Cuban Salsa: Learning from Ruben Rodriguez

A short time ago I stumbled upon an extraordinary Cuban Salsa video from some workshop with Ruben Rodriguez, 2015. I find that the video is very inspiring for its relaxed social dance style and for a couple of details in the excecution of well known moves.

I like that the relaxed style of Ruben Rodriguez is based on natural walking and that he mainly steps forward for each step. I also like the way he is present. Connection is at the center of his dance, not dynamic, expressive moves. I wouldn’t mind to dance exactly like that, in some of my social dances.

Same Video on YouTube

In the video we see two versions of the classic Setenta al Derecho y al Revés, each shown two times. Ruben Rodriguez calls the two moves Setenta al Revés and Setenta Doble al Revés. In the last he prolongs the figure with a count of eight, and his Setenta Doble is not the traditional extra turn within the count but a redoing of the Hammerlock as a “surprise”, I haven’t seen before.

Stationary Vacilala

Ruben Rodriguez starts both moves using a stationary Vacilala for the 1-2-3 part of the Setenta (Hammerlock). It is new to me to start Setenta with a stationary Vacilala. I often do a stationary Vacilala in other situations, mostly two handed with the hands held over the Follow’s head and often followed by a similar two handed stationary Habanero turn.

I find it refreshing to be reminded, that of cause we can also use a stationary Vacilala for the Hammerlock. I am going to use that in the future for variation. My preferred way for Setenta is still to use a walking Vacilala or a walking Habanero turn, and sometimes I do the last stationary.

Setenta Sorpresa

The second move is mislabeled Setenta Doble, because it is not an extra turn within the same count. I prefer to call it Setenta Sorpreso, because it has a build in surprise.

Ruben starts Setenta with a stationary Vacilala and walks forward on 5-6-7. He then drops the Follow’s left hand, the Hammerlock hand, turns her right one more time as he steps back on one and in place on 2-3, catches her left hand again, still in Hammerlock position, and continues forward on 5-6-7.

Adding a “Largo”

The first two times in the video, the Al Revés part is just two counts of eight, the last two times, a Finta is added before the Al Revés. The last two times Ruben also adds an extra count of eight to the middle of Al Revés, a so called “Largo”. A “Largo” (long) is in this case just an extra count of eight doing nothing except for walking.

Many dancers use the “Largo” technique to prolong many moves in social dancing, in order to make the move more relaxed, to make room for “wiggling” to the music. I am going to make a tutorial about this technique soon.

Also note that the last two times, Ruben Rodriguez doesn’t end the Al Revés with Enchufla on 1-2-3 but with a handheld Vacilala turn. It is often a good idea for variation.

Hi Lead, what about a challenge: Next time you do a move like Setenta Complicado, instead of ending it with Enchufla, why not end it with Vacilala and continue the Vacilala with one more turn on 5-6-7, a Habanero turn?

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