Cuban Salsa: Moves don’t make a social dance

Moves are for Practica and for Rueda de Casino but should only be used sparingly or as an exception to the rule in social dancing. Less and less moves the better you get. This statement might be an exaggeration but it is not far from the truth.

In most good dances I have ever seen, moves, except for the most basic turns like Enchufla and Vacilala, play a surprisingly small role. We can watch a whole good social dance without even recognizing more than a couple or a small handful of classical Cuban Salsa moves.

Video 1 is a staged social dance for the video, featuring Eliecer and Yamira, Barcelona, 2010. We can not but be inspired. The video is a good example of how great a dance can be using only the most simple moves. There is only one major move and it is not even a Complicado.

Same Video on YouTube

Do you get it? It is often when a dance is the most simple, the dancers have an opportunity to shine and express themselves to the music.

1 Moves of Rueda de Cacino

In Cuban Salsa we have one-on-one moves and most of them can also be used in Rueda de Casino, and we have special Rueda de Casino moves requiring the cooperation of the neighboring couples, and we have one-on-one moves that only works in Rueda because they are impossible to lead in social dancing, but they work in a Rueda because the caller announces them both to the Leads and to the Follows.

Almost all classical Cuban Salsa moves are build the same. They start with a common beginning like the Hammerlock in Setenta, they end with a common ending like an Alarde to the Follow or putting the Sombrero hat on. The move itself, what makes it different from other moves, is a couple or more counts of eight, in between the opening and the ending.

This move pattern recipe works well in Rueda de Cacino. All Leads are likely to be successful when the move starts, getting the Rueda up to speed, and if they fumble parts of the move itself, they can catch up at the end, because they know the ending from so many other moves. The moves are small nuggets of condensed dancing, to be ended by Dile Que No and back to Guapea and wait for the next call.

2 The one couple Rueda

It is insane to suggest, that a social dance should just be a one couple Rueda, with the Lead as caller inside his own head, presenting moves on a string for the Follow, the dance constantly stopped, divided and broken up by Dile Que No and Guapea. What a parody of a social dance!

Never the less, most social dancing at intermediate level, and even at advanced level, looks like a one couple Rueda, and for a very obvious reason: Most dance schools only or mainly teach Rueda de Casino. They don’t teach social dancing or social dancing is mostly neglected.

3 Teach social dancing

Dance Schools are so much in love with Rueda de Cacino and for good reasons. I start some of my social dancing with a Rueda, actually 1-2 times a week. And the Rueda is an effective way to organize and control a class. But all this Rueda comes at a price. When simulated social dancing occurs in a class, it could be for one or two songs at the end, the couples immediately go into Guapea mode, and start practicing Rueda moves on a string.

Yes. Some dance schools teach social dancing. The instructors will tell you: “Remember to start in closed position!” That is it. We most often never learn to dance as one long flow using mostly easy, music driven moves spiced up with a Complicado. We seldom learn how to do Paseala walks, and if we do, they are the most simple. We never learn to dance counter clock-wise on the partner circle, Dile Que No is only used Rueda style, to end and separate moves not to start counter clock-wise dancing!

Video 2 is with Daybert Linares and Digna Rodriguez, Washington, USA, 2014. Another example of the “one long flow” dance. This is not a one couple Rueda constantly chopped into pieces by Dile Que No and Guapea. No back rocking, they move forward all the time.

Same Video on YouTube

4 Why learn moves then?

You need to know so many moves as possible in order to make your body memory so flexible that you at any time in a dance can let go and do something completely different inspired by the music. You should know and practice so many moves and variations to the extend that they just dissolve before your eyes and transform into one long music driven flow.

The most important thing about moves is to know their limitations. The goal is to be so good that you hardly need moves. And to take charge of your own dancing, and especially of your social dancing. You don’t learn it in dance schools, and they are, sorry to say, most often of very little help with a different focus. Becoming a good social dancer is your own project, you can only learn it by yourself but Dance Schools ought to become better at giving a helping hand.

Video 3 is with Adonis Santiago y Cristina Bolbat, Moscow, Russia, 2018. A lovely example of a music driven “one long flow” dance. No one couple Rueda here, you don’t see Guapea, but we do see a couple of recognizable moves.

Same Video on YouTube

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