Cuban Salsa: Paseo de Olas – Wave Walk

The Ola (Wave) is an advanced level basic figure with a lot of charm and character. Leads that know Ola consider it “a must use in every dance”, if only the Follows were good enough. Ola is a classic, it is featured on the legendary SALC DVD 1, 1999, #18, “Paseo de Olas”. In recent years it has mostly been used by present and former students of MCC.

Ola is a circular Caída walk. The Follow starts from the start position of Caída (aka DQN start position) on “1” and walks a “S” shaped pattern in order to get into the Caída position again on “7-8”. Both the Lead and the Follow should touch shoulders with the free hand in the basic version making it easier to control the waves.

Ola is right-to-right handed with wrestler handhold and can be started from many positions. I start it with a normal Enchufla and then I change handhold to signal “attention” and then I start the Ola walk. The wave is basically the Follow’s walk from pivot to pivot. Most of the wave action is created by the Lead’s arm motion requiring a lot of tension in the handhold. Movement of shoulder/torso also plays an important part.

The Lead has two basic ways of stepping the Ola wave. The easiest is to use the Entrada, to hook behind on “5-6”. The more difficult method is to “slide around” on “3-6” but it requiring good shoes and a matching surface, and that the Lead is already accustomed to that method from Dile Que No.

Ola Clásico

I have divided the Ola figure into two almost identical figures, I call Ola Clásico and Ola Libre. The first, and the first one to learn, is the tight Ola where both Lead and Follow touch shoulders. This is great when learning the move, and makes it easier for the Lead to lead the Follow into the waves by the shoulder, and to control the walk.

Video #1 is from a Practica Training Session with me and Mona, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022.

Same video on YouTube

Ola Libre

When Ola Clásico is working with a particular Follow, it is time to try Ola Libre. In the free-styling Ola, the couple is more apart and don’t touch shoulders, creating a more dynamic momentum. For Ola Libre, the Follow’s free hand should be positioned at her hip or she can hold it at shoulder height. Both hand-positions are shown in next video.

Video #2 is from a Practica Training Session with me and Mona, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022.

Same video on YouTube

Exits from Ola

To exit Ola, the Lead can use Enchufla, or bring both the Follow’s hands to her shoulders. But since the Ola ends in the Caída start position, it can be continued with all the figures and moves we can start from Caída like Páseala, Exhibela, a Saloneo walk and Dile Que No.

Video #3 is from a Practica Session with me and Mona, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2022. This video features both Ola Clásico and Ola Libre.

Same video on YouTube

Unique basic figure

Ola is unique as a basic figure. Even though it only consists of one count of Eight, it doesn’t make sense to reduce it to one count of Eight. We must repeat it at least a handful of times. It is also unique because the basic figure is a combination of the basic figure and of the basic figure with a right turn. The right turn must be a fast Two Step Turn on “5-6” in order for the Follow to have step “7” free to go into the Caída pivot.

The basic model for Paseo de Olas depends on the Lead’s preferences. I like to start with 3-4 waves to get the Follow fired up. When I feel that a good momentum has been created, I add one right turn, and continue with another basic wave or two to make sure that the figure is not falling apart. Then I continue with more turns and waves for as long as it works and feels good to the music.

Ola is an advanced level basic figure because it is a first class social move. It all depends on the music and on the momentum created and no two Paseo de Olas are the same.

Ola is a partner figure

Ola belongs to a relatively small group of figures I call partner figures. Like a proper right turn, it requires a learned technique. The Follow must know that technique in advance. Almost no Follow can do the Ola turn and continue as if nothing has happened with the next basic wave without a lot of training. It is unrealistic for even a good Lead to do the Ola figure spot on with a Follow that doesn’t know it.

Leads are restricted to use Ola with partners, they have trained it with. It took me more than a year to really own the move. I had to learn it myself first mostly by trial and error and at the same time teach the Follow’s part to the Follow!

When a Lead owns the Ola figure as his second nature, it is possible to use it with any good Follow, step by step, little by little, without teaching it explicitly. But the Lead should develop backup figures to turn the Ola into when the waves start to disintegrate.

More Ola

In the videos above, we only show the most basic way to do Ola. On “5-6-7” the Lead can add a Giro (aka Evelyn) shifting hands and back into Ola, or the lead can use the Caída position to start DQN and go into Guapea positon (start position of open position) and then back into Ola, etc.

A popular application of Ola is the two handed Ola with alternating Alardes to Follow and Lead. I will make separate tutorials for all these options, variations, and applications.

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