Cuban Salsa: Dile Que No

Dile Que No is not only one of the most used moves in “Casino”, Cuban Salsa. It is also very likely the first move we learn after Salsa basic steps and the Vuelta right turn. Dile Que No (“say no to her”) is called “Cross Body Lead” in English and that is what it means: Don’t get into a new figure with her, lead her instead to the other side of the partner circle, that is, switch position with her.

Dile Que No is also one of the most important moves, because it is the standard way to reverse our stepping from moving clock-wise on the partner circle to moving counter clock-wise. Dile Que No together with Guapea are the most important moves to optimize, if we want to take our dance to the next level.

Dile Que No is a multi-tool

Dile Que No is used in several ways and the purpose is likely to influence how we do the move:

  1. Dile Que No is often used as a move to end and separate other moves in social dancing and in Rueda de Casino.
  2. Dile Que No is the most common way to change partners in Rueda de Casino.
  3. Dile Que No can be regarded as any other move except that it is a move of transition from clock-wise to counter clock-wise turning on the partner circle.

The circular Dile Que No

Video 1 from “Son de Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015, is a good example of how to do Dile Que No in social dancing. Note that we have no forward or back rocking. The Lead as well as the Follow step in place on one, they switch position on the partner circle, and both Lead and Follow more or less walk on the periphery of the partner circle:

Same Video on YouTube

The L-shaped Dile Que No

Dile Que No is often done as an L-shaped figure. It works in Rueda de Casino as a counter clock-wise move used to finish clock-wise moves before going back into Guapea. But the L-shaped Dile Que No completely misses the main purpose of Dile Que No in social dancing. Dile Que No should not break the clock-wise turning but change it from clock-wise to counter clock-wise.

In Video 2 we have a good example of Dile Que No as it is often done in Rueda de Casino with forward rocking, in this case a military goose step, when the Lead picks up the Follow, and the Follow’s like-wise back rocking on one for no reason. The video is from the notorious “Salsa Lovers” DVD course, published on YouTube 2011:

Same Video on YouTube

I recommend never to back rock in Cuban Salsa except in an emergency, because it keeps the Lead and Follow more apart than necessary and makes a smooth, elegant flow more difficult to achieve. Back rocking is a wasted step, a brake on your dance. Always, as a general rule of thumb, step forward or in place, always get moving. “Casino”, Cuban Salsa, is rooted in natural walking. When we walk we don’t back rock or forward rock for that matter.

The next video shows a very common way to teach Dile Que No. Video 3 is from one of my favorite educational Salsa website, “Dance Papi”. They have many useful videos. It features instructors Nicholas Van Eyck and Serena Wong, San Francisco, 2015. Note the forward rocking of the Lead on one, and the Follow’s back rocking on one. The Lead walks on the periphery of the partner circle from West over South to East. The Follow steps on the diameter of the partner circle directly from East to West. The Follow’s stepping, starting with the back-rock, creates the L-shaped figure.

Same Video on YouTube

It is interesting that the Dile Que No in the video above becomes better when they add the Enchufla move and music. Suddenly the Follow’s back rocking has almost disappeared. Also note that the instructor tells us to use Dile Que No at the end of almost all other moves. That is the limited concept of Dile Que No! It might be true for how most people dance Rueda de Casino but not for social dancing. If the dance floor is not too crowded, we can easily have a full dance without a single Dile Que No or a single Guapea for that matter.

Let us watch the first half of Video 4 from “Deberías Estar Bailando”, Spain 2018. They make many popular videos but always watch out when instructors teach many different dance styles. They might not really be in love with them all. I like these charming people but their Dile Que No is almost as bad as it gets.

Note the long back rock of the Follow and her “L” shaped stepping with huge steps. OK, she admits in the video that she exaggerates the steps a little. The Lead is is even worse. He side rocks!

Same Video on YouTube

In social dancing outside of Cuba the use of Dile Que No has changed drastically in a very short time, because of the way dance schools teach it, heavily influenced by how we change partners in Rueda de Casino. Dile Que No is today mostly regarded as a way to stop the clock-wise motion, a move to end and separate other moves, and for switching positions to get back into Guapea and reboot the dance!

L-shaped DQN and partner circle

At the start of Dile Que No, the Lead is positioned at “West” the Follow at “East”. In the bad L-shaped Dile Que No, the Lead forward rocks on one, that is he steps forward on one only to step back again with the same foot on three. The Lead then moves more or less on the periphery of the partner circle to the “East” position, passing “South” on his way. The Follow back rocks on one, and instead of stepping on the periphery of the partner circle from “East” to “West”, stepping on “North” on her way, she makes a shortcut and steps directly from “East” to “West” following the diameter of the partner circle.

The L-shaped Dile Que No.

The Circular DQN and the partner circle

The Choreograhy Map below shows the optimized Dile Que No as it should be used in social dancing. Both Lead and Follow step in place on one. I will explain why in a moment. Both Lead and Follow step on the periphery of the partner circle.

The optimized DQN.

Dile Que No is a move of transition

As a move of transition, Dile Que No is in a league of its own. In theory, the Lead should walk back on 1-2-3, on all the counts, then twist his body in order to continue forward on 5-6-7, still counter clock-wise. The Follow should move forward on 1-2-3, and then turn herself into the new position on 5-6-7. But it makes sense, as we are going to see in a moment, for both Lead and Follow to step in place on one in Dile Que No, in order to make the transition more smooth.

Why shouldn’t the Lead step forward on one in Dile Que No? Because that would wrongly signal to the Follow that the clock-wise motion is continuing. Ideally he should step back on one changing direction from clock-wise to counter clock-wise motion, but that is too abrupt. By stepping in place on one, the Lead signals to the Follow to reverse the motion, and the changing of direction becomes more smooth. The Follow should also step in place on one in order to make the transition from clock-wise to counter clock-wise turning more smooth.

In the last video for now, Video 5 from “Son de Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015, they do a Coca Cola Doble. “Coca Cola” is the standard left turn on 5-6-7 in Cuban Salsa. When we say Coca Cola Doble, we most often think of a rather unusual move with Dile Que No three times in a row, doing Coca Cola the first two times. Notice that both Lead and Follow step forward on Enchufla, and that both step in place for the first Dile Que No and that the Follow doesn’t step back a single time during Coca Cola Doble (three counts of eight).

Same Video on YouTube

In social dancing Dile Que No should most often be circular, changing the clock-wise motion to counter clock-wise with as smooth a transitions as possible. Both Lead and Follow should step in place on one, and both should walk on the periphery of the partner circle.

In some situations, like if a Dile Que No is followed by a second Dile que No, the Follow might need to take the shortcut on the diameter of the partner circle the second time in order to switch places the most natural.

Some Leads can at times use a more dramatic Dile Que No with forward rocking as part of some styling scheme playing to the music.

Depending on individual sub-styles, the Lead might sometimes forward rock in Dile Que No to keep his balance.

In Rueda de Casino, because of the speed and chaos of how Rueda de Casino is often danced, with too much space between the couples, it might be necessary for the Lead to forward rock when changing partners, picking up a new Follow and go contra in time, almost “shoveling” her into her new position!

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