Cuban Salsa: Para Abajo

Para Abajo, “toward down”, often just called Abajo (Abajo has several meanings in Cuban Salsa). The move is also sometimes called Llévela para Abajo or Llévala pa’bajo for short. It translates to something like “take her down”.

Abajo is a basic figure that overlaps with the figure Paséala en Frente (“take her for a walk in front of you”), often just called Paséala (Paséala has several meanings in Cuban Salsa). Very many Leads use Abajo as one of the first moves at the beginning of a dance, and they often use it again later in the dance.

The most common way to step Abajo is for the Lead to side-rock a little forward on 1-2-3, and similar a little forward on 5-6-7 or just sideways. The Follow is lead to step back on “1” first to the right, then on “5” to the left. This is one of the very few moves where back-stepping is build-in. The sideways movements can be small and elegant or more dramatic. The sideways motion is often described as Adentro y Afuera (“inside and outside”), alluding to “inside” (toward the centre) and “outside” in Rueda de Casino.

Abajo is used in three different situations:

  1. As a fun move in its own right with any Follow.
  2. As a substitute for Paseala en Frente with a weak Follow.
  3. As prepping for Paseala en Frente with a strong Follow.

1 The Lead steps forward on “1” and “5”

Video Clip #1 from “DancePapi”, Bay Area, San Francisco, 2015, shows one of the most common ways to do Abajo, and the way I recommend.

Original DancePapi Video on YouTube

2 Many less good options

I have found an enormous variations in how Abajo is stepped by the Lead:

  1. The Lead steps forward on “1” and on “5”.
  2. The Lead steps forward on “1” and to the side on “5”.
  3. The Lead steps forward on “1” and back on “5”!
  4. The Lead steps sideways on “1” and forward on “5”.
  5. The Lead use cross-over steps.
  6. The Lead steps on the spot.
  7. Etc.

Any version is likely to happen, sooner or later, in the heat of a dance, as “shit happens”. But only the first option makes sense from a logical point of view. In order to lead the Follow back on “1” and on “5”, the Lead must step forward on “1” and on “5”. Stepping any other way, the Lead must lead by twisting his upper body or using his arms. It works, but as a general rule of thumb, the feet should follow the body. One should not twist the body or do weird arm movements, if a simple positioning of the feet can do the job.

Anyway, Abajo should be used sparingly. Proper Paséala steps are the real thing, the only way of stepping that can connect all moves in a seamless flow. And since Paséala steps with pivot turns are difficult for both the Lead and the Follow, they should be used at any given opportunity in order to practice them. Abajo should be used mostly as prepping for Paséala steps.

3 From Abajo to Exhibela

Video 2 is from “Hanami Dance”, Hungary 2018, featuring Kristóf Zsolt and nameless Follow. They do Para Abajo and continue with Exhibela. I mostly use this combination with a weak Follow not capable of doing proper Paséala steps.

Original Hanami Dance Video, YouTube

Note how the back-rocking of the Follow in Abajo results in back-rockng also in Exhibela (this Follow would probably back-rock anyway, as she does for Exhibela, DQN and Guapea). This is diluted Cuban Salsa. Instead of a uniquely Cuban Paséala based Exhibela with the Follow stepping forward all the time, we get an Exhibela modelled after the Vuelta right turn with the Follow just turning on the spot.

If you are trying to learn Paséala based Cuban Salsa, where the Follow almost always steps forward in order to create not moves but a continuing walking flow of basic figures, unheard of and so different from other Salsa styles, you should be careful when you use one-off “back-rocking” moves like Abajo.

Don’t let Abajo become a Trojan Horse for even more back-rocking, making the Follow loose two steps each time she back-rocks. Always continue from Abajo into proper Paséala steps before starting Exhibela.

See my tutorial Cuban Salsa: Exhibela (Sacala) for more information.

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