Cuban Salsa: Abanico

Abanico (Fan) is a great intermediate move and everybody seems to agree about the name and the basic figure. The short version of the move is not that interesting on its own but the extended version, sometimes called Abanico con Giro, is one of my favorites. The following is a tutorial about all you have ever wanted to know about Abanico.

1. The basic Abanico

The basic version of Abanico is just an almost Sombrero followed by a Dile Que Si type of turn on 1-2-3 to get out of the Sombrero, followed by leader’s hook turn on 5-6-7. During the hook turn leader goes under his own right arm or (not that common variation) just switches hands behind the back.

The Abanico, version A, from the Salsa Lovers DVD is not perfect when it comes to the footwork, but it has some ok instructions and gives a good first impression of the move.  Note how short it is: You end up in Guepea and back rocking even skipping Dile Que No before you have almost started!

Also pay attention to the following crucial point, when you watch the video. Abanico does not start with Sombrero but with an almost Sombrero! The video is wrong by showing the first eight count as a full Sombrero. The follower’s left hand must not end up on leader’s left shoulder for Abanico to work. The prep for Abanico is for leader to drop follower’s left hand when it is behind the neck.

The video from Media Noche shows Abanico variation B, not that common. The leader does not go under own right arm when doing the hook turn. Instead, when getting out of the almost Sombrero, the leader continues the Dile Que Si type of turn placing follower’s right hand into own left hand, followed by the hook turn.

In the “Norwegian Rueda Standard” video, Abanico is shown as used in a Rueda de Casino. Note the variation adding an Enchufla, version C, at the end to make Dame in a Rueda more natural or a Dile Que No in social dancing.

Abanico is a good figure to teach at intermediate level because it is not that easy to get out of a Sombrero with grace, and we have so many good figures starting with Sombrero.

Surprisingly many salsa leaders never make it to master just one or two figures starting with Sombrero. We have many figures ending with Sombrero so it is handy to continue with a figure that starts with Sombrero to get a better flow into the dance.

2. Abanico con Giro

The problem with the basic Abanico is that it screams for something more. It is simply too short. So why not extend Abanico with a few more turns to make it a more complete figure worthy to be used at any level?

The extended version is normally also just called Abanico. The great Cuban Salsa App, “Salsa Steps”, calls it Abanico con Giro. In my opinion it is wrong to call it Abanico Complicado. There are many very different versions out there using the Complicado suffix.

The next video is from Salsagaia, featuring Cristiana Zavarone and Elina De Simonis. A very great video with instructions in Italiano. Amazing how easy it is to make sense of a language, you don’t know, if you know what they are talking about, and when the hands do much of the talking!

The next video, one of my favorite one move salsa videos, is from, featuring Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and an unknown follower. Please see the video until the end. Piotr is so inspiring when he plays with different ways to enhance the end of the move.

Cuban Salsa doesn’t get any better than Piotr Agassi Chajkowski except when you are out social dancing yourself.

3. How to lead Abanico

Abanico is a good example of a move that doesn’t work in social dancing until the leader learns to lead it well. I learned the basic Abanico in a class at Improver-Intermediate level but never got it working in social dancing and lost interest.

When I stumbled upon the two great videos with the extended version of Abanico, adding Enchufla and one more hook turn, I instantly fell in love with it and decided to give it a try at my next social dancing.

I was in for a big surprise! I failed the move 10 times with 10 different followers! When I came home, I looked at the videos again to find out what went wrong. I didn’t lead it!

Abanico starts with an almost Sombrero, and Sombrero is a difficult move for beginners when putting the hat on. Both dancers easily get a little off balance and have to support one another.

It is also deeply entranced in our body memory to do Sombrero followed by mambo steps before getting out of the hat and into Dile Que No. That is why, it is so important never to do the full Sombrero as start of the Abanico. If you do, you get locked in and there is no chance of an Abanico.

The lead must prep the follow and drop her left hand long time before it lands on and sticks to the left shoulder as in a Sombrero. The leader must prep by dropping the follower’s left hand when it is behind the neck. The follow should read this and immediately bring her arm down by the side to her left hip to avoid being locked in.

With a very weak follow, it can be necessary to drop her left hand in mid air before it is behind leader’s head to prevent it from ever reaching the left shoulder of the lead.

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