Cuban Salsa: Abajo steps
Abajo (down) is one of the most common ways to start a Cuban Salsa either directly or after some short initial stepping in place or a short walk. The move is also called Para Abajo, or Llevela para Abajo or Llevala pa’bajo for short. Abajo is a confusing name for a short move (there is no “down” in it) because the term is part of the name of many other salsa moves and Rueda calls, e.g.: Por Abajo (under) as opposed to Por Arriba (up).
Abajo is done in closed position, loose or tight. The move is just basic steps on the spot except that the Lead’s left foot moves forward or left on one and the right foot moves forward or right or even back on five. This can be repeated as many times as the Lead wishes. The Follow always back rocks, and is let into this back rocking by the Lead twisting her body. The move can be done intimate or dynamic.
1 Forward and forward rock
Video 1 is from the “Salsa Steps Sampler”, Hungary 2014, promoting the excellent “Salsa Steps” APP. This version is how I most often do the move except that I prefer to start a dance more close and intimate with smaller steps and more subtle twisting. The dynamic way in the video is good fun in the middle of a dance. Note how the Lead moves his left arm down when he steps forward on one, making the move even more dynamic. I never do that at the start of a dance.
In Video 2 the Lead also steps forward on one and five, doing the move how I recommend to teach it. No wonder. I originally learned Abajo from this “Dance Papi” video, (Bay Area, San Francisco) 2015. The video shows Al Medio, Son Montuno (salsa basic steps) and Llevela Pa’bajo. The Abajo part starts at 2:00:
2 Forward and side rock
Video 3 shows a very common way to do Abajo. In the video from the “Racing Salsa” DVDs, Miami 2002, featuring Henry Herrera as instructor, Abajo starts at 15:57:
3 Side rock and forward rock
Video 4 is from “Hanami Dance”, Hungary 2018, featuring Kristóf Zsolt and unknown Follow. They do Para Abajo and Exhibela.
4 Side rock and side rock
Video 5 from “SalsaCandelahu”, Hungary 2009, shows side rocking to the left and to the right:
5 Almost on the spot
Video 6 from “Salsa Fuerte” Dance School (Hungary) 2015, shows Abajo with so little side rocking that it is almost done on the spot:
6 Forward and back rock
Of all the ways one can do Abajo, this one with back rocking on five is the one I would never use. 1) I am opposed to back rocking in Cuban Salsa, it brings the dancers too far apart, I only do it in Guapea. 2) In the Abajo move, the back rocking on five tends to make the forward twisting of the Follow awkward.
Video 7 from “Quick and Dirty Salsa”, Miami (DVD is from 2004), the Lead only back rocks on five with a very small step making the Abajo move work. But even with the very small back step it becomes almost impossible for the Lead to twist the Follow. In most of the other videos the twisting is an important part of the move. In the “Quick and Dirty” video, the left twisting of the Follow on 5-6-7 is hardly noticeable.
7 Abajo, Pasea, Paseala
Abajo is sometimes called Pasea (walk) or Paseala (walk). This is unfortunate and should be discouraged because there is no walking in Abajo. Also, the terms Pasea and Paseala are most often used for “arm in arm” walking using the Pasea handhold, and the terms are also used for walks where the Follow is lead around the Lead.
8 Abajo and Exhibela (Sacala)
It is very common to continue Abajo with Exhibela one or two times before entering into Dile Que No. And it is very common to modify the Abajo steps just a little as preparation or priming for Exhibela. If the Lead steps forward one one and five at the beginning of Abajo, a couple of times, he might continue with side rocking and it is very common also to do cross over steps when leading the Follow into Exhibela.
Video 8 is from “Dolce Dance”, Hungary 2010. They start Abajo with forward stepping both on one and five but as priming for the Exhibela Doble, they change the stepping to side rocking:
9 Abajo with cross over
It is very common to add cross over steps to Abajo as priming and preparation for Exhibela. Video 9 from “SalsaCandelahu”, Hungary 2009, is a good example of what the cross over step could look like. The video is called Abajo con Tumbao (loosely translated: “styling”).