The Difference Between On 1 and On 2 Salsa Timing

In Salsa On 1 specifically, the basic step is done to a quick-quick-quick (slow), quick-quick-quick (slow) rhythm on beats 1-2-3, 5-6-7 of two four count bars equal an 8 count phrase. On beats 4 and 8, no additional steps are taken (pauses, transitions steps, or bridges between the bars). That’s why counts 4 and 8 are considered the “slow” portion of Salsa rhythm. Where the “slow (pauses)” fit in the basic step is what sets On1 and On2 Salsa apart.

The feel of dancing salsa On 1 differs from On 2 because of where the “slow” count lies
Put simply, On 1 feels faster and more staccato, whereas On 2 feels more laid back and smooth.
Why, you ask?

First there are two primary Salsa claves 2-3 (2,3 - 5,6,7) and 3-2 (1,2,3 - 6,7)
To answer that, you need to understand a few fundamental facts about how salsa is structured:
A bar in music is 1,2,3,4.  In Salsa we dance on 3 of the four counts in a bar and pause on the fourth (unless we're doing specific steps that incorporate all four counts).

When you string two bars together 1-2-3, 5-6-7 in dance it's a phrase.  Musicians count differently than we do.  They count: 1,2,3,4; 2,2,3,4; 3,2,3,4; 4,2,3,4 ... but I digress.

Salsa On 1's staccato feel comes from this: quick, quick, quick, slow (pause - transition) quick, quick, quick, slow (pause - transition), repeat
Dancing Salsa On 1 feels faster because the slow counts fall immediately before the breaking steps.

Salsa On 2's less staccato feel comes from a quick, slow (pause), quick, quick, slow (pause - transition) quick, slow (pause), quick, quick, slow (pause - transition) repeat

Remember these important points:
- When dancing On 1, your breaking steps are on the 1 and the 5
- When dancing On 2, your breaking steps are on the 2 and the 6
- On 1 and On 2 look and feel different because of where the slow count lies
- On 2 timing feels smoother because you feel as though you have more time
- On 1 timing connects more to the phrasing and melody in some of the music
- On 2 timing connects more to the instruments in the music
You can dance On 2 a few different ways depending on which instruments are prominent
The timing you choose to dance on is just a preference, neither is better than the other!

Once you see different styles of salsa danced, you'll start to notice the variations between them. New York style salsa has an elegant, flowing look to it, and it is less percussive (ballistic) in the movement quality than other styles like LA salsa. It is also danced in a "slotted" or linear layout, as opposed to circular patterns you might see in Cuba or Colombia. Dancers tend to hold their space on the floor more tightly than in other locales, perhaps due to the limited size of the clubs in which New York style was first danced.

Be open minded, educate yourself and experience the different timings for yourself, then decide which one you enjoy more. An incredible world of music and dance awaits!

Salsa and other Latin Dance Instruction in Stratford

1418 Barnum Avenue, 2nd Floor

Stratford, CT 06614



Salsa On 1 - Partnerwork and Shines
6:00 - 7:00 pm
Salsa On 2 - Partnerwork and Shines

7:10 - 8:10 pm

Salsa On 2 - Partnerwork and Shines
4:00 - 5:00 pm
Salsa On 1 - Partnerwork and Shines
5:10 - 6:10 pm


​Salsa and other Latin Dance Instruction in Orange​
163 Boston Post Rd (behind the store)
Orange, CT 06477

Salsa On 1 - Partnerwork and Shines 
6:00 - 7:00 pm


Baila Conmigo - Connecticut Salsa and other Latin Dance Instruction

(203) 209-3542

  salsa dance LESSOnS​​ IN CONNECTICUT