Salsa vs Samba: What They Are and Their Main Differences

People often confuse samba with salsa and salsa with samba. This is pretty understandable as both are a kind of dance that also happens to sound similar. Some don't know the difference between samba and salsa though and it would do them well if they are aware as the two vary differently when it comes to manner of dancing, styles, techniques, and more. Knowing the difference between the two is essential if you’re a dancer.

We understand why there could be confusion. For starters, Salsa combines the style and passion of African and European traditional dances while Samba is also a mix of European and African cultural dances. Both seamlessly combined the same different dancing styles and cultures. But what you need to remember though, for starters at least, is that Samba is the one that is very popular in Brazil. It is, in fact, Brazil’s national dance. This is why Samba dancers are pretty common during Brazilian carnivals.

Salsa on the other hand is more popular in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the USA. Many dance contestants in such countries use Salsa steps in their performances.

Salsa: what is it?

Salsa has its origins in the Caribbean. One thing that you should know about Salsa is it is a kind of dance that is normally not practiced solo. It is commonly practiced in pairs or in groups. This is the very thing that makes salsa looks gorgeous - the harmonized passionate movement of different pairs. Salsa is also a kind of dance that is very particular when it comes to its music. It is very strict when it comes to the music that can accompany the dance. This makes Salsa more organized and particular than Samba.

Samba: what is it?

Samba originated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It integrates both European and African dances. It is believed that it was the African slaves who were brought into Brazil who actually created this dance style. The little-by-little mix of African dances to European dances that were then popular in Brazil resulted in today’s samba. Samba is said to come from the Portuguese word that means ‘to dance in rhythm.” Unlike salsa, samba can be practiced and danced solo. Samba is also not strict when it comes to the music that can accompany the dance. 

The Main Differences Between Salsa and Samba

You simply need to take note of the following if you want to fully know the differences between samba and salsa:

1. Remember that of the two, it is Salsa that is a couple dance. 

You will always need a partner if you want to dance Salsa. Apart from being in partners, Salsa can also be danced with a group. Meanwhile, Samba is mainly a solo dance. You can dance the samba even if you’re on your own or if you’re with a partner. 

2. Samba is open to freestyle dancing and free-form techniques.

Dancing the Samba will not require you to strictly adhere to particular dance rules. You can simply follow the rhythm of any music that you are dancing to. Also, you won’t be limited at all when it comes to your choice of music. Salsa though is very strict. It has to be danced to a particular kind of music that is specially made for Salsa. It also has particular dance rules.

3. Salsa is more structured.

Salsa is not something that you can freestyle your way around. Some rules need to be followed and strict forms and styles to adhere to. This is in line with the strict rule that Salsa can only be danced to a particular kind of music. This is not the case with Samba. With Samba, you’re very free to follow the rhythm of the music without feeling limited and structured. And as to the music, you can pretty much play any kind of music that you want to dance the Samba to.

4. Salsa has particular steps.

Dancing Salsa will require you to be familiar with basic steps. You need to know basic traditional steps to follow the strict form and techniques in Salsa. You can’t dance Salsa spontaneously. You would need preparation. This is not the case with Samba as you can dance it at pretty much any time without the need for preparation. You can dance the Samba spontaneously as you need not adhere to strict steps and forms.

5. Samba is from Brazil.

When all else fails, just always remember that of those two, it is Samba that is from Brazil. Samba is the one that is popular in Brazilian festivals and events. Samba is inherently part of Brazilian culture. Salsa on the other hand is more popular in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. It originated from the Caribbean and people who want to dance to it need to adhere to particular rules. Samba is more free form while Salsa is more organized.

May it be that you prefer Salsa over Samba or the other way around, there is no denying that the two kinds of dances are forever here to stay. Both speak so much of the cultures that they integrated. Dancing both kinds of dances is a loud celebration of humanity’s creativity, diversity, and inherent need for joyful expression. May it be Salsa or Samba that you prefer, what is important is the fact that you love dancing and that you keep on dancing!