to master following On2. At this point I didn’t really have any way of knowing that it would truly become my preferred way to dance salsa, but despite that, I was adamant that On2 was the way to go. Why?  Well, because some of my favourite dancers were On2…and so in my mind I put two and two together and thought this must somehow be a reflection of talent or of superior taste…something like that. But we all know this isn’t true. Some of the best dancers in the world dance On1! So yes, I’ll admit my original reasons for starting to learn On2 (I had already been dancing On1 for two years) were misinformed.

All that being said… I am so glad I went ahead and did it!! Without that determination to plunge right in and leave my comfort zone I never would have discovered that I am well and truly at the beginning of a life long love affair with dancing On2. Making the move from On1 to On2 on the dancefloor takes courage and that is because On2 is not at all intuitive when you are used to breaking back on the 1! (Oh how things have now changed). However, contrary to popular belief, Parisian men are pretty friendly and encouraging for the most part…or at least in salsa they are. Making the change requires you to swallow your pride; there is little headspace left for styling and musicality when all you can think about is which foot your supposed to land on. You won’t be one of the easiest girls to lead… you WILL make mistakes.  This is because you’re adjusting: your feet want to step automatically and as soon as you go through a move  you find familiar you realise you somehow went and screwed it up. You feel like a beginner all over again…so not worth the pain, right?

Wrong! So after all this back story, what exactly is it that means I still prefer On2?

Musicality and style. Some of my favourite tracks are the recordings from the Mambo era (head here if you want to know more about the origins of what we know to be salsa music today). The sound that came from NYC during this time has always had more of an emotional effect on me than say… Mark Anthony… and that was before I knew a single thing about the music or the dance. Many of these tracks are complimented by dancing On2. I thought maybe I could try and make a messy techincal attempt at explaining why this is but I decided it’s not really necessary to do so, because for me it’s more a feeling first and foremost. However I do recommend you check out the different types of music out there and expand your repertoire,  as well as other blogs for why people find On2 works best for them. Back to my original point. Because I enjoy old school music from New York and that is what I listen to, I am also drawn to the New York Style of salsa dancing. Eddie Torres, Shani Talmor, Yamulée, Adolfo Indacochea… you will hear me talk about them a lot..but whilst initially I started dancing On2 because I admired them, it brought me to an understanding that in the end it all comes down to the music. Without music, we are lost and the emotional experience is removed. I used to have a hard time understanding people that danced salsa but would never think to listen to salsa in their free time, or danced salsa to exclusively to salsaton style tracks ( a fusion of reggaeton and salsa). I’ve come to learn there is nothing wrong with doing that per se, salsa dancing is about having fun after all, but for some, it’s more than that. It’s about becoming at one with the music…of being aware and in control of your body but at the same time it is driven not by you alone, but the music. It’s about intuition, emotion, passion, escapism… All this being said, a vast range of salsa music is complimented by dancing On1, so as you see, the statement that those who dance On2 are more musical by default is nonsense. It’s all about the music that you dance (and listen) to.

Versatility and dynamism. What exactly do I mean by that you are probably wondering. I find that this ties in very strongly with the musicality aspect of dancing On2. It is versatile both in performance and social dancing. Because the girl moves forward on the 1, it allows for greater ease when interpreting the music both with a partner and (for girls) when dancing alone (shines). If the music suddenly breaks, it is much easier to come together immediately on the 1 instead of constantly having to step back first before starting a move. Likewise in performances there is more a punchy ‘boom,bam, bam’ feel to many performances On2 (think Yamulée) because they can dive right in to the music after a phrase, without stepping back. Obviously On1 performances can find ways to avoid stepping back, but for choreography, On2 wins hands down in my opinion when it comes to its suitability for very high impact musical interpretation.  There is a difference dancing with a lead who truly dances On2 and a lead who dances On1 but counts On2. It’s almost like you’re dancing ‘within’ the music. This was something I’d heard said before and was a concept I found it difficult to get my head around when I danced On1: “What the hell are you talking about, within the music? Gosh, how pretentious”. But trust me, this is not a lie! The more you start watching well known On2 dancers and the more you dance yourself, the more you will find this. Or should I say feel this.

Which brings me on to my last point: On2 just looks smoother. There is no denying it. Most social dancing or performances On1 do not capture the same laid-back effortlessness that On2 danced well can exude. This is not everyone’s aim in salsa, and that is why I do not hold the position that On2 is any way better than On1… but for me, the epitomy of sexy is laidback effortlessness..and come on now… who doesnt want to look sexy on the dancefloor?

Anyway, till next time my lovely salsa friends! Sorry this post was so long but had to be done!


4 thoughts on “Why I prefer dancing On2 (and why this doesn’t make me a salsa snob)

  1. Broaching a very controversial subject here, but I admire your balls. I made my decision to learn On2 primarily because I love to dance with everyone (I dance Cuban too). So 2 years ago when I approached a Girl from Yamulee that I really wanted to dance with and she responded by saying – ‘I only dance On2’, I made it a mission to master my On2. It was hard work and so frustrating at times, but I am so happy I did. 2 Years later, On2 is also my preference and suits my smooth laid back dance style better than On1 ever did. However, when social dancing I always ask the lady her preference because I want her to feel comfortable. That being said, there are some songs out there which are Just so On2 it feels like a sin to dance On1 to it and vice versa.

    So I urge anyone reading this, invest in being able to dance both. It will make you a better and much more verstaile dancer able to dance with absolutely anyone.

  2. Pingback: A Salsera in the City | Chillys Blog

  3. Yeah…definitely controversial here. I stared on 1 and am still on 1. However, I’ve learned on 2 to be able to dance with women who only know 2. I guess I’ll eventually grow to learn the differences, but for now, I have to count like crazy to stay on beat with 2. I think the song also matters a lot. I’ve tried dancing on 1 to some songs and have had a hard time hearing 1 and figured out “Aaah…this is an on2 song.”

  4. Hi Michael, Sorry it’s taken me a while to reply, I’ve been away! You’re right that the music is very crucial of course, and I tend to naturally prefer songs that suit dancing On2 which is somewhat useful when I started making the switch. I would say most guys have a challenge switching and changing between the two, especially if they dance mainly On1 or mainly On2, as dancing becomes an automatic thing, so the constant counting and checking yourself can be… uncomfortable!! Now that I dance both timings, if a man is more comfortable On1, generally I’ll go with that, as I know the dance will be better because my lead is relaxed, however I really respect guys that take time to learn both, so keep it up!

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