Cuban Salsa: the Vuelta right turn

Many Cuban Salsa dance schools teach the Vuelta right turn already in the first class at beginner’s level. This is a paradox, because strictly speaking, we don’t have a Vuelta right turn in Casino. Instead, and I am only talking about turns to the right on 5-6-7, we have the sideways Exhibela turn and the walking Habanero turn. The Habanero can also be done stationary.

The Vuelta right turn is borrowed from X-Body Salsa, and even though we don’t need it in Cuban Salsa, it is a nice basic turn to know and use occasionally. But first let us watch a Salsa “on One” tutorial for the Vuelta right turn.

Video 1 is a “Salsa On1” tutorial from “Dance Papi”, 2015 with Nicole Lazo as instructor. She often breaks down moves second to none.

Same Video on YouTube

The video above is pure X-Body Salsa, very different from Cuban Salsa. The right turn is done from Salsa basic steps, that is from forward and back rocking, not that common in Cuban Salsa. The Vuelta right turn starts with prepping on 1-2-3, often done, not in the above video, with a rather “silly” hand gesture supposed to be the cue for the turn. The hand gesture is elegant from the perspective of X-Body Salsa. I only call is “silly” because such explicit prepping is completely foreign to the look and feel of Cuban Salsa.

Vuelta with Cuban look and feel

In Cuban Salsa, the Vuelta right turn should be done like a stationary Habanero, because that is what it is or should be. Instead of walking on 1-2-3 and turning on 5-6-7, we simply walk in place. I prefer to call the stationary Habenero for the Cuban Vuelta right turn, or for the Vuelta right turn for short. Sometimes expressions like “right” turn or “outside” turn will do as well, except that the outside turn is sometimes a late pivot turn on three or seven.

The sideways Exhibela turn, sometimes called Sacala, is a versatile move often done more or less sideways within other moves. Of cause we could do an Exhibela turn without the sideways motion and regard it as a Cuban Vuelta right turn but in my opinion it makes much more sense to use the stationary Habenero as model for the Vuelta right turn.

Video 2 from “mykomaniacc”, Denmark, 2017, with Myk and Isabella, shows the Vuelta right turn with “Cuban” look and feel.

Same Video on YouTube

Vuelta right turn is rare in Cuban Salsa

The Vuelta right turn comes from X-body Salsa. It is very linear and stationary. Cuban Salsa is mostly circular except for walks, and we always move forward unless changing from clock-wise to counter clock-wise turning. Now when we know that it is easy to make a stationary Habanero turn, that is a Vuelta right turn on 5-6-7 with a Cuban look and feel, it is surprisingly how little stationary Vuelta right turns are used in Cuban Salsa.

Around year 2000, three major DVD based Cuban Salsa courses came out of the Miami Latin dance community: “Salsa Racing”, “Salsa Lovers” and “Quick and Dirty”. I have major issues with all of them but they have at least one thing in common. Despite that they are from A to Z courses, pretending to cover what is important from beginner to advanced level, none of them mention the Vuelta right turn.

I know of more than 500 common Cuban Salsa moves. In none of them, except sometimes for the Hammerlock in Setenta moves and for the stepping of Sombrero, as an alternative to Vacilala steps, have I seen a Vuelta right turn with a some exceptions. The Hungarian “Salsa Steps” APP, also with more than 500 figures, does not include the Vuelta right turn. Yoel Marrero’s MCC 2.0 doesn’t use it in its first 12 Routines.

The pure Vuelta right turn hardly exist in Cuban Salsa and most better leaders seldom use it. In Cuban Salsa the preference is to turn the Follow right on 1-2-3 with a hand-held Vacilala, to use side-ways Exhibela right turns, to use walking Habanero turns, and to do outside pivot turns on three or seven.

Vuelta right turn is good to know

Just because the X-Body Vuelta right turn is not a Cuban turn, and just because even a stationary Habenero right turn with Cuban look and feel is rare in Cuban Salsa, both ways of doing the right turn is important to know and to use at least as exception to the rule.

When warming up before social dancing or even before Rueda de Casino, it is very common to walk forward and back using non Cuban Salsa basic steps, and in that context the X-body Vuelta right turn makes sense, often followed by the Lead’s hook turn on 5-6-7.

Of cause I sometimes use the Vuelta right turn in social dancing. I might use it with an absolute beginner, because it is the easiest of all turns, it is stationary and very focused. I most often try to give the turn a Cuban slant, but sometimes with a beginner, I make the silly cue hand motion, because many beginners have learned it that way.

At intermediate-advanced level, I might use the Vuelta right turn for the Hammerlock in Setenta moves, if I for some reason wants it to be stationary. A good reason could be that I want two start the Hammerlock with a double right turn being much easier stationary. But I most often make it Cuban, Habanero style, that is no back rocking.

Even at advanced level I might sometimes use the Vuelta right turn for fun and I might even do it the X-Body way with exaggerated prepping to make friendly fun of the X-body crowd. Like a dance quotation.

If I dance with some, to me unknown, Follow, and she turns out to be mostly reared in the X-body tradition, I still try to dance as Cuban as possible but with some compromises. I might comfort her with a few very stylish X-Body Vuelta turns.

Vuelta and back rocking

Many of the less good Cuban Salsa schools starts with teaching Salsa basic steps, that is X-Body Salsa, with often dramatic forward and back rocking. Next they teach the Vuelta right turn, and continue to let the Follow back rock. Then they introduce the X-Body “Cross Body Lead” but call it Dile Que No with more back rocking both to Lead and Follow in order to get off or into the linear slot.

The bad dance schools then introduce Guapea with more forward and back rocking but inversed, instead of Cuban sideways stepping or stepping in place, and they then teach the Vuelta right turn from Guapea. Finally they start teaching Rueda moves. Summa summarum, a new type of Salsa is born, pseudo Cuban Salsa, based on back-rocking.

So be careful when you use or teach the stationary Vuelta right turn. Do it the Cuban way, as a stationary Habanero.

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