Cuban Salsa: Left turns (Coca-Cola)

Left turns are relatively rare in Cuban Salsa and for some reason, we are going to look into that later, they are almost universally called for “Coca-Cola”. In more than half of all social dances (I have done some statistics), the Coca-Cola left turn is not used! Many Leads never or rarely use left turns but we also have many Leads using left turns a couple or a handful of times in almost every dance. The few left turns are “compensated” by the use of the Enchufla left half-turn, the most common of all basic figures, often used several times in many moves.

Left turns (Coca-Cola) are basic figures of one count of Eight with the same pattern as right turns except that it is customary to mention turning on the last half of the Eight count first because it is by far the most common. Using Latin Three Step turns or Pivot turns, the 360 degree left turn is composed by two 180 degree turn.

  1. The Follow steps forward on “1”, continues forward on 2-3″, turns 180 degrees between “5-6” and again between “6-7”.
  2. The Follow steps forward on “1”, turns 180 degrees between “1-2” and again between “2-3”, and continues forward on “5-6-7”.

For Two Step Spiral turns, The Follow turns on “6-7” of “5-6-7” and on “1-2” of “1-2-3”.

By far the most common usage of Coca-Cola is with DQN, and it is so common, that for many dancers Coca-Cola is the same as DQN con Coca-Cola. Another common use of Coca-Cola is in several classic Miami Rueda Moves where the Coca-Cola turn is used to exit e.g. Panqué (Siete) moves.

Examples of Coca-Cola turns.

  1. Dile Que No con Coca-Cola
  2. Enchufla con Coca-Cola
  3. Panqué (Siete) con Coca-Cola
  4. Paseo con Coca-Cola
  5. Saloneo con Coca-Cola
  6. “Figure Eight Walks” con Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola left turns on “1-2-3” are so rare that they make up less than 10 per cent of all Coca-Cola turns.

Coca-Cola on “6-7” and on “1-2”

Coca-Cola turns on “6-7” and on “1-2” using the Two Step Spiral Turn technique have many advantages, and they are far superior when Coca-Cola is added to the corners of other moves like in Paseo, Saloneo and Figure-8 walks. It is nice that a Follow can almost finish a “5-6-7” walk and then turn on “6-7”. And if she is doing fine, the Lead can add one more turn on “1-2” with only the pause in between.

Video Clip #1 is from “DC Casineros”, Washington DC, USA, 2014, has Amanda Gill and Adrian Valdivia as instructors. Amanda shows the Latin Spiral Turn technique adapted for Cuban Salsa.

Original DC Casineros video on YouTube

Dile Que No con Coca-Cola

The standard way to use Dile Que No brings the Follow into the start position of open position, also called Guapea start position. In order to get into that position, the Follow steps forward on “1” (some steps back and loose two steps), continues forward on “2-3-5-6”, pivots around on “6” and into the start position of open position.

If a Coca-Cola is added to “5-6-7” of Dile Que No, or to “6-7” of Dile Que No, the Follow first exits the turn on “7” making it technically impossible to pivot around on “6” to get into the start position of open position. For that reason an extra Dile Que No, an extra count of eight, is added in order to get into the start position of open position in an elegant way (she could of cause just “thread water” in open position for a count of eight) as many beginners do.

Video Clip #2 is from “Salsa4Water” featuring Sam and Krista, UK, 2013. It shows Coca-Cola as last part of Dile Que No and Sam is showing us two versions. The first is a hand-held Coca-Cola, the second is a Coca-Cola lead by the shoulders of the Follow.

Same Salsa4Water video on YouTube

Krista pretty much steps a perfect Dile Que No and Coca-Cola. Note that she steps forward or have her right foot in forward position on “1” when starting Dile Que No. The video is an example of the use of the Three Step Turn Technique.

Coca-Cola por Detrás

DQN con Coca-Cola ends on “7” of Coca-Cola and can be continued in several ways. The Lead could add a Reina on “1-2-3” or a Coca-Cola turn on “1-2-3”, or they could just continue with an additional DQN and into open position as is the most common. This last version, is the standard version of DQN con Coca-Cola in Rueda de Casino, but in social dancing a host of options are available, and for that reason the “Rueda” DQN con Coca-Cola is often called Coca-Cola por Detrás (often spelled atras). This Coca-Cola all the way behind (detrás) and around the Lead often adds a second Coca-Cola turn on the second count of Eight, followed by a third DQN and into open position.

When two Coca-Cola turns are used, it is tempting to call it for “Coca-Cola Double” but this name should be reserved for a real double turn, a “5-6-7” Coca-Cola followed by a “1-2-3” Coca-Cola or likewise on “6-7” and “1-2” if the Two Step Spiral turn technique is used.

Video #3 is from “Son de Habana”, Bogatá, Columbia, 2015, featuring Alexander Barreto and Susana Osorio. This video should be labeled Coca-Cola por Detrás. They actually have a video with that name showing exactly the same move but more open, lead by shoulder and hip. Below we see the standard way to do Coca-Cola por Detrás.

Same “Son de Habana” video on YouTube

Note that Susana is a forward stepper like Kista. She steps forward on one or her right foot is in forward position at the start of Dile Que No. The more forward steps, the more a Follow is leadable, making a richer dance possible.

Video Clip #4. Let me share a Practica video with me and Mona, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022. This version of Coca-Cola por Detrás is lead by shoulder and hip, using Three Step Turns.

Same “Mona and Jesper” video on YouTube

Panqué (Siete) con Coca-Cola

Panqué con Cola-Cola, often called Siete con Coca-Cola in the Miami sub-style of Cuban Salsa, is normally thought of as a classic Rueda “Casino” move. But Panqué con Coca-Cola can also be used as part of a Paseo walk where it shines the most: but leading/following isn’t easy.

Video Clip #5 is from the Polish dance school “bailarcasino.pl”, featuring Piotr Agassi and Agata, Poznań, Poland, 2014. The clip starts with Panqué con Coca-Cola, then into the Paseo walk and the Reina basic figure culminating in one more Panqué con Coca-Cola and more Paseo walk.

Original Piotr and Agata video on YouTube

Agata is also a “forward by default” dancer, making for fantastic walks full of drive and momentum not possible if the Follow steps back a lot of the time.

Origin of the Coca-Cola name

Nobody seems to know. And it’s interesting that American Salsa, especially LA style, also often calls the two step left turn on “6-7” for Coca-Cola. It might have something to do with the fact that Coca-Cola most often is an option added to the second half of other figures like a surprise: a quick “fix” for fun like a spice.

I also find it fascinating that the classic Coca-Cola bottle has the shape of a female torso. The Coca-Cola move is often lead in such a way that the Lead’s right hand follows her body in order to support and stabilise her. This makes the Coca-Cola name even more meaningful: The Follow gets the sparkling drink the Lead gets a chance to feel her body!

The “Coca-Cola” name is one of the few Salsa dance terms most dancers know. For all those reasons I find it despicable that some dancers and dance schools call Coca-Cola for Botella (“bottle”) in the name of political correctness: “no brand names please”! But excuse me: Don’t replace the most wonderful name with a boring meaningless term most dancers have never heard about: and difficult to pronounce and make meaning of for non-Spanish speaking dancers!

Coca-Cola on 3-5 or on 3-4

A few Leads sometimes do the Coca-Cola turn between “3-5”! Last time I saw it was with Diana Rodriguez as Lead, she used it twice in the same dance with great success with a super Follow. I have not yet tested, if turning on “3-5” is a good idea as an exception to the rule. My first thought is that it creates more confusion than benefits. We should not add more complexity to our dance except for a very good reason. But I somehow like the idea of a left turn in the middle of a count of eight when free-styling with a good Follow.

Yoel Marrero is doing something similar in Routine #18 of his MCC sub-style of Casino. He promotes the idea of a Two Step Coca-Cola turn on “3-4” with the purpose of making “Coca-Cola Triple” possible done with Two Step Spiral Turns: “3-4”, “6-7”, “1-2”. This is definitely to add complexity without sufficient benefits. The vast majority of Follows have plenty of problems with left turns already.

Advanced Coca-Cola

One can tell Leads apart from how they use Coca-Cola. Do they go easy after Coca-Cola and back into DQN and Guapea or is Coca-Cola more like the start of an advanced sequence of basic figures?

The two videos from “Salsa4Water” and Columbia are “Rueda de Casino” type of social dancing, restricted and limited in scope (the “move” approach). The Polish video is at a superior level in and out of walkabouts whenever possible, suitable for sublime social dancing. Below, for inspiration, I give a few more examples of good Coca-Cola combinations (“basic figure” approach):

  1. Coca-Cola into Exhibela
  2. Coca-Cola into 88
  3. Coca-Cola into Coca-Cola on “1-2-3” or “1-2”
  4. Coca-Cola into Reina
  5. Coca-Cola into Rodeo Inverso
  6. Coca-Cola Moderno (Yoyoflow)
  7. etc.

I will make separate tutorials and videos for all of them.

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