Before the first sensuous drop of a shoulder or skirt-snapping turn, there is the dancer's Attitude. "Salsa dancing is about partnering, about male and female roles," says Robby Rosa, star of the recently released movie "Salsa." Adds co-star Valente Rodriguez: "You raise your chin, you straighten your back. It's a feeling that comes over you." Salsa--a swirling amalgam of cha-cha, samba, mambo and more--has been heating up the L.A. club scene for at least 45 years. Today, with down-and-dirty moves borrowed from jazz, disco and freestyle rock, salsa is even hotter. Not surprisingly, the fashions that the "Salsa" cast wears here make strong statements about masculinity and femininity. They reflect trends that peppered European spring collections: plunging necklines and tight-waisted, full skirts influenced by Latin folklore and the movie "La Bamba." For men, the look can be an embroidered ribbon-front shirt or spencer-style tux jacket. "Unisex," says co-star Angela Alvarado, "has no place on the dance floor." Moon Orona, another co-star, adds: "Elsewhere, men and women are equal, but on the dance floor the man leads ." "It's very intimate and romantic," says Magali Garcia, who plays Rosa's sister in the film. "I'm amazed there are still some people who don't touch-dance."
Photographed by Wayne Stambler / Onyx; hair by John Keoni/Cloutier; makeup by Carol Shaw/Cloutier; styling by Joanna Dendel; photographed at Rebecca's restaurant, Venice; all earrings from American Rag, Los Angeles