Cuban Salsa: The Origin Of Number Names Like Setenta (70)

I have been wondering for a long time, why so many classic Rueda moves have number names like Setenta, 71, 72, 75, Ochenta y Quatro (84), Noventa (90), Siete (7), El Uno (1), El Dos (2), etc. We have more than fifty moves with number names, if we include Complicado versions and variations.

Most likely Setenta was the first such number name because it is the most common of these moves, and if you have success calling something “70”, and it is difficult to come up with more fancy names we can all agree about, then it is easy to give other moves in the Setenta family similar names like “71”, “72”, “75”, and fast you have a new trend and number names are used here there and everywhere.

I have heard three theories for how the number names came about. The last is by far the most likely:

  1. Setenta is related to the year 1970.
  2. The Hammerlock resembles a “70”.
  3. Setenta is inspired by a steet in Miramar.

Setenta is related to 1970

The Setenta move is probably older but it could have been named in 1970s, and if that is true, most likely in the year 1970. And when the Setenta name turned out to be a success, it started a trend, and for while a lot of moves got number names randomly with no relationship to a particular year.

The Year theory is pure speculation. We have no facts but the theory makes at least a little sense: I know of moves named after Year 2000, and we have several moves named after “X” number of subscriptions to a YouTube Channel!

The Hammerlock resembles a “70”

The second theory, popular in at least one dance school in Miami, goes, that the Hammerlock resembles a “70”. This is not so far out as it might sound, considering that we have more than a handful of moves named after what they look like: e.g., Sombrero (hat), Panqué (pancake), Montaña (Mountain), Ola (wave), Rodeo, Tornado (aka Trompo), Helicoptero and Balsero (Cuban refugees waving from a raft).

Setenta is a street in Miramar

At the Facebook page of “Rueda.Casino”, the former Norwegian Rueda Standard organisation, I asked the question of the origin of the number names in Cuban Salsa. Bernt Rygg, the Administrator, gave the following very convincing explanation:

“I have asked around for this quite a bit, and to me it seems that the names setenta (70) and ochenta y quatro (84) most likely are connected to street names in Miramar, Havana, where rueda de casino origined in the late 50s/early 60s. (I have heard this from Cubans, but they don’t all agree.) Some of the main streets in Miramar are 70 and 84, and also some of the first clubs for dancing rueda was in that area, like Casino Deportivo, Patricio, etc.”

Bernt Rygg, Rueda.Casino – Facebook

I accepted Bernt Rygg explanation with the following words:

“I like and accept Bernt Ryggs answer for why many original Rueda figures have numbers as names. They where named in one of the most important neighbourhoods for early Casino dancing, where all the streets happen to have number names. Credible explanation. It is amazing, I just looked at a map, 70 and 84 are among the main streets of Miramar. I will visit those streets next time around.”

Jesper Tverskov, Rueda.Casino – Facebook

Let us look at a map of the central part of Miramar in Havana, Cuba.

Note that “70” springs out as one of the major streets of Miramar. Also note that “84” is another major street. By chance “84” is a very popular Rueda move, very similar to Setenta in look and feel, except that it starts with a right to left handed Hammerlock. “70” and “84” are very likely named at the same time and are very likely the first two Rueda moves with number names.

Certainly! Next time I am in Havana, I am going to visit Calle “70” and Calle “84” in Miramar and pay tribute to the early days of Cuban Salsa and Rueda de Casino.

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