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.
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
- Salsa Lovers 1, Beginner
- Salsa Lovers 2, Intermediate
- Salsa Lovers 3, Advanced
- Salsa Lovers 4, Moves
- Salsa Lovers 5, Moves
- Salsa Lovers 6, Moves
- Salsa Lovers 7, moves by Maykel Almuina
DVD 1-3 came out year 2000, and the rest shortly after.
Salsa Racing DVDs
- Salsa Racing 1, Beginner
- Salsa Racing 2, Intermediate
- Salsa Racing 3, Advanced
- Salsa Racing 4, Quban Shines
- Salsa Racing 5, Henry Turns 1
- Salsa Racing 6, Henry Turns 2
- Salsa Racing 7, Henry Turns 3, Dancing with two partners
- Salsa Racing 8, Henry Turns 4
- Salsa Racing 9, Henry Turns 5 “On the Roof”
- Salsa Racing 10, Cógele El Paso Vol 4
- 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.