Cuban Salsa: Giro turns

Giro just means turn and the term is often used with that broad meaning. But sometimes Giro is used for a subset of turns or incremental turning. So pay attention. There is no consistent use of the term Giro in Cuban Salsa but it ought to be used with a special meaning.

We have turning in the form of Vacilala steps, and we have the traditional right or left turn called Vuelta using special steps. The special steps demand proper prepping on 1-2-3, and the turning takes place on 5-6-7 for the right turn (very common), and on 5-6-7-1-2-3 for the left turn (rare in Cuban Salsa). We also have the Siete (Panqué) half turn, which I regard as abruptly stopped Vacilala steps: the Follow is only turning 180 degree on 1-2-3.

In my opinion, we should reserve the Giro term for a subset of turns not being Vacilala steps or Vuelta right or left turn. Giro turns are characterized by not using special steps but just using basic steps in a turning fashion on the spot or walking. For that reason, very little prepping is needed, the Follow is simply let into the turn as it takes place.

Giro turns can be incremental, turning slowly, using several counts of eight to do 360 degrees or one can do 360 degrees with just one count of 1-2-3 or 5-6-7. The Giro term should be reserved for three types of turns: 1) In closed position (more or less on the spot), 2) In open position (on the spot or walking), 3) when giving extra turns for the first part of Vacilala or for the 5-6-7 part of the Vuelta turn.

In the following video from Mexican “Salsafición” they distinguish between Vuelta and Giro turns:

Same Video on YouTube

Closed Position

In closed position it is very common to turn more or less on the spot typically using a full eight-count or more to do a full 360 degree turn but exactly how fast we turn depends on mood, music and situation. When turning to the right the Lead will normally start on 5 and when turning left, the Lead will normally start on 1. But the opposite also works, it is a matter of personal preference.

Giro turning is also common in many moves like in Setenta y Dos con Giro, where the Giro part is so popular that many people think it is implied in Setenta y Dos. It is also common to use Giro after Dile Que Si bringing the Follow into closed position. In that case, depending on the music, the Giro turning can be very fast and dynamic.

In the following French video from “Salsa Academy” Setenta y Dos ends with Giro turning:

Same Video on YouTube

Open Position

Giro is also the correct term for a full more or less on the spot three step right or left turn on 1-2-3 or on 5-6-7. There is no preparation for the Follow except that she is “forced” into the turn by arm and body motion, simply twisted around, and it works because it is more or less on the spot and because no special steps are needed. The stepping can be like a spin or catching up with the motion by stepping.

In almost every dance I turn the Follow around with both hands above her head on the spot on 1-2-3 and again on 5-6-7. And also in almost every dance with strong Follows, I turn them around walking, many times over several counts of eight, if I know they can stomach it.

Extra turn

When doing a Vuelta right turn with proper lead on 1-2-3 and the turn on 5-6-7, it is common to make the Follow turn twice doing two (or even more) 360 degrees turns on the 5-6-7 count. Normally we just say that it is a Vuelta doble, but the extra turn could be regarded as a Giro turn. The original lead will tell the Follow to turn more than once.

The same is true for the first 1-2-3 count of the Vacilala steps, when an extra turn is added. That is common for the start of El Dedo, a hand held Vacilala, most often done with the Lead’s right hand to the Follow’s right hand.

Giro to the left

Giro turns are most often done to the right because of the circular clockwise motion of most Rueda de Casino moves. But Giro turning both to the right and to the left is common in social partner dancing.

When the Follow is doing a Giro to the left on 5-6-7 in a regular walking fashion as is common during Dile Que No, it is called a “Coca Cola” turn. “Coca Cola” turns is common in many moves starting with Siete but mostly done more or less on the spot.

The Lead has his own distinct version of the Giro right turn on 5-6-7, the more dynamic hook turn, which is just a styled version of the more simple three Giro steps. Hook turns are very common, almost part of every second salsa move. Most often I use the hook turn but sometimes I prefer to turn more softly and use the simple Giro steps instead.

In the following Mexican video from “Salsafición” we have a Lead’s Giro right turn on 5-6-7. When done as part of turn patterns, the Lead will often style it as a hook turn:

Same Video on YouTube

Vuelta and Giro

Both Vuelta and Giro are often used for turns in general, meaning exactly the same, that is any type of turn. I recommend to use Vuelta for the classical right and left turn using prepping and special steps, and Giro for turns using simple basic steps in a turning fashion.

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