Cuban Salsa: Balsero

The Balsero move is an extension of the basic Sombrero move. Instead of putting the Sombrero hat in place on 5-6-7, the Follow is lead behind the back of the Lead, and the Sombrero is put in place on the next count of 5-6-7. I learned this move at intermediate level, and I have used it in almost every social dance ever since with beginners as well as with the best Follows around. It is one of the most popular moves of Cuban Salsa.

Balseros (Rafters, from the Spanish Balsa Raft) is the name given to the persons who emigrate illegally in self constructed or precarious vessels from Cuba to neighboring states including the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and, most commonly, United States.


The move must be as old as Sombrero but its name is said to be coined in Miami at the end of the last century. The arm movements in the figure is said to look like fleeing Cubans on a homemade raft, signaling for attention like crazy, when they finally get the first sighting of Florida.

Video 1 is from SALSABASI – bskdance, Madrid, Spain, 2010. We can almost guess from the style that they also teach Cross Body Salsa “on one” but there in nothing wrong with their Cuban Salsa.

Same Video on YouTube

Video 2 is from “Salsa Academy”, France, 2016, with William Demaille as Lead and Elodie Top as Follow.

Same Video on YouTube

I like the French dancers for their musicality and for the way the Lead breaks down the move. But these good people don’t know that Sombrero moves start with Vacilala steps or with Habanero steps. Both Lead and Follow should step forward on one.

Video 3 is from “Salsaficíon”, Mexico, 2018. They have many good tutorials breaking the moves down.

Same Video on YouTube

Video 4 is from “Salsa4Water”, Denmark, 2013. Some of their video tutorials are a little too hectic for my taste, but this one is just great except that smaller steps would make it even better.

Same Video on YouTube

Balsero with Habanero steps

In my Sombrero tutorial as well as in my Sombrero Masterclass Video, I show how Sombrero can be done with Vacilala Steps as well as with Habanero steps. Video 5 is from “Son de Habana”, Columbia, 2015. The Follow uses Habanero steps. She steps forward on one, walks on 1-2-3 and turns on 5-6-7.

Same Video on YouTube

Balsero with circular motion

The Lead is not restricted to make the Follow walk just one time around him, why not 2-3 times? Or the Lead can participate and walk as well as in Video 6 from “” with Oscle and Lisi, London, UK, 2018. Only sad that these great dancers belong to the back rocking crowd instead of using proper Habanero steps.

Same Video on YouTube

Oscle and Lisi like to call their moves/figures for routines. This is bad terminology. Precise terminology is impossible, overlapping is unavoidable, and we must respect how people actually use terms.

But I like to think of a routine the way Yoel Marrero uses it in his MCC 2.0 methodology.

A routine is a well thought out sequence of moves, that can be used again and again to train basic concepts, steps and figures that can be used all over the place in your social dancing.

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