Cuban Salsa: Bayamo por Arriba con Vacilala

Bayamo por Arriba (up) is a good name because it reminds us that the Lead must keep both hands high, and over his head, as the Follow is lead behind his back. Unfortunately we have three different variations called Bayamo por Arriba. The first part of the move is the same, only the ending differs.

It is also confusing that Bayamo por Arriba is sometimes called Bayamo por Matanzas or just Matanzas. Matanzas is another city in Cuba. Please drop this Matanzas in order to make things easier for all of us. “Bayamo” is a family of moves with more that ten good members. All moves in that family should use “Bayamo” as part of the name.

I propose to name the “por Arriba” moves like this:

  1. Bayamo por Arriba “back-to-back”
  2. Bayamo por Arriba con Alarde
  3. Bayamo por Arriba con Vacilala

In this tutorial, we only focus on Bayamo por Arriba con Vacilala (two handed).

Video 1 is from “DanceDifferent”, Prague, Czech Republic, 2017. They now link to a new “better” version, but this old one is a hundred times better.

Same DanceDifferent Video on YouTube

Video 2 is from “Salsa4Water”, UK, 2013, featuring Sam and Krista.

Same Salsa4Water Video on YouTube

Video 3 is from “StrictlySalsa”, Glascow, Scotland, 2007, featuring Chris Traynor and Geri Coiro.

Same StrictlySalsa Video on YouTube

Two handed Vacilala

Two handed Vacilala is not easy. The Lead must keep both the Follow’s hands close together or use one hand, as I often do, for both her hands. It takes training to lead the Follow forward in a way that looks and feels natural. And if the Follow is not used to two handed Vacilala, she easily fails to walk proper Vacilala steps.

All three Leads in the videos are very good, each with their own sub-style. “DanceDifferent” has an extra flavour to it, that often inspires me: playful, music driven and just looking NATURAL.

Vacilalas steps

Only in the first video do we see an attempt, and it could have been better, at walking proper Vacilala steps, turning a full 360 degree walking turn on 1-2-3, and just continuing walking forward on 5-6-7. In video 2 and 3 the Follows only turn 180 degrees or a little more on 1-2-3, but use step 5 to complete the full 360 degree turn. This is “mediocre” dancing.

The Vacilala in video 2 and 3 is the so-called EASY Vacilala, named that way because any Follow can walk it without training or it only takes a minute to learn it. The “easy” Vacilala works ok hand-free, but in all hand-held Vacilala moves, the Lead expects that a Follow can turn 360 degree on 1-2-3 as well as on 5-6-7. A Follow using step 5 for the first turn cannot also do a perfect walking turn on 5-6-7. The Lead will experience such a Follow as “heavy” in the first turn, she doesn’t come all the way around, it is like there is sand in the machinery. I only serve such Follows intermediate moves.

A Follow should always aim at proper Vacilala steps, walking a full 360 degree turn on 1-2-3, giving her the opportunity to walk one more full 360 degree turn on 5-6-7, when the situation is right. It must be her “modus operandi”, if she is ever going to walk full turns as expected in handheld moves, on 1-2-3 as well as on 5-6-7.

The easy hand-free Vacilala, turning less than 360 degrees on 1-2-3, is only legitimate in an emergency: If the Follow is tired, if she has a knee problem, if she was too late for stepping Vacilala properly, if she is dancing with bare feet in sand or on broken glass or in some situations where dance shoes or surface are not optimal.

In hand-held figures requiring Vacilala steps, a Follow must always expect to be lead into full 360 degree turns on 1-2-3 and/or on 5-6-7, unless the Lead has already figures out that the Follow is not capable of walking full turns.

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