Cuban Salsa: El Uno (Cubanita)
The move called El Uno (One) is also called “Cubanita”. It is an important move at improver-intermediate level used by many dance schools. The move is unique because the Lead is behind the back of the Follow for most of the move. Also, the move can go on forever, and it is good for connection. I consider it a “must learn” and a “must use”.
We have a similar move where the Lead is in front of the Follow with his back to her. It is called El Dos (Two) or “Cubanito”. It is common to combine the two moves. The combo is of course called El Doce (12)!
For El Uno I recommend to do the Enchufla Doble type of movement twice. For the first round, the hands should be held low, and for the second round, the hands should be held at the shoulder height. We see that version in Video 3 only.
Use the move to connect. The person in front should look back over the shoulder smiling!
Train several types of exists. Enchufla followed by the Sombrero pose is standard, but Enchufla followed by the Lead’s hook turn is also common.
Video 1 is from “Dance Papi”, San Francisco, USA, 2015. Some of the instructions are good but too much is missing. They only do the “Enchufla Doble” once.
The Folow steps better and better as they switch from baby stepping to dancing. She clearly steps forward for Enchufla on one, and forward again on five for the return walk. The Lead, on the other hand, is using what I call loose diagonal back rocking.
Videos 2 is from “Son De Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015. They do the “beef” of the move twice but both times low. The Lead and the Follow are not using special Enchufla Doble steps. They just walk forward on 1-2-3, pivot around on 4, and walk back in their “footprints”, stepping forward on 5-6-7. The Lead uses very small steps.
When I learned El Uno and El Dos the first time, I didn’t use them in social dancing. I found them to be silly and a little embarrassing. The moves made it too obvious that I was a beginner with not much of a talent. These moves feel better and better as you get better. You must actually be able to dance to get the most out of them.
Videos 3 is from “Avinciia-Dance”, France, 2015. I like that they start with the low handhold and continue with the handhold by the shoulders. That is in my opinion the standard way to do El Uno.
The “French” dancers use the characteristic back rocking style of “Italian” Amandino, both Lead and Follow. Good dancers can make anything look nice and convincing, but is doesn’t have the look and feel of Cuban Salsa.
Two Cuban Salsa styles
We have two basic ways of dancing Cuban Salsa: the “back rocking” style (the most common outside of Cuba) and “to step forward” most of the time (Video 2 only). Both styles are common in Cuba. But the back rocking style is in my opinion uninteresting because that’s how Salsa is danced all over the world like in American Salsa “on 1” and “on 2”. The main difference between American styles and Cuban Salsa done with back rocking, is that all Cuban styles have a preference for clockwise circular movement and for two handed moves.
The “stepping forward” style, on the other hand, is uniquely Cuban, because it only exists in Cuba with a few fan clubs around the world. For that reason I consider it to be the genuine Cuban Salsa style worth fighting for. Stepping forward by default is optimized for the circular motion, and for “walk abouts” (yes I love this Australian Aboriginal concept), and makes for mind-blowing “Cuban” dancing unlike any other salsa style.
In the Cuban salsa style “stepping forward most of the time”, we always step the same, in general, forward, forward, forward. For that reason special Enchufla Doble steps don’t exist, we just walk our basic steps: Forward, forward, forward, pivot around “on 4”, forward, forward, forward. That is how we teach the Enchufla Doble part of El Uno.
When doing El Uno at advanced level, the Lead might use special steps for fun or variation, like diagonal back rocking, loose or tight, or we can step in place, or even use sideways Guapea steps.
When doing the Enchufla Doble part of El Uno I often don’t move my feet at all, but instead I try, to the best of my ability, to “speak” with my hips, torso and shoulders.