Cuban Salsa: Vacilala por Detrás

The handfree Vacilala is not only the most iconic signature move of Cuban Salsa, it is also one of a very few moves, where the Follow can do what she pleases from the moment she has stepped forward on count one, and the Lead let go of her hand.

Vacilala por Detrás (detrás means behind) adds an extra count of eight to the traditional Vacilala pattern but the Follow ends up as in the original Vacilala by the Lead’s right side. Most Leads will probably be taken by surprise the first time around, but Vacilala por Detrás could develop into a lot of fun if the Lead reacts to the Follow in a creative way.

The Video Clip is from “www.BailarCasino.pl – Poznańska Szkoła Casino (Salsy Kubańskiej), featuring the Polish wonder dance couple, Piotr and Agata Agassi, Poznań, Poland, 2013. They have an elegant, playful and very optimised but realistic basic dance style, that makes sense to most dancers. We can then add all our own stylish idiosyncrasies like going full Cuban Afro, if that is what we want.

Full Agassi video on YouTube

In the above video, Piotr uses an Arrebata on count 7-8 to signal to Agate that he wants a Vacilala extension. In my opinion, a Follow is allowed to extend a handfree Vacilala on her own discretion.

Video 2 is from Aylén Priedes and Ulises Gonzáles (Sancti Spíritus, 2021). Aylén walks a perfect Vacilala, like Agata above, turning a full 360 degree turn on (1)-2-3, and continues forward on 5-6-7. Ulises, also turning (called a Vacilala Los Dos or Vacilence), walks away from her and forces her to improvise two additional counts of eight, before he picks her up again. If the Follow/Lead take up the challenge, they can inspire one another to even more “dancing-apart-but-together”.

To make the move easier to use, I have added a slow motion section.

Video 3 is an old “classic” from the legendary “¡Salsa a La Cubana!” DVD #1/5, 1999, Figure #27. The location is Santiago do Cuba, and the video is shot and published by Eric Freemann, Boulder, Colorado, USA, “www.salsaville.com”. They call the move for Vacilala con Engaño (with deception). The meaning may allude to the Lead not picking the Follow up right away.

The “270 degree” basic turn

I am a so-called “Vamos!, Vamos!” (let’s go) dancer, and I strongly believe that my dance benefits from the Follow always stepping forward on one, except in moves, like forward-and-back, where it doesn’t apply. I believe it gives my dance a much better flow, as I have talked about in several blogpost, and there is much more to come about that subject.

For the above reason, I “hate” that the Follow in the SALC video steps back when starting the extension of the Vacilala. In my opinion, it is much better to step forward on one as well as on five: both dancers can move longer or use smaller steps, and they have more time to go very slow, if they want, and do some crazy body isolations to the music. Try it yourself: if your step forward on one and five, you can make the most perfect “270 degree” turns, and you have the best possible control over exactly how to step the figure and on how to proceed because of the extra forward steps.

The generalised, optimised footwork to use for the continuation of Vacilala and in many other situations when going into dancing apart-but-together, is to use the basic figure I call the “270 degree” turn, a little similar to some of the turns that are common in Cumbia Salsa. I am going to make a tutorial about the “270 degree” turn soon.

The “270 degree” turn is the step model used in Enchufla Continuado, when adding extra turns. Both Lead and Follow can use exactly the same steps when dancing apart-but-together: Stepping forward on one or on five and turn 270 degree as a left turn, and then continue forward the same way as you please.

The power of the “270 degree” basic figure is that the steps for 1-2-3 and for 5-6-7, and for Lead and Follow, are the same, and that one can walk clockwise as well as counter clockwise (then it becomes a 270 degree right turn). One can turn on each half count or one can do some of the half counts just waling, or crossing over or behind. A “270 degree” turn creates a quadratic rectangular pattern but by reducing the angle of the turn, stepping less than 270 degree, the pattern becomes triangular.

One day I will upload examples here, when I have found them, or I will make the videos myself.

Some of The Follow’s Vacilala options

  1. The Follow can walk the textbook Vacilala, stepping forward on one, walking a full 360 turn on 1-2-3, and continue to walk on a curve back to her Lead on 5-6-7. One benefit of doing a full turn on 1-2-3 is of cause that you can walk one more full turn on 5-6-7.
  2. The Follow can walk the bad but very common wrong Vacilala, only walking less than a full turn (< 360 degree) on 1-2-3, completing the rest of the turn on 5, and walk to her Lead on 6-7. This Vacilala, taking place in the middle of count 1-8, is evil because such a Follow never learns to walk full turns. Not to the right and not to the left. Leads will experience such a Follow as heavy, as “sand in the machinery”, because he senses that this Follow never comes around all the way by herself, the Lead must so to speak force her, twist her around in moves.
  3. The Follow can decide to drop the Vacilala turn on 1-2-3 and just walk instead, and she can then add a full 360 degree turn on 5-6-7.
  4. A crazy Follow could break the rules and just walk all the way back to her Lead, and if she is creative she might come up with something interesting she can do along the way.
  5. A Follow can decide to do a stationary double pirouette turn in the middle of count 1-8. She will start with the evil Vacilala for the first turn, and twist around on the spot for the extra turn. Since the Follow has no steps left, she can’t walk to the side of her Leader. A nice Lead will probably jump forward and rescue the poor thing at the end.
  6. A strong Follow could decide to walk a Vacilala Doble. First a full Vacilala turn on 1-2-3, next one more walking full turn on 5-6-7, and still end up by the side of her Leader. Vacilala Doble is also called Vacilala con Habanero because the last turn on 5-6-7 is called a Habanero turn by MCC inspired dancers.
  7. A strong Follow could decide that the handfree Vacilala is a signal to get into dancing apart-but-together” mode, and she could tease the Lead into a section of free styling or even some Rumba.
  8. A strong Follow also has the option of some additional walking after the Vacilala, she can extend Vacilala with some sequence of steps, planned or improvised to the music and to how the Lead reacts, e.g. like doing some Vacilala por Detrás variation, the subject of this blogpost.

All these handfree Vacilala options are at the Follow’s discretion. She decides alone. The Lead has no way of leading the Follow into any of them, but he can of cause take control as soon as the Vacilala part of the walk has finished. If the Follow decides to grab the moment and take over the direction of the dance, trying to tease the Lead into something, the Lead should play a long for a while, soon to take control again after one ore more counts of eight.

4 comments

  • One of my favorite moves, gives the lead a lot of options in the free count of 8 they have to themselves. With the right section of a song it can even be appropriate to throw in a brief bit of Guaguanco on the 1-3-5-7 count starting with the left foot – Basic step of something more fancy – lots of fun.

    Another possibility I have been playing around with is starting a sequence I have seen quite a few good Cuban dancers too. I don’t have a name for it, but I am sure you will recognize it when you see it. I’ll try to describe, but best video sequence I have seen of this in SALC 3 with Ibert and Rosa in their demo move starting around 25:42. Starts with a Vacilila like you described.

    Follow does the same in the Video with Piotr above, then the follow continues doing the following sequence of 8, no matter what the lead does: step on 1-2-3 on 4 turn to left but end up facing in direction of lead, on 5-6-7 walk back towards left side of lead no matter what they are doing, and on 8 small turn to right. If the lead did at the same time the diamond stepping that Piotr did, then you are in Caida position then can do a DQN. But the lead does not have to do this, they can do whatever Casino steps they want – 1-2-3 curving to the right, hook right foot behind left for a Giro on 5, walk out on 6-7, then whatever – diamond stepping on 8, Casino basico step (same as Enchufle stepping) etc.

    What I have observed in a few videos is Cuban follows when they are split apart from the lead they often keep doing the following sequence in order to eventually rendezvous with the Lead: Step forward on 1-2-3 turn on count of 4 to the left, then walk towards the left side of lead on 5-6-7, small turn right on 8. Eventually when the lead wants to stop “running away” with different sequences they meet (i.e. lead doing diamond stepping will result in a rendezvous), then DQN or whatever you want to do. Hope my explanation makes sense, check out the video.
    I could never figure out how after splitting into free suelta like walking sequence how Cubans managed to sync up again and it sort of looked ‘planned’, but this seems to be one of the ways they do it. And it looks very cool when you pull it off.

  • Video 2 that I sent is from the Baila en Cuba videos, originally all on this site: http://www.bailaencuba.com, there were a lot of videos from each of the regions here a few weeks ago, the site pointed to non searchable videos on YouTube. The couple in Video 2 is from Sancti Spiritus, year is 2021. You will see some of the Baila en Cuba videos still on Streaming Cuba on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/streamingcuba . Definitely worth checking out to see how real Cubans dance Casino today.

    A.

    • Thank you so much for information and for helping me make my tutorials better. I have now edited the blogpost for the third time, and I have added one more of the videos you have suggested to me in a private message.

      • No problem, I have learned a lot from all your articles over the year, only fair I pay it back a little!

        A.

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