Cuban Salsa: Dile Que No in social dancing

A social dance should be one long flow of music driven dancing, alternating between partner circle dancing, dancing apart and walks. Dile Que No is the most important figure to optimize if we want to create a good flow. Dile Que No is the keystone that binds clockwise and counter clockwise motion together on the partner circle.

Most dance schools don’t focus on social dancing. They teach Rueda de Casino and how to use Dile Que No in Rueda de Casino. Basically they teach the “Cross Body Lead” of American Salsa “on one” but call it Dile Que No. They use it both to change partner in Rueda de Casino and to end moves on the partner circle. “Cross Body Lead” works well in the rectangular slot of X-Body Salsa but it is a disaster in the mostly circular Cuban Salsa.

Five basic ways to do DQN:

  1. The social DQN to change from clockwise to counter clockwise motion.
  2. The social DQN when the motion is already counter clockwise.
  3. The “pick her up” DQN used both in Rueda de Casino and in social dancing.
  4. The Rueda DQN to end moves on the partner circle and get back into Guapea.
  5. Cross Body Lead for rectangular slot dancing.

DQN in social dancing

There are many more ways to do Dile Que No than the five listed above but the basic social Dile Que No is a move of transition with the purpose of changing direction on the partner circle from clockwise to counter clockwise motion. It is not a move to end other moves or a sequence of basic figures as in Rueda de Casino, but a move of continuation to keep the flow alive but in a new direction.

In Rueda de Casino DQN works even if sloppy or outrageous, because it is just a show stopper to end the mini dance of one Rueda call. Almost anything goes because next we go into Guapea to recover and get our bearing, to get re-synchronized with the other dancers, and in order to prepare for the next Rueda call.

In social dancing there is no concept of ending a move or a sequence of moves, the dance should be one long uninterrupted flow. Sometimes, for practical reasons, we break a dance down into shorter or longer sequences, but only in order to analyze the dance or to train basic figures and details.

DQN on the partner circle

Video 1 shows the optimized DQN as masterclass teacher Yoel Marrero demonstrates it with Akiko Meguro in “Routine 1” of the MCC 2.0 dance methodology. The routine starts with “son” steps, then we move forward clockwise on the partner circle in the most basic way (this is lesson one), and starts DQN from Caída position in order to go contra, reversing the motion from clockwise to counter clockwise.

The DQN in “Routine 1” is just one of several ways to do DQN, depending on starting position. Most dance schools don’t even teach them in their advanced classes, because they don’t teach social dancing, they teach Rueda de Casino. They will most likely sell you a “catch all” L-shaped “Cross Body Lead” that works well in a rectangular slot of Salsa “on one”. CBL is, of cause, a disaster in circular dancing.

Why step in place on one?

The Lead is stepping forward at the end of the previous move, 5-6-7, clockwise on the partner circle, and ends up in the Caída position. The Lead should of cause not step forward on one, because that would signal to the Follow that the forward motion is to continue. The Lead should ideally step back on one to change direction, but that would make the transition too abrupt. To make the transition between clockwise and counter clockwise motion as smooth as possible, the Lead steps in place on one and walk back on 2 and 3 with his back first, twists around on 3-4, and continue forward counter clockwise on 5-6-7 on the partner circle.

The elegant twisting on 3-4 in the Yoel Marrero video is just an option. How to step 5-6-7 depends on your preferences, on what works best in the situation, and on how good your shoes are for twisting.

Seen from the Follow’s perspective, she is stepping back on 5-6-7 and reach the Caida position. She should continue to step back if the clockwise motion was to continue. For DQN she should step forward on one but that is a too abrupt transition. Better step in place on one, a little to the side, to make the transition as smooth as possible.

A rule of thumb:

The Follow should never start Dile Que No with back rocking, stepping back on one just to move forward again.

In general the Follow should step in place on one, and then move forward to make the transition from clockwise to counter clockwise motion as smooth as possible.

If the motion is already counter clockwise, the Follow should step forward on one and continue forward.

Picking up the Follow

In almost any social dance the Lead and the Follow dance apart at least once, typically after a Vacilala. When the Lead wants to pick up the Follow again, he has many options. One of them is to use DQN. This type of DQN will in some situations, look like the DQN we use in Rueda de Casino when changing partner. The Lead will walk to the Follow and might even forward rock a little on one to pick her up. The Follow should step in place on one or walk forward to help the Lead closing the gap.

When already counter clockwise

If the motion is already counter clockwise, e.g. when we start a DQN after another DQN, both Lead and Follow should just continue their natural walking forward or backward.

When using Siete figures, also called Panqué, we often unwrap the Follow with a one or two handed Coca-Cola left turn and continue with DQN. Also in this case the motion is already counter clockwise, and the most logical way to proceed is to continue it.

The Lead should not forward rock to stop the counter clockwise motion just to restart it again the next moment. The Lead should continue the counter clockwise motion by walking back on 1-2-3, and then forward again, still counter clockwise, on 5-6-7.

The last video shows what I am preaching. Video 2 from “Son de Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015, with Alexander Barreto and Susana Osorio, presents the classical move Coca Cola Doble. This move is in many ways unique because we have three Dile Que Nos in a row.

Same Video on YouTube

Note that both Lead and Follow step forward on Enchufla, and that both step in place for the first Dile Que No. No forward or back rocking. Also note that for the second and the third Dile Que No, the Lead steps back on one to keep the already counter clockwise motion flowing, and that the Follow for the same reason steps forward on one.

It is a pleasure to see a video of Coca Cola Doble (three counts of eight) as one long flow. This is a good model for how to dance Casino, “Cuban Salsa”. The dance is not slowed down and interrupted by forward and back rocking, we don’t see wasted stepping disturbing the dance. The dancers always move forward with front or back to the direction.

The Lead and the Follow should never rock forward or back by default, breaking the flow and wasting two steps for nothing.

Of cause there are exceptions to the rule, especially in music driven dancing, but always for a good reason.

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