Cuban Salsa: Salsa Lovers – Miami Style

The “Salsa Lovers” dance school in Miami, USA, created by Rene Gueits in 1994, has been the most influential for how Cuban Salsa has developed outside of Cuba and for how Cuban Salsa is taught and danced to this very day. “Salsa Lovers” developed a Cuban Salsa Syllabus and a teaching method structured through Rueda de Casino, and published a DVD based (7 volumes) Cuban Salsa course. The first three DVDs published year 2000.

The table list all the moves from the “Salsa Lovers” seven DVDs. I link to each of the original moves, and to the tutorials I have made for some of them. At the same time as “Salsa Lovers”, another influential dance school in Miami called “Salsa Racing” (Henry Herrera) also published a whole bunch of DVDs, “SR”, the first four in 2002. A move appearing on both DVD sets could be called a Miami classic.

NoName of MoveDVDSR
103Ola Brava ComplicadaDVD 07-10
102InfantaDVD 07-10
101Michaela ComplicadaDVD 07-09
100Siete AlborotadoDVD 07-08
99Sombrero de LucyDVD 07-07
98Pasea y BarajealaDVD 07-06
97Setenta Nuevo ComplicadoDVD 07-05
96Setenta y Siete (77)DVD 07-04
95Siete Doble ComplicadoDVD 07-03
94Sombrero de GuanoDVD 07-02
93TocinilloDVD 07-01
92Ola BravaDVD 06-11
91El LazoDVD 06-10
90AhorcalaDVD 06-09
89Club TacoDVD 06-08
88Sombrero EnganchadoDVD 06-07
87Montaña RusaDVD 06-06
86El Gancho MaykelDVD 06-05
85La RubenadaDVD 06-04R3
84CamagueyDVD 06-03
83AvinoetaDVD 06-02
82MachuchoDVD 06-01
81El CalvoDVD 05-11
80El MaleconDVD 05-10
79Dedo LocoDVD 05-09
78ThaliaDVD 05-08
77El TamborDVD 05-07
76Mona LisaDVD 05-06
75El SordoDVD 05-05
74La CuadraDVD 05-04R3
73La MayiDVD 05-03
72La TijeraDVD 05-02R3
71El MostroDVD 05-01
70El ClásicoDVD 04-11
69El NiñoDVD 04-10
68RegistralaDVD 04-09
67Sombrero MannyDVD 04-08
66SpaghettiDVD 04-07
65El SuaveDVD 04-06
64El Nudo del DJDVD 04-05
63Tres SaboresDVD 04-04
62El MelaoDVD 04-03
61La RosaDVD 04-02
60SabrosuraDVD 04-01
59RuedaDVD 03-21
58Siete Loco ComplicadoDVD 03-20R3
57MichaelaDVD 03-19
56AgamenonDVD 03-18
55Dedo de LazaroDVD 03-17
56La HavanaDVD 03-16
55Abanico ComplicadoDVD 03-15
54RuedaDVD 03-14
53Coca-Cola Por AtrasDVD 03-13
52NoventaDVD 03-12R3
51La JennyDVD 03-11
50SambucaDVD 03-10
49Pasea Por El ParqueDVD 03-09
48Pasea y ComplicateDVD 03-08
47Setenta NuevoDVD 03-07
46El DoceDVD 03-06R7
45RuedaDVD 03-05
44BebeDVD 03-04
43Dedo SaboreadoDVD 03-03
42Ponle SaborDVD 03-02R1
41Siete ModernoDVD 03-01R2
40RuedaDVD 02-22
39Dame Una y No Le LleguesDVD 02-21
38Juana La CubanaDVD 02-20R6
37Sombrero DobleDVD 02-19R5
36Three Way StopDVD 02-18R10
35Setenta ComplicadoDVD 02-17R2
34BesetoDVD 02-16R2
33RuedaDVD 02-15
32Setenta con Coca-ColaDVD 02-14
31SetentaDVD 02-13R1
29MontańaDVD 02-12R2
28AbrazalaDVD 02-11R2
27Dedo Guarapo y BotaDVD 02-10R10
26El DedoDVD 02-09R1
25RuedaDVD 02-08
24Enchufe ArribaDVD 02-07
23Adios ArribaDVD 02-06
22El DosDVD 02-05R10
21EvelynDVD 02-04R1
20BalseroDVD 02-03R2
19AbanicoDVD 02-02R2
18SombreroDVD 02-01R1
17RuedaDVD 01-17
16SieteDVD 01-16R2
15Vacilala Con Dame UnaDVD 01-15
14VacilalaDVD 01-14R1
13Adios con la HermanaDVD 01-13R1
12Adiós (Prima)DVD 01-12
11Enchufla DobleDVD 01-11R1
10EnchuflaDVD 01-10R1
9RuedaDVD 01-09
8Dame UnaDVD 01-08R1
7GuapeaDVD 01-07R1
6Dile Que NoDVD 01-06R1
5ExhibelaDVD 01-05R1
4Para AbajoDVD 01-04R1
3Para El MedioDVD 01-03R1
2Basic Steps 2DVD 01-02R1
1Basic Steps 1DVD 01-01R1

Miami style – my take

I regard the “Salsa Lovers” DVDs to be pseudo Cuban Salsa with very little genuine Cuban in it. Paseala walks all over the dance floor (one of the best elements of Casino 1-on-1 dancing) are missing. No inspired flow dancing, not even 1% Cuban Afro (too much is even worse), and very little Latin spirit and attitude.

The “Salsa Lovers” Miami style is hectic, big exaggerated movements, full throttle, too much disco and ball room for my taste, too much show and performance, too long steps, and back rocking all over the place. I prefer a romantic, laid back (casual, calm and unpretentious), meditative approach, but we all have our own preferences.

Never the less, I find that the seven DVD’s are an important archive of moves and a point of reference. We are all free to modify the moves and to dance them to our own liking. Only a handful of the moves are true classics. Most of the moves are artificiel, fake, not the real thing: they were fast tracked, made up on the spot and given silly names noone had ever heard about, in order to meet the deadline of the next DVD.

Miami is not even a sub-style?

In an interesting interview with the “HistoryMiami South Florida Folklife Center”, 22 Marts 2017, Rene Gueits gives us a good picture of how genuine Cuban Salsa was transformed into Miami style:

“Casino Rueda is something that came in strong in Miami in the 1980s during the Mariel boatlift. That’s when all these good dancers started coming in to Miami. But then people like myself took it and we structured it. I cleaned it up so people could learn fast and that’s what we do today.

There is a Cuban style and a Miami style. If you go to Cuba, it’s a little bit more street, what we call a little bit more raw. In Miami, it’s become a little bit more flashy. Here we created more turns and gave it a disco look so it looks more freestyle.

The differences are noticed in the way the girl places her arms; the turn patterns look a little more disco-like compared to all over the place.

The men in Cuba, like my dad, tend to bend over and get down and dirty in it, whereas a male dancer in Miami holds his chest up. It’s a cleaner feel.

A lot of those old disco dancers influenced the Casino Rueda today. You’ll see it in the turn patterns that look a little disco and flashier. But the Cuban doesn’t care for that. They’re more about doing more patterns in the casino and getting more creative with the circle.

We can not blame “Salsa Lovers” for improving on Cuban Salsa. Original or genuine Cuban Salsa is many different local styles and sometimes almost too local, and most of them are in my opinion “awful” as models for modern social dancing, pretty raw, primitive and uneducated, as it must be when you learn to dance in the street and not in a dance school. Miami style is probably best characterised not as a sub-style of Cuban Salsa but as a style in its own right.

But if we are tired of the Miami style of “Salsa Lovers” and “Salsa Racing” (Henry Herrera) and of many of the similar sub-styles that dominate “Cuban Salsa” outside of Cuba today, and even in tourist salsa in Cuba, we need to reinvent Casino, Cuban Salsa, one more time or rather again and again. I would like to make it more “Cuban” and less “Miami”.

Paseala based Cuban Salsa

What I miss the most in the dominant salsa styles today is the almost complete absence of the Paseala tradition, which is so unique to Cuban Salsa, that I regard it as a major component in genuine Cuban Salsa. In Paseala based Cuban Salsa, Paseala steps are the basic steps to be used by default in almost any situation: “walk, walk, walk”, never step back, don’t back rock, don’t side rock.

Only in certain situations, when we get playfull to the music, only as an exception to the rule, or when we make a point out of breaking them, or for fun and variation, or when pressed by circumstances, should we use other steps than Paseala steps with a few exceptions like in Dile Que No and Diamond steps in Rodeo figures like in Setenta Complicado. Another important and very common exception is of cause not to step at all but just use our hips, shoulders and torso.

The reinvention of Casino, Cuban Salsa, should focus on finding better ways to teach social 1-on-1 dancing. To teach it as a by product of teaching Rueda de Casino, basically reducing 1-on-1 social dancing to a one couple Rueda and a sequence of mini dances, is as bonkers as it sounds. The focus should be on basic figures as building blocks for dancing as one long inspired music-driven flow.

Salsa Lovers DVDs

  1. Salsa Lovers 1, Beginner
  2. Salsa Lovers 2, Intermediate
  3. Salsa Lovers 3, Advanced
  4. Salsa Lovers 4, Moves
  5. Salsa Lovers 5, Moves
  6. Salsa Lovers 6, Moves
  7. Salsa Lovers 7, moves by Maykel Almuina

DVD 1-3 came out year 2000, and the rest shortly after.

Salsa Racing DVDs

  1. Salsa Racing 1, Beginner
  2. Salsa Racing 2, Intermediate
  3. Salsa Racing 3, Advanced
  4. Salsa Racing 4, Quban Shines
  5. Salsa Racing 5, Henry Turns 1
  6. Salsa Racing 6, Henry Turns 2
  7. Salsa Racing 7, Henry Turns 3, Dancing with two partners
  8. Salsa Racing 8, Henry Turns 4
  9. Salsa Racing 9, Henry Turns 5 “On the Roof”
  10. Salsa Racing 10, Cógele El Paso Vol 4
  11. Salsa Racing 11, Cógele El Paso Vol 5

“Salsa Racing” 1-4 came out in 2002. Henry Herrera has published around 50 salsa related DVDs, I have only made use of the above. Henry Herrera is a true “all inclusive” Cuban dancer, and probably born dancing, one of the best of his generation, and he won many dance competitions already as a teenager in Cuba. And that is the main problem of his Miami style (moved to Miami in 1991): too much focus on competition, choreographed shows and performance.

Herrera’s Miami style is probably the worst one can imagine as a model for generalised, teachable social dancing: hectic, enormous flashy movements, huge steps to be seen.

Herrera’s favourite Follow on the early DVD’s, Zumel Michel, tells it all: a huge back step on 1 and a long forward step on two, almost going into a split. It looks flashy and it might win her a prize (as it often did), but it is not a good model for how to teach social dancing that serves most people best.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s