Cuban Salsa: Lazo (social move)
The Columbian Cuban Salsa dance school, “Son de Habana” in Bogatá, has many good YouTube dance videos. In Columbia they dance their own Columbian salsa, called Cali style, but these videos are genuine Cuban Salsa with the personal touch of the Lead and Follow, Alexander Barreto and Susana Osorio.
Many of their moves are legacy Cuban Salsa moves, that is, they are part of the standard repertoire of many Leads and dance schools all over the world. We don’t need to agree with everything we see in the videos, we can make use of them and modify them as we please to make them fit our own way of dancing.
The Lazo move
The advanced level Lazo move from 2015 is one of the more unusual and interesting ones. The Lazo move might be attributed to Alexander and Susana, because I haven’t seen the move anywhere else. But many others have done similar moves.
The Lazo move gives us a good opportunity to talk about what constitutes a good social move: is it leadable and realistic in social dancing, does it fit well into the flow of a social dance? Or is it more for a choreographed show or for use in Rueda de Casino (also choreographed), or is the move mostly for a training partner and less likely to work even with good Follows at a certain level?
Let us first look at the Lazo video and break it down. The original video is almost impossible to make use of, because the dance and the music is not properly synchronised. There is a 1.12 second discrepancy! But I have fixed that in the following “doctored” version!
Break down of Lazo
- Lazo starts with a two handed Vacilala with normal hand-hold but on “1-2-3” the Follow is turned with the Lead’s right hand! This brings the Follow into a position where she has her arms crossed in front of her. On “5-6-7” the Follow is unwinded and ends up with her arms crossed but opposite. This is so unusual that I know of no other move starting this way.
- For the next count of eight the Lead let go of the Follow’s right hand and gives her a double turn with her left hand, “1-2-3” for Vacilala, and “5-6-7” for a Cuban Vuelta right turn and into the Gancho arm hook. Turning both on “1-2-3” and on “5-6-7” and into the Gancho is quite a challenge, especially if the move is to continue with more action already on “1”.
- Next the Lead go into Dile Que No on “1-2-3” and gives the Follow a double left turn spin on “5-6-7” and into open position on 8-1. Because of the spin, most Follows are not likely to be ready for more action already on “1”, they need to go slow, to “thread water” for a count of eight.
- The move works with a training partner and could be made to work in Rueda de Casino but it is a mediocre social move with a very low success rate even with the best Follows unless the Follows are used to it.
- Also the “Columbian” Lazo move is problematic because both the start and the end of the move doesn’t fit in properly or that easy with other moves in a good flow.
How to improve Lazo
There are several ways to improve the move in order to make the success rate much higher with a wide range of random Follows, and in order to make it easier to “flow” into it and out of it.
- The Lead should drop the first count of eight, the weird “forward and back” Vacilala, and simply start the move with a standard two handed Vacilala to put the double turn on track and then immediately release the Follow’s right hand.
- For the second half of the move (the two halves can of cause be used independently), the Lead should drop the double left spin turn on “5-6-7”, and instead just give the Follow a single left turn on 5-6-7 and then add another left turn on “1-2-3”.
- For the next “5-6-7” there are several good options, e.g. the Lead can go contra and add a right turn and finish with an Alarde head-loop to himself, or the Lead could give the Follow a doble right turn on “5-6-7” or a handfree righ turn.
The next video shows me and my training partner Mona Bach at a Practica Session testing the Lazo move, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2021.
We do all the three variations proposed. First we do the Alarde to the Lead ending. Mona then tells me in the video in Danish that she felt that the last turn could work also as a double “spin” turn. We then test that option. Next we test a third option giving the Follow a hand-free Vuelta on “5-6-7”.
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have training partners and to organise your own training. Sometimes, it is paramount to control the place, the time, the music, the agenda yourselves. At a certain point, dancers must take over and get in charge of their own learning process in order to develop as dancers.
The last video shows my favourite Lazo variation (head loop to the Lead).
The Lazo move is not likely to make it into my standard repertoire. It is difficult unless the Follow is used to it, and if it fails, it really fails. No plan B. With a Follow not likely to know the move, a good strategy is to use the two halves of the move independently. If the first half works the Lead can next test the other half. If that also works, the Follow is ready for the full move.
A move can only count for a social move if a Lead can do it with a high success rate with a wide range of Follows on the relevant level without the Follows having trained it in advance.
Each dance has room for a couple of “two shots” moves. The Follow might not be perfect the first time around but must be able to survive the move with grace.
If a Follow can’t do a move with perfection when given a second chance, it is not a social move, or the Lead has mistreated the Follow by serving her a move far above her level.