Cuban Salsa: Sombrero
Sombrero means hat and is one of the signature moves of Cuban Salsa but is also used in “American” Salsa. Sombrero is the name of a move with many variations and Complicado versions, and the name of a pose, we get into at the end of many moves, “putting the hat on”. The start of the Sombrero move is important because it is the model for how to start very many right-to-right handed moves.
1 Two ways to do Sombrero
There are two completely different ways to step a Sombrero. With Vacilala steps or with Habanero steps. For both, the Follow is lead forward on one. For Vacilala, the Follow turns on 1-2-3 and walks on 5-6-7. For Habanero the Follow walks on 1-2-3 and turns on 5-6-7.
2 Sombrero with Vacilala steps
Video 1 is an excellent video from “Dance Papi”, 2016, featuring Nicholas Van Eyck and Serena Wong as instructors. Support “dancepapi.com”, whenever they make an educational video, it’s likely to be the best.
Sombrero done with Vacilala steps comes in two versions for how to start the move. The Lead can get into double crossed hands from the beginning, making the move easier, or the Lead can start with crossed hands, right-to-right, and ask for the other hand underneath after he has started walking, somewhere between count one and count two, like we saw it in “Video 1”.
For the ending, Sombrero can be done as one long continuous move keeping the arms high all the way, or the arms can go down and up on 5-6-7.
Also we have two ways of putting the hat on. Some Leads put the hat on and let it sit for a while, and it is first abandoned when the Lead goes into Dile Que No. Other Leads look as if they throw the Sombrero over the head instead of putting it on!
Video 2 is from “Palante Ithaca”, 2010, with Nikolay and Xhercis. Note that they use Vacilala steps for Sombrero and start the move with double crossed hands from the very beginning unlike in “Video 1”. But also in this video, the Lead uses a down and up motion of the hands on 5-6-7.
Video 3 is from “Avinciia-Dance”, 2015. They also use Vacilala steps for Sombrero and start opening up and tapping on 7-8, and the Lead asks for the second hand somewhere between count one and count two. Also note that in this version, we don’t have a down and up motion with the hands on 5-6-7, the Sombrero is more like one long continuous movement with the hands held relatively high.
3 Sombrero with Habanero steps
Video 4 is from “Son De Habana”, Bogotá, Columbia, 2015, with Alexander Barreto and Susana Osoria. They show the Habanero way of doing Sombrero, and it is just perfect. Double crossed hands from the beginning, the Follow is lead forward on one, walks on 1-2-3, and turns on 5-6-7.
It is hard to tell if the Vacilala steps or the Habanero steps are the most common for Sombrero. Judging from the the number of videos, I have found, it is close to fifty fifty. But sadly to say, the Habanero way is often done wrong.
Every Follow steps forward for Vacilala, if you don’t you can’t turn. But because Habanero steps start with walking on 1-2-3, many Follows fall into the bad habit of starting with back rocking for no other reason than to loose two steps. The unique Cuban Habanero is reduced to a non Cuban walking Vuelta right turn that really has no place in Cuban Salsa.
Video 5 is from “Dance Vida dance school”, Göeteborg, Sweden, 2016, with Fabian and Nicolina. They show the Habanero way of doing Sombrero except that the Follow’s back rocking on one makes it look like an X-Body Vuelta right turn! The Lead even puts the hat in place on one in the next count. This is some Fusion style, not Cuban Salsa.
Video 6 is from “Grimaldidance”, Barcelona, Spain, 2017, with Josep Grimaldi. They use the Habanero way of doing Sombrero turning on 5-6-7 but done wrong. The Follow’s back rocking on count one turns it into a non Cuban Vuelta right turn.
4 The perfect Sombrero
Except for “Video 4” from Columbia, doing Sombrero with Habanero steps, all the other videos in this tutorial have major issues. Even if they do Sombrero right, they have back rocking tendencies for Guapea and Dile Que No. Let us finish the tutorial with a perfect Sombrero all the way, this time using Vacilala steps.
Video 7 is from “www.bailarcasino.pl”, Posnan, Poland, 2013, with Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and excellent Follow.
Note that the Follow steps in place when starting Dile Que No. Why? Because she is reversing from clock-wise to counter clock-wise movement. In theory she should step forward on count one because when you start to walk you move forward. But that is a too abrupt transition from clock-wise to counter clock-wise movement. To make a softer transition, the Follow steps in place on count one when doing Dile Que No, just like the Lead.
I have made a YouTube Masterclass Video Tutorial about Sombrero with more or less the same content as in this tutorial:
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