Welcome! Our list is based on a combination of social dancing skill and performance ability. Being a great Salsa/Mambo dancer is much more than performing the mechanics of the dance, and being able to do 1000 turn patterns…it also means having an emotional connection to the music, and effectively communicating those feelings to your dance partner or audience through body movement. The individuals on our list are dancers that we would pay money to watch dance. And we don’t mean at a congress or event where EVERYBODY and their mama gets to perform. True salseros understand what we’re saying. We know that there is no “best” salsa dancer and that dancing (much like art and beauty) is subjective.
Before we begin let me say that Eddie Torres will not be included in the list. He is a Hall Of Famer. There is no ‘Best Salsa Dancer’ list without Mr. Torres. Mambo/salsa would not exist in its current form without his revolutionary teaching methodology. In his prime Mr. Torres was indeed “The Mambo King”. In his Golden Years Mr. Torres is still “The Mambo King”. The dancers below are pushing boundaries and trying to take mambo/salsa to a different level and broadening horizons.
10. Johnny Vazquez – A legend who is synonymous with “LA On1” style. Part of the famed Vazquez brothers who helped shape an entire generation of “On1” salsa dancers. Performance wise…he’s fearless. He combines an immense amount of salsa talent with creative routines.
9. Oliver Pineda – Effortless. He glides across the floor as if its a sheet of ice…He could be the Frank Sinatra of salsa. He always seems to dance with a slight smile on his face, and is in complete control. Oliver makes social dances look like practiced performances. He could probably dance with a martini in his hand and not spill a drop ala “Old Blue Eyes” himself.
8. Leon Rose – Sophisticated style. Leon frequently incorporates elements of jazz dance into his performances that give his shows a mature aesthetic and feel. Leon’s classy, ‘grown up’ persona lend itself well in festival performances where his skills as a choreographer enable him to properly showcase his immense mambo talent. His shows are always original and fresh, and don’t feel like the same salsa routines repackaged by uninspired salseros.
7. Shaka Brown – Suave. Laid back. Shaka seems to periodically dance in slow-motion, which some critics deem as boring…but that is the brilliance of it. He makes it look easy when the lead or footwork he may be executing is really quite complicated. The smoothness lets us appreciate the crisp shines, and musicality that he displays while social dancing or performing…but don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Shaka is a bad man. (Bad meaning good. Ha.)
6. Al “Liquid Silver” Espinoza. Fun. Entertaining. New. Different! An amazing salsa dancer who produces very unique shows, and brings it every time. When we figure out why his nickname is “Liquid Silver” we’ll let you know.
5. Terry “SalsAlianza” Tauliaut – Ever walk into a salsa club, see someone dancing, and say to yourself…’I wish my dance vibe was as cool as that guy?” If so, you were probably watching Terry Tauliaut dance. An incredibly talented dancer and performer who has the look of an ultra-cool 70’s soul-brotha…from France. It’s as if salsa is the ever present soundtrack to his life, and he’s simply reacting the rhythm of his world. This man has what our loveable youth call, “swag”. Salsa swag. He’s the Samuel L. Jackson of salsa. SalsAlianza is the name of his dance studio.
4. Adolfo Indacochea – Born dancer. Adolfo is mambo magician who doesn’t need a dance partner to help him unleash his tricks. He can do that all by himself. His technical ability and footwork are second to none and he can carry a performance all by himself. Yes, Adolfo is a great social dancer with unlimited moves and a clear lead…but some of the work he’s done on stage (with Juan Matos in particular) is a sight to behold.
3. Frankie Martinez – Some call him arrogant. Most say he’s a nice guy. Whatever your opinion of his persona, Frankie Martinez is a fearless dancer with impeccable, precise footwork, and trained body movement. He has a very unique ability to combine other forms of dance with his mambo shines that almost make it seem he isn’t dancing mambo at all. Much like the others at the top of the list, Frankie is not afraid to take risks and incorporate other dance styles into his performances. His solo mambo performances are a pleasure to watch.
2. Gordon Neil – Gordon is a “dancers dancer” and a true professional of the craft. He is one of the most well respected individuals in latin dancing by the ‘salsa elite’. Period. His improvisation and social dancing skills alone would be enough to put him on our list, but his performances are what set him apart. Passionate. Soulful. Challenging. Mr. Neil doesn’t waste your time when he’s on stage. He holds himself to very high standards and expects the same of others who deem themselves ‘dance professionals’.
1. Juan “Pachanga” Matos – One of a kind. You will never say to yourself, “He dances like…” or mistake Matos for another dancer. His style and charisma separate him for cookie cutter salseros (like many of us at DancePlanetDaily.com. Ha.) He dances with an incredible amount of energy, pizzazz, flair, and power. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s dancing. Your eyeballs may get tired after watching one of his performances, but he’ll inspire you to improve your dancing…or at the very least step out of you comfort zone and try something new. He is the innovator of Pachanga and a true showmen. Juan gets our vote for #1.
The Next 10: Sekou McMiller, Milton Cobo, Franklin Diaz, Alex Dasilva, Ismael Otero, Andres Giraldo, Felipe Polanco, Jayson Molina and Luis Aguilar. Who are your favorites…? Let us know!
Take a look at our list of favorite salseras! Top 10 Female Salsa/Mambo Dancers
Also take a peak at our readers favorites for “The List That We Missed”! Readers Favorite Salsa/Mambo Dancers!