HORSEHEADS, N.Y (WENY) -- Salsa is among one of the most popular dances in the Latino culture and has different variations from country to country. However, the music form and dance originates from the small island of Cuba, formerly known as “Son Cubano” says Michael Luis Ristorucci, a salsa dance instructor for Cornell University and Salsa Ithaca.  

“The music form developed in Cuba, and it was spread throughout the world, through the travel of Cuban musicians, and it adopted its own flavor in different countries in the United States between the Puerto Rican and Latino diaspora, and then salsa in its own way in the in the 1960s. And wherever you go in the world, salsa has its own name, has a history that builds off Cuban rhythm and the Son Clave.” 

It wasn’t until the 1960s that Son Cubano quickly transformed into what we know today as salsa in the western world through the influence of Latin singers Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, and Hector Lavoe, who all joined Fania Records in New York City. The record label, founded in 1964 by American businessman Jerry Massucci and Dominican musician Johnny Pacheco, became the catapult of the Cuban inspired music. 

“They made big advances in spreading salsa in the 1960s and 1970s up until today. And its interaction with jazz and Latin jazz and other genres that had come before it through the diaspora, through the traveling diaspora of Cubans and other Caribbeans in the 1930s, where you had dance crazes such as the Rumba and the Mambo, you had the Boogaloo,” Ristorucci added “these traditions, they kind of meld and salsa was a way of at first marketing Cuban and Caribbean music to a wider public.” 

Ristorucci, who has been a local dance teacher in the Finger Lakes for over 18 years, says salsa has played a large part in his life growing up in New York City with his Puerto Rican roots.  

“When I was a child, I first became inspired by Latin music and the Puerto Rican Day festivals in New York City. And at that time, I didn't know how to dance it. And it was the first time that I saw live salsa played. And so, you know, I started learning. And here I am. It's an interesting role.” 

The Nuyorican dancer decided to take the momentum of where he was growing up to learn the dance later in his life.  

“I started learning salsa in my late adolescent and early adult years. So it's something that, you know, most people, when they when they get into it in a partner social form, they do it a little later on.” 

Now, Ristorucci is a contributor to the Latin dance community scene by teaching and hosting workshops and events for community members to participate with Salsa Ithaca.  

The organization hosts events every week that are tailored to beginners and intermediate dancers. Their next event is on Oct. 1st for Salsa Sunday Cruise, information to purchase tickets can be found on the website or visiting their Facebook page.  Following that event will also be a beginner salsa series for 5 weeks, starting at Island Health and Fitness Oct. 19th. 

There will also be a Latin Dance Open House at Center Ithaca, in the Atrium, on Monday Nov. 6th that runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There will be a beginner workshop of four Latin dances including food and beverage for anyone interested to learn.