Cuban Salsa: the back-to-back turn

The back-to-back turn, also called the barrel turn, is not that common in Cuban Salsa but we have it in moves like Siete Loco and A Bayamo por Arriba. The Lead is of cause free to add it to almost any other sequence of moves. I like it a lot when done slowly using a full eight count for the turn, and I use it in almost every social dance.

The back-to-back turn uses basic steps on the spot, Giro style. The Lead turns left and the Follow right simultaneously. Because it only uses basic steps on the spot, the back-to-back turn can be done with little prepping. The Follow is simply lead into the move as it happens by hand and body motion.

Back-to-back with or without endings

The back-to-back turn is often made more difficult than necessary by adding and extra ending to the end of the turn. The extra ending could be an Alarde to the Follow on 7-8 or the classical ending of Sombrero taking even longer. Both extra endings, but especially the Sombrero, takes precious time from the turn itself. We must simply rush it, making it more difficult to lead.

Back-to-back with endings

Doing the back-to-back turn with an additional ending works if the Follow is a partner or she is used to do it that way. But it easily goes wrong in social dancing with the average Follow unless the Lead is really up to the task of leading it. Most Follows rarely experience a back-to-back turn. They often have no clue about how to do it.

It is my experience that the Lead must start the Follow’s part of the turn rather forcefully, if she is not used to it, and then add his own part of the turn a split second later, when the Follow is already in motion.

Video 1 from “”, 2014, shows a very common way to do the back-to-back turn. The video is titled Bayamo por Matanzas but I recommend to call the figure A Bayamo por Arriba as explained in my tutorial about that move:

Same Video on YouTube

In the above video it is obvious that because of the Sombrero ending, there is very little time to do the back-to-back turn in a relaxed manner. Too much of the eight count is needed for the ending. Because you must rush the turn, it becomes more difficult to lead and less fun.

Back to back using a full eight count

There are two good ways of doing it using a full eight count for the turn. The best way with a weak Follow 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 Video 2 from Mexican “Salsafición”, 2018, 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 on YouTube

The advanced version, which I always use, also with beginners, starts like the versions using the 5-6-7 not just to end the turn but also to add an extra Alarde or Sombrero ending. But since the Lead has a full eight-count to do just the turn, it can be done slowly and intimate, looking into the Follow’s eyes over the shoulder. The Follow is lead into the turn with little prepping but 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.

Video 3 features Yuleisy C. Rojas as Lead. Note that the back-to-back turn alone takes up a full eight-count, and that an Enchufla has been added in between the back-to-back turn and the Sombrero ending:

Same video at

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s