On1 Vs. On2 …. FIGHT!

Hi Salsa Lovers, as most of you may know I  recently went on a Salsa Cruise going down the Mediterranean and it was Mind Blowingly AWESOME!

One of the events on the ship was an On1 Vs. On2 Competition. Now, while this competition actually had nothing to do with Salsa, when teams were being formed you could clearly see a line being drawn – there were the On2 advocates and there were the On1 advocates and each team wanted to represent for their preferred style. This despite the fact that as I said, the actual events in the competition had nothing to do with Salsa. (Side Note – The On1 team (which I was part of) WON.)

Team On1 after beating Team On2

In the land of Salsa, you will definitely (if you have not already) come across the discussion (usually heated arguments) of On1 Vs. On2.

Now before we get into it, what is the difference between the two?

Well, depending on how much you know about salsa – you may know that there are many different styles of Salsa. The most popular of which is Cross Body style that has 2 predominant branches:

A. On1 is where the leader breaks (i.e. steps) forward with his left foot on the 1 beat of the music and is also commonly referred to as LA (Los Angeles) style.

B. On 2 Is where the leader breaks backward with his Right foot on the 2 beat of the music and is also referred to as NY (New York) style.

Now pattern wise, the styles are basically the same, there is however a slight change in timing and movement to the music.

So how did the battle of on 1 Vs. On2 come about?

Well it can be said that dancing On2 requires a much more attuned ear and ability to really listen to the music and find all 8 beats & as a result of the change of timing, it gives a slightly longer pause in certain sections which generally allows an extra beat to complete a move or for ladies styling. Additionally, as 1 is the easiest beat to find, some On2 dancers have gone on to classify anyone who is not dancing to the music as being in the on1 category. I think these are just some of the reasons why a number of On2 dancers have gone after the On1’ers’.

However, can someone who is not dancing to the beat really be called an On1 Dancer? A real On1 dancer, just like a real On2 dancer can hear all 8 beats of the music and will dance to the right beat at the right time.

NOW – Lets answer the question – Is anyone style better than the other? The Answer is – NO!

Why? Because it does not matter how Great a dancer is On1 or On2, somewhere out there is a Dancer who can dance them into oblivion with Patterns, Footwork, Timing & Musicality using the other beat! What actually makes a Great Dancer is being able to Dance both On1 and On2.

I think if you wanna argue about On1 Vs. On2, it should be about whether dancing On2 should be on music with a 2-3 Clave while dancing On1 should be with music on a 3-2 Clave… (If you have no idea what I am talking about here, go read my other post- musicality) But we will save that argument for another time.

Now this post definitely won’t end the debate about On1 Vs. On2! In-fact, it will probably fuel it. Why you may ask? Well everyone has a PREFERENCE. Its what makes us human – Our Diversity.
That being said, Salsa People have 1 thing in common above all else – PASSION.
They LOVE SALSA and are PASSIONATE about it.
Now where there is Passion -Preference becomes Belief!
As we all know – Differing Beliefs create Conflict.
So the battle of On1 Vs. On2 will continue as long there is Salsa in the World.

What I will say though is that we should all learn to respect both styles. If you are an up and coming or even established Salsero or Salsera -Why limit yourself? Learn to dance both On1 and On2. Have no illusion, it will be a challenge to learn to dance on a different beat and it will require patience. But not only will it make you a  better dancer and broaden your dancing experience , it will allow you to dance anywhere, anytime with absolutely anyone!

Ultimately, that’s what its all about! 😉

About Chilly

Causality - I believe for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cause and Effect. I am the cause - what will be the effect?
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7 Responses to On1 Vs. On2 …. FIGHT!

  1. Ikabot says:

    Hey Chilly

    The On2 scene is more about pretentious “artistic expression” than dancing. Dancers who say that they’re dancing On2 are often just dancing off beat and posing on the dancefloor. This is often accompanied by contrived “styling” that often ruins the feel of the dance.

    I enjoy the feel of the dance more than the spectacle of the thing. On1 or On2 have different feels and I enjoy them both.

    I invariably tend to dance On1 though, because most women in Cape Town are more comfortable with On1. I’ll opt to dance On2 when dancing with women like Ingrid Hansen, Salma Hayek, Catherine Wainwright, Lydia Maurer or Kim Solomon. They follow with telepathic understanding. This allows for serendipitous improvisations that no amount of “styling” can match.

    It’s really a religious argument though, and one that leads to bigotry. I’ve come across women who won’t dance with you unless you lead On2. That’s silly.

    I long for a return to innocence. There was a time when we used to join John Morrison and Nikos Politis at the KFC in Greenpoint and just dance. People don’t do enough of that anymore.

    • Regan says:

      Hey Isaac

      I take it you’re being sarcastic hey? 🙂

      There are many reasons why on2-ers don’t like dancing on1. One of them is that we prefer dancing “in” the music and not next to it. As the character of reggae music and cape jazz is on the 3rd beat, so the character of Salsa is on the 2nd beat.
      Besides this, there is the ages old Afro-Cuban philosophy to dance “en clave”, whether the musician plays it 2/3 or 3/2.

      The styling is as much a part of Salsa as the basic steps are. Imagine joining a band and being told that you weren’t allowed improvisation? Imagine becoming a painter and being told that colour usage was pretentious artistic expression?

      Salsa dancing is not just for men to throw out turns to a willing “follower” who obeys like a dog on a leash. Girls just wanna have fun, no?

      • Ikabot says:

        No. No sarcasm here. Just my honest opinion.

        Dancing On2 doesn’t make you dance any more “in” the music (whatever that means) than dancing On1. Someone with bad rhythm will dance badly whether they dance On1 or On2.

        I’m all for improvisation. What I’m not for is contrived “styling”; little ornamental movements that women start doing after they’ve been to “styling workshops”. It ruins them. They’re never the same after that. Their natural sense of grace is replaced by “styling”.

  2. Regan says:

    Nice one Chilly! I like your take on this ages old story.

    The best answer that I have heard is by Frankie Martinez. He is to those who don’t know, a living legend of Salsa dancing. He is also one of the most musical dancers and performers in the world today. The video clip is of poor quality and is also quite long, but it is from January 2011 and is a MUST SEE for anyone interested in real Salsa music and dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUgBiWcHKK8
    He also answers other very important questions related to the dance.

    To quote Mr. Martinez: “Dancing on1 needs no real understanding of the (Salsa) music; while dancing on2 does.”
    I therefore ask another question: What are we dancing to if not to the music, for surely there is no dance without music?

  3. Wow! Very interesting topic! It is like discussing religion and I do agree it often does lead to bigotry. I myself happen to be an On1er so maybe I’m biased. I didn’t choose to be that way, just like people don’t choose to be gay, but it just worked out that way. I try to connect to On2, but it just doesnt come to me like On1 does, but I don’t turn around and disrespect the dancing I see from On2ers. I am about to write a post myself on this topic. I honestly dont want to create controversy, I respect both sides of Salseros, I have to or else the Salsa scene will not grow and expand like I believe it should. Like Chilly said, it’s not about what style, its about the passion we all share. No matter what style you are dancing, because it goes WAY BEYOND On1 and On2, we are ALL dancers and should share that courtesy and respect for each other! I have nothing bad to say about On2ers except that there really is quite an unpleasant discriminatory attitude most On2ers share towards On1ers. It’s kinda funny, but it’s really not. We teach our kids not to be mean to each other, and not to sound like a whiney kid, but ya’ll On2ers are pretty snobby towards us On1ers. Anyways, with that said, Viva La Salsa por Siempre, No matter what style, form, or skill level!

  4. Pingback: On1 vs. On2 Salseros | Danzcera Elena

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