Cuban Salsa: The Cuban Vuelta (Habanero)

The Cuban Vuelta (Habanero) is the twin sister of Vacilala. The steps are like for Vacilala except that the two half counts of eight are flipped: the Follow steps forward on “1”, she continues forward on “2-3” and turns, still walking forward, most often on a curved line, on “5-6-7”.

The Cuban Vuelta is not as prominent as Vacilala (hand-held and hand-free), because we also have the uniquely Cuban Exhibela-Sácala sideways right turn on “5-6-7”. Many dancers just call the Cuban Vuelta for an “extra turn” if done as the last part of Vacilala or simply a right turn on “5-6-7”. Other dancers like the look and feel of the Cuban Vuelta (Habanero), especially when done right-to-right handed, as in several of the following video clips. That is: this unique right turn deserves its own name.

Video Clip #1 is from “Son De Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015, featuring Alexander Barreto and Susana Osorio. The move starts with the right-to-right handed Habanero, the Cuban Vuelta. Note the Lead’s left hand on the Follow’s right arm (elbow in this case). Next we see one more Cuban Vuelta, the Lead pushes the Follow into the turn.

Original Columbian video on YouTube

Giro Habanero = Cuban Vuelta

I like the name Cuban Vuelta in order to distinguish it from the classic back-rocking “salsa” Vuelta on “5-6-7” with “silly” hand-prepping on “1-2-3”. The arm movement in the Cuban Vuelta might start within “1-2-3” but is more like a continuing movement culminating in the turn on “5-6-7” or the arm movement might start late, just in time for the turn.

Video Clip #2 is from a “” video, Poznan, Poland, 2013, featuring Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and Agata. Stepping forward on “1”, no hand prepping on “1-2-3”, very different from the back-rocking Salsa Vuelta. Agata uses the spiral turn technique and turns a full 360 on “5-6”, keeping step “7” free for positioning and pivoting around adding another 180 degrees.

Original Agassi video on YouTube

Many dancers inspired my MCC call the Cuban Vuelta for Giro Habanero. This name is coined by Yoel Marrero the creator of MCC, and I have asked him what it means or alludes too: nothing. It is just a name like “Setenta”. But before I knew better, I thought it had something to do with the stylish left hand on the Follow’s shoulder or elbow/overarm when Habanero is done right-to-right handed.

The Cuban Vuelta (Habanero) can, as we have just seen, stand alone in its own right, but should mostly be regarded as an optional add-on to the second half of some other move: like adding it to the last part of Vacilala giving us two turns, or as the last part of the Rodeo basic figure or as the finale of the Ola (wave) basic figure.

Except when done right-to-right handed, the Cuban Vuelta should only as an exception to the rule start moves like the Hammerlock of Setenta. The Hammerlock should be made with Vacilala steps: the Follow needs to practice to turn already on “1-2-3” until it becomes her second nature. The Follow’s ability to turn on “1-2-3” is one of the defining features of Cuban Salsa.

Hand-free Habanero

Just like we can do a hand-free Vacilala, leading the Follow forward on “1” and let go of her hand as soon as the Vacilala motion is started, we can do exactly the same for Habanero. The Follow is lead forward on “1”, continues forward on “2-3”, and the Lead starts the turn motion on “5” and let go of the Follow’s hand. In Video Clip 1 from Columbia above, we see an example (the second Vuelta) where the Follow is “pushed” into the turn on “5”.

Also: when a Follow is lead into a hand-free Vacilala and wasn’t fast enough to start the turn already on “1”, or misunderstood a weak lead, or if she notice that some situation on the dance floor makes it necessary to delay the turning, or if she simply feels like it, she can change the Vacilala into a Habanero, walking on “1-2-3” and turning on “5-6-7”.

Vacilala con Habanero

When the Vacilala turn on “1-2-3” is followed by a turn on “5-6-7”, this turn is a “Cuban Vuelta” also called Giro Habanero. Video Clip #3, from “”, Poznan, Poland, 2014, features Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and Agata. They do Vacilala con Habanero with normal handhold:

Original Agassi video on YouTube

Ola (wave) con Habanero

The Ola basic figure is a genuine Cuban classic. It is part of the “¡Salsa a la Cubana!” DVDs (#1) from Santiago de Cuba, published 1999. Ola con Habanero is just used here as an example of how the “Cuban Vuelta” often replaces the second half of other moves.

Video Clip #4 is from “DC Casineros”, Washington DC, USA, 2015, featuring Adrian Valdivia as instructor.

Original DC Casinos video on YouTube

Cuban Vuelta and turn technique

Very little attention has been paid to the fact that the three most common ways of turning in Cuban Salsa, “Pivot Turns”, the “Latin Three Steps Turn” (Châné) and the bonkers “Cuban Four Steps Turn”, make the Cuban Vuelta difficult in some situations or impossible (the Four Steps Turn).

The challenge is that the “Pivot Turn” method, using two Pivot turns of 180 degree, on “5-6” and on “6-7”, and similar for the “Latin Three Steps Turn”, make the Follow exit the turn on step “7” in forward facing position. That is of cause just perfect if the Follow is to continue forward on the partner circle.

But very often the Follow is lead into the Dile Que No start position after the Cuban Vuelta, that is on step “7” she must not only finish the turn but must at the same time pivot around on the foot for another 180 degrees! It can be done but it is a little difficult to turn not only 360 degrees on “5-6-7” but 540 degrees.

There is a reason why so few Follows add a hand-free Cuban Vuelta turn to their hand-free Vacilala turn, turning both on “1-2-3” and on “5-6-7”: It is difficult to turn 540 degrees on “5-6-7” and exit perfectly positioned exactly by the Lead’s right side ready for Dile Que No or some other continuation.

The bonkers “Cuban Four Steps Turn” works only for Vacilala turns on “1-2-3-5” (!) Using four steps to turn 360 degrees (!) makes it of cause impossible to add a Cuban Vuelta. Even when the Cuban Vuelta is done alone, the “Four Steps Turn” doesn’t work because the Follow will need to use the first step of the next count of eight to finish the turn.

Cuban Vuelta and the Spiral Turn

I believe that the “Latin Spiral Turn”, adapted to Cuban Salsa, is the future of Cuban Salsa. It is versatile, that is, it can be used for almost all turn situations, left as well as right, on the partner circle as wells as instantly from walkabouts. For Vacilala the 360 degrees spiral turn takes place between “2-3” giving the Follow one more step to prepare for the turn. For Habanero the 360 degrees spiral turn takes place on “5-6” giving the Follow a free step “7” for positioning and pivoting around.

In Video Clip #5, is from “”, Poznan, Poland, 2013, featuring Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and Agata. Note that Agata uses the spiral turn technique for the two turns. For the Vacilala she starts it a little early doing 90 degrees on “1-2”, but the Habanero is timed exactly on “5-6”. Also note that Agata has a free step “7” for positioning and for pivoting around into the start position of Dile Que No also called the Caida start position.

Original Agassi video on YouTube

Cuban Vuelta and classic “salsa” Vuelta

The difference between the Cuban Vuelta (Habanero) and the back-rocking Salsa Vuelta:

  1. For the Cuban Vuelta the Follow steps forward on “1”, the Follow’s default step in the style of Cuban Salsa, I recommend. In the back-rocking Salsa Vuelta the Follow steps back on “1”, loosing two steps for nothing.
  2. The “Cuban Vuelta” has no or little explicit prepping. The arm motion starts within “1-2-3” and culminates in the turn, as one long movement, or starts as late as on “5”. The Salsa Vuelta starts with explicit hand prepping on “1-2-3”, like a waving hand signal.
  3. The Cuban Vuelta is mostly (but not only) a “secondary” turn added to the other half of Vacilala, Rodeo, Ola, etc, or started from within walkabouts. In American X-Body Salsa, the back-rocking Vuelta is a “primary” figure often starting combinations, the same role as Vacilala has in Cuban Salsa.
  4. The Cuban Vuelta is often done with right-to-right handhold with the Lead’s left hand on the Follow’s shoulder or elbue/overarm made possible by the turning motion. It gives the turn a unique look and feel difficult to replicate in the “forward-and-back” rectangular slut of X-Body Salsa.
  5. Because of the partner circle, the Cuban Vuelta is often not just 360 degrees but 540 degrees because on “7” the Follow often needs to pivot around adding an additional 180 degrees in order to get into the start position of Dile Que No also called the Caida start position.

For comparison see my blog post: Cuban Salsa: The back-rocking Vuelta right turn.

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