The Secret of Salsa

The Secret of Salsa
IMG_2225 (2)

Author: Harrison Baer

June 21st, 2024

Camperdown Plaza, Greenville

Temperature – Low 90s

Let’s not kid ourselves. A typical sunny summer day in Greenville is miserable. We Greenvillians suffer in one way or another. All of us are sweaty, sticky, and dehydrated thanks to the blistering heat. Yet, last week, well over a thousand courageous souls gathered at Camperdown Plaza for Salsa at Sunset. They partied, danced, and smiled in weather widely regarded as….how should I put this… challenging? Intolerable? Unbearable? These people WILLINGLY subjected themselves to this feverish weather, yet somehow, they enjoyed it. Why?

Those who danced the night away June 21st had zero regrets. A staggering 73/75 of our survey respondents answered ‘Yes’ when asked if they would return to Salsa at Sunset at a future date. As for the two sticklers who threw me ‘No’, they still rated the event a perfect 5/5. Perhaps they don’t like having fun? 

Anyway, the point is clear: People LOVED Salsa at Sunset. They ate it up. It’s exploding on Myspace, being hailed as “the hit of the decade.” One person claimed “It was more exhilarating than my wedding and the birth of my first child COMBINED!” While this sentiment might be fabricated by yours truly, many Salsa at Sunset fans have shared similar compliments. “It’s my favorite event of the year in Greenville ” and “We always wait to come back to sweat and dance” were two of my favorites. These uplifting remarks piqued my curiosity, setting in motion my own investigation to uncover the magic behind South Carolina’s hottest summer night.

The beginning of my exploration was disappointing to say the least. I cut off my hour-long google search after I typed “Why do people like to dance” into the search bar. Really Harrison? Quite appalling for a 21 year old, but sadly, those who know me would not be surprised. Pardon me, I digress. 

My trail had gone cold, and my anxiety rose. There had to be an answer. I was not going to write a superficial, lazy blog that ends with “the secret to salsa is in your heart blah blah blah.” I decided to delve deep into the photo album of our event for inspiration. I found my breakthrough halfway through the folder. Take a look – 

Upon first glance, this photo is not impressive. The boy’s eyes are closed, and I had to crop the top of the photo because the women in the background were not in their best moment. But let’s focus on the happy couple. Try to spot ONE similarity between the two of them. The girl smiles directly at the camera, while the boy meditates. One has brown hair, the other has black. She wears a tie-dye shirt; he sports neon green. Sneakers vs. sandals. One is white, the other is Hispanic.

However, there is a subtle similarity here. Look at their hands. Aw so cute! Look closer. On the front she is holding his hand, and behind he holds hers. Both of them want to hold each other’s hand. Here’s where it gets good.

By no means am I a history fanatic, but understanding the nitty-gritty origins of Salsa is important – Modern salsa was birthed in the early 20th century when Cuban artists began producing records in this style. However the dance’s roots date back to the 1500s during the Atlantic slave trade. There were three main contributing factors that created Salsa. First was from the indigenous people of the Caribbean, the Taino. Their music featured wooden drums, rattles (similar to maracas), bells, and whistles—many of which are still used in Salsa music today. Second, the Spanish conquerors introduced partner dancing, specifically the waltz, characterized by stiff posture and linear movements. The final ingredient comes from African slaves, who, unlike in the United States, were allowed to preserve their cultural heritage in the Caribbean. Their dance favored curved shapes, and movement of the hip and body. Over hundreds of years, these various techniques fused into the vibrant Salsa dance we know today. 

Acceptance, appreciation, and admiration for the uniqueness of each other’s traditions transcended the gaping division between people of separate heritage. Salsa is one of the purest representations of how, despite all our differences, humanity is connected. We are unified by a love for dance and music.

Today, Greenville smiles, dances, and celebrates its diversity. You want to know the Secret of Salsa? Dance in the shower. Explore a foreign town. Befriend those who look, believe, and speak differently from you. Treat them with respect and open arms. Listen and learn. The secret of Salsa is it at the tips of your fingers.

More To Explore

Jul 11, 2024
Fortunate Misfortune: An Anecdote From Chichester, England
Categories: Blog Posts
View →
Jun 13, 2024
Empowering Change: How a Clemson University Student Organization is Bringing Clean Water to the Ecuadorian Amazon
Categories: Blog Posts
View →

Share This Post

Sign Up to Stay in Touch!

Thanks for your interest in joining our mailing list.

Please complete the information below and click Sign Up.

All fields are required.