Cuban Salsa: Nudos (knots) are mostly junk

When dance students in Copenhagen are presented with a new ridiculous Cuban Salsa move, it is most likely a so-called Nudo (knot), and we all look at one another behind the teacher’s back and say: “Oh no, not again, one more Clutter Mother!”.

“Clutter Mother” is the name of a children’s game in Denmark: One child is nominated Clutter Mother, the rest of the children hold hands in a long circular chain, next they step in and over and under their arms until one big knot is created, the more complicated and tight the better. The Clutter Mother’s task is then to untie the knot!

Nudo as category and style

I almost couldn’t believe it when I one day discovered that in Cuban Salsa, “Casino”, there actually is a sub-category of moves called Nudos, “knots”! An old Cuban tradition from who knows where and when. Each Lead is supposed to have his own private arsenal of home-made Nudos with which to tie and untie the Follow on the dance floor. The more far out the better!

The Nudo tradition runs so deep among Cuban Leads that many of them only distinguish between basic figures, named social moves from Rueda de Casino, and their own Nudos. The Nudos are supposed to be the real thing, the culmination of a salsa dance. The Nudos of the Lead are his unique contribution with which to impress the Follow and the onlookers.

To some, Nudo is just Cuban slang for any move. But judging from many of the “Nudos” that have been documented in videos on YouTube, Nudo is not just a move but a quick and dirty one, more like a sub-category of moves that really look like knots.

Very many Cuban Leads don’t use Nudos as an exception to the rule. “Nudo” has become their main style of dancing, its look and feel. They call themselves Nudo Masters and they dance Nudo Casino!

The video is a summary of this tutorial.

Same video on YouTube

Nudos are mostly junk

The Nudo tradition is not without its charm! Cuban Salsa as the ultimate “juvenile” social dance, the Leads competing with Nudos, fancy footwork, Arm Juggling (Terremoto), falls to the ground, and today wild “Afro” styling is often part of the mix.

But in my opinion, the Nudo tradition is mostly old-fashioned Macho show-off with no role to play in contemporary social dancing.

Most Follows don’t like it. Firstly, they consider Nudos for non-dancing, often stationary or with stop-ups. Secondly, Nudos restrict the Follows to the point that they can’t “breathe”. Thirdly, many Follows believe that the more extreme Nudo moves are just an excuse for some Leads to get at them to the extend of groping or trespassing their comfort zone. Follows don’t want to be treated as a dance prop, as an excuse for the Lead’s one man show.

Many Leads still in the process of learning the basics of Casino, consider Nudo moves for a waste of time: It is difficult to learn and remember irregular moves, and why focus on kinky and clumsy moves with a high failure rate when one can do smooth and elegant flows instead?

Nudo and Nudo Complicado

I have found hundreds of “knotty” Nudo moves on YouTube, often just labeled “Nudo Cubano”. In Rueda de Casino this Nudo tradition is reflected in two common but not that knotty moves called Nudo and Nudo Complicado. These moves (included in the above video) are rather good and ok also for social dancing.

Nudo Más

Ruben Rodriguez has made his own version of Nudo Complicado but he just calls is El Nudo. I have adapted this version slightly and calls it Nudo Más (included in the video above). I have made a separate tutorial about it: Nudo Más – El Nudo. I also use another classic Nudo type of figure: Al Cuello de Setenta.

Nudo is often not just a move but a long sequence of knotty moves or even a mode of dancing. Some Leads consider themselves to be Nudo Masters dancing Nudo Casino. I consider “Nudo” to be mostly a leftover from an early Neolithic “Macho” phase of Casino. But I do use a few Nudo moves as a spice or to create contrast to my own main dance mode of forward walking flows.

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