Cuban Salsa: Tornillo

A screw is a screw, Tornillo is a screw, and in Cuban Salsa (Casino) Tornillo is a right turn based on a very unique, almost acrobatic, handhold making a double turn possible by folding out the handhold in one go! In the social dance “Son”, one of the parents of “Casino”, we have a whole family of very different moves also called Tornillo. These moves are also sometimes used in Cuban Salsa but they are not the subject of this tutorial.

The Tornillo figure in this tutorial deserves its name because there is a lot of “screw” over it. The earliest presentation of the move, I know of, is on the legendary “¡Salsa a la Cubana!”, DVD #4, 1999, from “Salsaville.com”. Tornillo is a Santiago de Cuba classic, and it is the kind of move you fall in love with. You simply most use it.

1 Slow Tornillo (original)

Video 1 shows the original move from Santiago de Cuba. It is surprising that Mario Charón Alvarez and Zoila Rizo Sánchez use two full counts of eight for the turn itself. In all other videos I have found, the dancers only use one count of eight.

The “¡Salsa a la Cubana!” video is educational, shot to slow music, and using two full counts of eight for the turn might seem a little far out. But using two counts of eight is not a bad idea in many situations: 1) it means that you can use the move even to the fastest music, and it makes it easier for the Follow with bare feet on the beach or in clip-clap sandals in the street.

2 Tornillo break down

  1. Tornillo starts with El Dedo (“the finger”), a right-to-right handed handheld Vacilala.
  2. A right-to-right handed Enchufla, and the Enchufla arm goes over the Lead’s head and lands on his left shoulder.
  3. On 5-6-7 of Enchufla, the Lead brings his left arm up over the Enchufla arm, asking for the Follow’s left hand.
  4. The Lead then unwinds the Follow, making her turn twice, ending in the Sombrero stance.
  5. For the turning, one count of eight are often sufficient, but as we saw in the video from Santiago de Cuba, one can also use two full counts of eight.
  6. Using a special techniques (see later), I call “Instant Tornillo”, the Lead can get into the Tornillo handhold already on 1-2-3, making it possible to turn the Follow very fast on 5-6-7, like a pirouette.
  7. The “Instant Tornillo” can also be used together with the slow and the standard variation.

3 Standard Tornillo

Video 2 is from “Dolce Dance”, Hungary, 2010. The move must be very popular in Hungary, I have found more than a handful different videos from that country alone. Note that the Tornillo turn in this video only takes one count of eight.

The Dolce Dance video on YouTube.

Video 3 is from LatinaDance Corp., Simferopol, Crimea, 2015. Good educational video shot from two angles and a clear count.

The Crimean Tornillo video on YouTube.

4 Tornillo as a basic figure

The Tornillo move is important because it contains a basic figure we can isolate and use on its own in many different contexts without the rest of the move. The basic figure of Tornillo is the very unique Tornillo handhold, the “instant Tornillo”. Almost at any time during a dance, the Lead can get into that handhold and do the screw: simply get right-to-right handed, next the Lead takes his left hand under-up-over-under his right arm and grab the Follow’s left hand.

Many Leads find the “Instant Tornillo” handhold to be so acrobatic that they simply can’t do it, and sure, it takes some training. “Instant Tornillo” is not only good for making a fast Pirouette. It is also a very versatile way in combination with the “slow” and the “standard” way of turning.

5 Use Tornillo to end a dance

I often use Tornillo to end a social dance because it certainly feels like a climax if perfectly timed. I might first use the figure earlier in the dance to test how easy it is to lead the Follow into it (her left hand must respond fast). It takes experience to time the figure if the “over the head” Enchufla is used because the stance is both awkward and unstable, and the Follow might ignore the hand invitation for a couple of seconds.

But as soon as the handhold is in place, the Lead doesn’t need to start the turn immediately. The Lead can bring his arm back over his head and “thread water” until the right moment to start the turn. With a strong Follow reacting fast to the hand invitation, the “instant Tornillo” can make it easier to time the Grand Finale of the move.

6 Tornillo Complicado

Since Tornillo ends with Sombrero it is easy to continue Tornillo with one of the many variations of Sombrero Complicado. A good example can be seen in Video 4, from “Salsa Fuerte”, Hungary, 2013.

The Hungarian Tornillo video on YouTube.

One of my favourite Tornillo Complicado variations is to continue directly into the Montaña move. At the end of Tornillo keep the hands low and don’t put the Sombrero hat on, or put the Sombrero hat on/off fast. Next it is easy to continue from the second count of the Montaña move.

7 Other Tornillo figures

Unfortunately there is a handful of completely different Cuban Salsa figures to be found on YouTube also using the Tornillo name. The only interesting one is a variation of the classic figure called Ahórcala (“hang her”). I don’t know why, considering that the Ahórcala move has no resemblance with anything “screwish”. It might be that some Spanish speaking people especially in Latin America don’t like the “Ahórcala” name because they understand what it means.

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