Cuban Salsa: Exhibela (Sácala)

The Exhibela “turn” is one of the most misunderstood basic figures in Cuban Salsa. It is not a turn but a walk to exhibit the Follow, “show her to the world”. A walk with two half turns of 180 degrees, and both happens just by walking and pivoting around. There is no 360 degrees turn but two half turns far apart. But it is true that some less good dance schools teach the “fake” Exhibela, taking the uniquely Cuban out of it, reducing it to a back-rocking sideways right turn, LA style.

The Exhibela walk, often starting from the Dile Que No start position (aka Caída), has the shape of an oval, of an elongated egg, rounded in one end and pointed in the other. The Follow steps forward on “1” and on “2”. The walking half “turn” is at the round end of the “egg” shape, created on step “3-5” to the right, and the last half turn is at the pointed end of the “egg” shape, created by pivoting around on count “7-8” to the right.

Exhibela is most often a closed position walk with normal handhold: It starts from closed position and it ends in closed position. Exhibela can also be done crossed handed in open position, and this version is often called Sácala (take her out) especially in Rueda de Casino.

The Sácala walk is a right-to-right handed Exhibela walk in open position. The Lead needs to change hands again to get back into closed position. Most dancers use the two terms, “Exhibela/Sácala” without knowing the difference, as if they are just two names for the same move. In Rueda de Casino, it is nice to have two different calls, Exhibela and Sácala, in order to get all couples synchronised doing exactly the same move with the same handhold.

1 Paseala Steps (Casino Clásico)

The Exhibela walk is best understood in the context of Paseala Steps also called Casino Clásico or Cruce Lateral. Paseala Steps consist of four distinct patterns, one of the Holy Grails of genuine Cuban Salsa. The four patterns are determined by how the Follow walks back, returns, in the “corners”:

Paseala Steps (Casino Clásico). Follow’s direction in the “corners”:

1. Left-Right (Paseala) figure “8” (∞)
2. Right-Right (Exhibela) figure “O”
3. Left-Left (Exhibela Inverso) figure “O”
4. Right-Left (Exhibela-Exhibela Inverso) figure “8” (∞)

If the Lead also steps Paseala figure “8” steps, we get a combined figure “88” pattern that continues into Exhibela, a combined figure “80” pattern (the Lead steps the “8” the Follow steps the “0”).

2 Paséala (88 pattern) – Exhibela (80 pattern)

Video Clip #1 is from a video made by “www.bailarcasino.pl”, Posnan, Poland, 2014, with Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and Agata. It shows the textbook Exhibela. Starting with the “88” Paséala pattern, sometimes called Paséala en Frente, continuing into the “80” pattern of Exhibela. The video then continues with the Rodeo basic figure in a perfect flow.

Original Piotr/Agata video on YouTube

3 Exhibela Continuado (fan shape)

The next Video Clip #2 is from “DC Casineros”, Washington DC, USA, 2014, featuring Amanda Gill and Adrian Valdivia. They show how powerful Paseala steps and the figure “88” and figure “80” patterns can be. They do “88” (Paséala) three times and then figure “80” (Exhibela) seven times! The back-rocking Cuban Salsa sub-styles have no way of dancing with such a fantastic flow.

Original Amanda/Adrian video on YouTube

4 The Lead has many options

The Lead has many options for how to lead the Follow into Exhibela. The textbook way is to use Paséala steps, Casino Clásico. He angels his left foot right on “1”, continues forward on “2-3-5”, pivots around on “5” to the left, steps forward on “6-7-1”, pivots around on “1” to the right. Unless the floor is good with matching shoes, it helps a lot to angle the left foot right on “1” and the right foot left on “5”. It is my experience that the Lead should take as small steps as possible unless the Follow takes very long steps by default.

But the Lead can use almost any type of stepping that works for some good purpose: for fun, for variation, reacting to something in the music, etc. There are many options in the rarity cabinet of special steps: side-to-side rocking, the Rumba type of side-to-side steps and cross over steps with or without “Columbia”.

5 Exhibela with Lead’s cross over steps

Video Clip #3 is from “Son de Habana”, Bogotá, Colombia, 2015. The Follow, Susana Osorio, walks a perfect figure “8” Paséala and continues with the Paseala “0” pattern for “Exhibela/Sacala”. The Lead, Alexander Barreto, uses “cross over” steps and is famous for very small steps.

Original “Son de Habana” video on YouTube

Video Clip #4 is from another video made by “www.bailarcasino.pl”, Posnan, Poland, 2013, with Piotr Agassi Chajkowski and Agata. In this version the Follow’s right arm is in an unusual Hammerlock type of position but the Exhibela turn is standard anyway. Agata starts stepping the Paséala figure “8” pattern and next the figure “0” pattern for Exhibela. In this video Piotr uses cross-over steps.

Original “www.bailarcasino.pl” video on YouTube

6 The “fake” Exhibela (back-rocking)

Many dance schools teach Cuban Salsa as little Cuban as possible, more like American LA style salsa dancers would mimic Cuban Salsa with their own back-rocking all over the place. Whenever a Follow steps back on “1” or on “5” in situations where she could just as well step forward, she looses two steps for nothing bringing the flow of the dance to a halt, and she gives the Lead much less time to lead her properly into the next combination, when she finally moves forward.

In the case of “Exhibela/Sácala”, the figure becomes less impressive. Instead of a genuine Cuban Exhibela walk with two half-turns in the “corners”, a uniquely Cuban move, we get an “anywhere in the world” back-rocking Vuelta right turn more or less on the spot.

Cuban Salsa without Paséala walks, without “infinity” walks using figure “8” and the figure “0” patterns, without “80” and “88” patterns, might still be some sort of Cuban Salsa because we see a lot of back-steps also in Cuba, but I call it diluted or ignorant Cuban Salsa.

7. Don’t step back

There is, at least in theory, a fifty percent chance of stepping forward or back from a stationary position, depending on the Lead and on what the Follow is used to. Beginners and less experienced dancers often stop up or stand still because most Leads don’t lead and drive the dance that well, often loosing the momentum. In pure “desperation”, Follows step back, like “threading water”, as she waits for the Lead’s next move.

That is: back steps is likely to be more the rule than the exception most places. Stepping forward by default requires teaching or a strong Lead that wants a forward moving flow, and, or a strong Follow that has realised by dance education, experience or instinct, that forward stepping is a prerequisite for unlocking the full potential of Cuban Salsa.

The rectangular slot in American Salsa makes “forward-and-back” work well in those dances, just like walking sideways works well in Bachata. In Cuban Salsa, the Circle is the dominant format and we should honour it as king. The “Partner Circle” combined with short and long walks breaking out of it, has the potential of creating fantastic forward walking dance flows seen nowhere else in social dancing.

We also see a lot of “back-rocking” in Cuba. It is the uneducated dancers best friend to keep their balance, the natural way, if you don’t know any better. But it is still fair to call the forward walking mode of Cuban Salsa for genuine and original Cuban Salsa because only Cuban Salsa makes this extraordinary way of dancing possible.

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