Cuban Salsa: the back-to-back turn

The back-to-back turn, also called the barrel turn, is done on 1-2-3 in many Cuban Salsa videos, and that is flat wrong. The back-to-back turn is used in common moves like Siete Loco and A Bayamo por Arriba. The barrel turn is such a lovely turn when done right, that it ought to be used at least once in almost any dance.

In the video from the “Norwegian Rueda Standard”, today called the “”, they do the barrel turn on 1-2-3:

Same video at YouTube: Back-to-back turn on 1-2-3.

The right or left turn, Vuelta for the lady, must have proper preparation on 1-2-3, and the turn comes on 5-6-7. This is necessary for the Follow to step her Vuelta steps. The Lead, on the other hand, can turn on 1-2-3 because he knows what is coming, he owns the turn, he doesn’t need preparation.

By this logic, a Lead can do his part of the back-to-back turn on 1-2-3 and he can of course force the Follow around with him. In theory it works for the Follow because the back-to-back turn is not using Vuelta steps but Giro steps: basic steps on the spot in a turning fashion, as we know it from turning in closed position, and from some versions of Dile Que Si.

The back-to-back turn also works on 1-2-3 for the Follow if she is used to do the turn that way, and if it is called in a Rueda or by an instructor in class acting as a substitute for preparation: she hears it being announced.

A back-to-back turn on 1-2-3 also works in social dancing if the Follow is doing it so often that she can imply that the turn is coming from the context, that is if the turn is in the forefront of her muscle memory. But this is not how Cuban Salsa is supposed to work. We want it to be a leadable dance with as few exceptions as possible.

How to prep a back-to-back

There are two good ways. The most correct way is to make the leading explicit and clear. The Lead simply opens up and tap on 8, then swings the hands left-right-left on 1-2-3 as preparation for the turn itself on 5-6-7.

In the video from Mexican “Salsafición”, the back-to-back turn has proper preparation on 1-2-3, and the turn is on 5-6-7. Note that they call the back-to-back turn for Vuelta Ambos (ambos = both):

Same video at YouTube: Back-to-back turn using full eight-count. Prep on 1-2-3.

The advanced version, which I always use, also with beginners, starts like the wrong version on 1-2-3, but since the Lead has a full eight-count to do the move, it can be done slowly and intimate, looking into the Follow’s eyes over the shoulder. The Follow is turned without prepping but just like for any Giro turn and some versions of Dile Que Si, it works because the slow turning pushes the Follow around naturally, and she just has to do basic steps on the spot as she turns.

The next video features one of my Cuban Salsa instructors, Yuleisy C. Rojas. Note that the back-to-back turn is prolonged, taking a full eight-count:

Same video at website:
Back-to-back turn using eight-count. Note that there is no prep, but since the turn use a full eight-count, it works well with any Follow.

Switching to the eight-count

If you are doing the back-to-back turn the wrong way on 1-2-3 in moves like Siete Loco and A Bayamo por Arriba, I strongly recommend to switch to the correct version using a full eight count. Correct in the sense that it is leadable with any Follow and with the extra benefit of being much more fun and intimate.

For the full eight-count to work, you must change what comes next in the moves where you have previously done the 1-2-3 version. In both moves mentioned above, you simply follow up with a two handed Enchufla on 1-2-3 and then you can do the traditional ending of the move, you are used to.

X-Body Salsa

So far we have seen the barrel turn as part of a longer move. But we can start the barrel turn from anywhere in a dance like from Guapea and Dile Que No. In X-Body Salsa it is common to add a barrel turn to Cross Body Lead, where the turn naturally fits in on 5-6-7 with proper prepping done with hand and feet positioning.

In advanced X-Body salsa barrel turns can also be made to work on 1-2-3 because, unlike Cuban Salsa, the end of a previous move, in this case a swing motion, can act as preparation for the next move.

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