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. Of all moves, Dile Que No is the first to optimize, if we want to take our dance to the next level.

Many Dile Que Nos

Dile Que No is a multi tool and there are many ways to step it. In some situations the Lead and Follow step in place on one. In other situations the Lead steps forward and the Follow in place on one, or the Lead steps back on one and the Follow forward.

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. The “Cross Body Lead” for rectangular slot dancing.

Dile Que No in Crisis

Most dance schools don’t focus on social dancing. They teach Rueda de Casino. They often just teach the Cross Body Lead version of DQN, and apply it to everything. This has had a negative effect on how many people use Dile Que No in social dancing.

Instead of social dancing as one long uninterrupted flow of music driven dancing, it has been reduced to a one couple Rueda, a series of mini dances with the Lead as move caller. DQN is used as in Rueda de Casino, as a move to end each mini dance and to change position.

In Video 1 we have a good example of have many dance schools teach Dile Que No. The video is from the notorious “Salsa Lovers” DVD course, published on YouTube 2011 (the DVD course is older). The Lead forward rocks with a gigantic military goose step, and the Follow back rocks as well.

Same Video on YouTube

Video 2 is a rare example of a masterclass video worth its name. Here DQN is not a move to end a mini dance of one Rueda call, not a move to pick up a new partner or just for changing position. It is an optimized move of transition between clockwise and counter clockwise stepping on the partner circle. The video is part of Yoel Marrero’s MCC 2.0 methodology, Rutina 1, featuring Agata Skowronska-Botulinska and Pawel Bugala.

The Circular DQN

We have just seen an example of the most common DQN in social dancing, the circular DQN starting from Caída position. The compass rose figure below is a simplified “Choreograhy Map”. The arrows indicate the stepping on the periphery of the partner circle. The Lead is blue, starts in “West”, steps in place on one and walks to “East” on 2-3-5-6-7. The Follow is red, starts in “East”, steps in place on one and walks to “West” on 2-3-5-6-7, following the periphery of the circle.

The circular DQN.

Why do both Lead and Follow start DQN on the partner circle by stepping in place? It is all explained in my blogpost Dile Que No in social dancing.

The L-shaped Dile Que No

The Cross Body Lead type of DQN takes place in a rectangular slot when used to pick up a new partner in Rueda de Casino, or when used to pick up the partner again after having danced apart for a while in social dancing. When Cross Body Lead is used on the partner circle in Rueda de Casino, it often has the shape of a capital “L”.

The L-shaped Dile Que No.

In the “L-shaped” Dile Que No, the Lead forward rocks on one, and the Follow back rocks on one. It means that the Follow looses two steps for nothing. She first moves forward on three, making it difficult for her to get from “East” to “West” following the periphery.

Instead the Follow takes the shortcut and steps on the diameter of the circle and walks directly from East to West, making a mockery of the whole idea of a partner circle, one of the defining features of Cuban Salsa. The Lead has typically longer legs and normally follows the periphery of the partner circle also in the L-shaped DQN.

The L-shaped DQN, the Follow back rocking on one, has no place in Cuban Salsa. It is a catastrophe in social dancing, and even in Rueda de Casino, I have never heard of just one argument for ever using it. It is simply a bad habit. The Follow is much better off by stepping in place or a little forward on one. If the circular motion is already counter clockwise, she should step back on one and continue back, as explained in my blogpost Dile Que No in social dancing.

Video 3 shows a very common way to teach Dile Que No. The video is from one of my favorite educational Salsa websites, “Dance Papi”. They have many useful videos. It features instructors Nicholas Van Eyck and Serena Wong, San Francisco, 2015. It has moderate forward and back rocking and shows the characteristic bad L-shaped DQN.

Same Video on YouTube

The Dile Que No in the “Dance Papi” video becomes better when they add the Enchufla move and music. Suddenly the Follow’s back rocking has almost disappeared.

Also note that the male instructor, Nicholas, tells us to use Dile Que No at the end of almost all other moves! That is the limited “Rueda” concept of Dile Que No! In social dancing we never end moves. A dance is supposed to be one long flow of music driven dancing. In social dancing, DQN is mainly a move to change motion from clockwise to counter clockwise.

DQN in Rueda de Casino

The “Cross Body Lead” type of DQN, made for the rectangular slot of American Salsa, sort of works when we change partners in Rueda de Casino, for exactly that reason. The Lead walks directly toward the new Follow in order to pick her up and change position with her.

Even on the partner circle in Rueda de Casino, the L-shaped “Cross Body Lead” is not a complete disaster because in Rueda de Casino, DQN is mostly used to end the move of one Rueda call, to terminate the mini dance of the Caller, to change position, and go back into Guapea, waiting for the next Rueda call.

Any DQN on the partner circle in Rueda de Casino, no matter how bad, sort of works. The move is just a show stopper, always followed by Guapea, with plenty of time to recover from less optimized stepping, and a Rueda is supposed to be fun and and sometimes chaotic.

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