Which beat is stronger, one or two? (or three, four...)

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There is a lot of debate in the salsa world over which beat is the most accented in the music. Some say that the “one” beat is the most emphasized in all Mambo songs. However, there is another opinion that in Son Montuno, the “four” is much stronger, and the “one” is often silent. Charanga definitely has a strong one beat, but it all depends.

Some people enjoy breaking on the 3-4 beat and pausing on the 1, where the 2 is silent. In Son Montuno, it can be very enjoyable to dance on the 2-3-4 (quick, quick, slow) where the 1 is silent. Still, because the one beat can be the easiest to hear in salsa songs, many people find it simpler to break forward on the “one”.

Eddie Torres’s style, on 2, is a nice option for advanced dancers. But dancing on 2 does not necessarily work musically in every phrase. It depends on the song, the phrase, and the momentum of the figure being danced.

?or the general social dancing public, the main idea is to stay in phrase with the music. You can start the phrase on the downbeat (1 or 3) or the upbeat (2 or 4). These are your choices, but stick to your guns. Being sympathetic to clave, the foundational rhythm in salsa, is important for the musician as well as the dancer.

These are the simple rules for real Mambo/Salsa dancers. Nothing is wrong or bad. It also depends on the community and your peers that you choose to impress. It’s all relative!