What is Salsa Caleña?

Before I moved to Cali (and stayed for 2 years) I knew from glancing at a few videos on Youtube that they danced a very different style of salsa from what I had learned in Japan and later Ireland. Add to that the fact that some people who had actually been to Cali before had told me that I wouldn’t get too far dancing the way I did and you’d be right in thinking that I was a little worried about strutting my stuff on the dance floors of Cali.

Salsa music became hugely popular in Cali in the 70’s (mostly imported from New York and later Cuba) and it continues to be the “Sound of the City”, being the music of choice played everywhere from taxis to supermarkets. Due to the sheer ubiquitous nature of salsa in Cali, Caleños (as the locals of Cali are known) have developed an intimate, almost symbiotic relationship with this music which, influenced by styles such as boogaloo, pachanga and cumbia has developed into the world famous dance style that is Salsa Caleña.

Salsa in Cali is hard to define as there is a huge difference between the relaxed, casual style danced in clubs and the lightening fast professional style used in the choreographies of Cali’s famous dance schools.  For the benefit of those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to visit the world capital of salsa, I’ve found a few videos showing just what salsa caleña (in it’s many forms) looks like. Enjoy.

Here’s a great example of what the local dancers call Salsa Cabaret which is basically salsa caleña on steroids (as many twists, flips and displays of showmanship as possible). The lead in the video, Nilson was actually my instructor for a while and he is simply astounding to watch, even when he’s just playing around on the floor.

Here’s another lightning fast cabaret performance.

Here’s some great footwork from the 2 time world champions Ricardo (with whom I had my first dance class in Cali)  and Viviana (pity about the awful commentary)

On the other end of the scale here’s an example of how salsa is danced in Cali on the streets at a typical neighborhood party.

And here’s another example of a style of street salsa (known as salsa choque) that has become very popular recently.

Finally here’s one of the most famous videos of Cali club style dancing (although this is much more professional than what you normally find).

Watching videos like these helps to remind me just how diverse the world of salsa really is and even if you’ve achieved a high level in one style, there’s still plenty more to learn from the others. I hope you liked them.

Keep dancing folks.


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