Cuban Salsa: Why is it called Dile Que No?
The basic figure called Dile Que No (“Say No to Her”) is one of several crazy figure names in Casino. It is rare to find a dance teacher that can explain the origin of the name. Why is it called Dile Que No? If you happen to know the answer, it makes sense, but if you don’t, the name is meaningless, because there is no saying no to nobody in the figure.
The main function of Dile Que No in Casino is to change the direction of the circular dance motion from clock-wise to counter clock-wise, from right turning to left turning motion. If we dance “Forward-and-Back” in a rectangular slot, the function of Dile Que No is to change position inside the rectangular slot, making DQN exactly the same as Cross Body Lead in Salsa on One, “LA Style”, and in Salsa on Two, “New York Style”.
In Cuban Salsa we have several different figures called Dile Que No. When the Lead picks up a new partner in Rueda de Casino and change position with her, leading her into Guapea, it mostly looks like a variation of “Cross Body Lead” but it’s function is different.
When the circular dance motion is already counter-clockwise, like after Dile Que No with a Coca-Cola left turn, the Lead can do a new Dile Que No using “Paseo Steps”. The function of this DQN is just to continue the left turning motion stepping easy. So far, we have not seen a DQN where the name makes sense!
DQN in Son
The origin and meaning of the name Dile Que No is further obscured by the fact that the term is today also used in the Cuban social dance Son. Since Son is much older than Casino, and is supposed to be one of the main roots of Casino, it is easy to draw the false conclusion that the DQN term also comes from Son. But Son was originally a dance with only a few dance terms. First recently, has Son borrowed the Dile Que No term from Casino.
In Son, in addition to the circular Dile Que No and the “Cross Body Lead” type of Dile Que No, we also have at least two types of Dile Que No with the function of bringing the dance from closed to open position. Suddenly the term, “Say No to Her” (Say no to dance in closed position with her) makes a least a little sense. But the name has nothing to do with that.
DQN is a Rueda term
In an interview, uploaded to YouTube 2020, labeled “The Origins of Casino & Rueda de Casino in Havana w/Juan Gómez (Los Fundadores)”, Juan Gómez is asked the question: Why is Dile Que No called Dile Que No. His answer is surprising but it makes a lot of sense. Dile Que No does not mean that the Lead should say no to his Follow but that the Lead should say no to the next Follow in line!
In the very early days of Rueda de Casino, the Rueda had less focus on couple moves. For most of a Rueda all couples participated in the action, moving around in patterns. In many situations the Lead continued with the next Follow in line without an explicit “Dame”, “Dame Una” call. “Dame Una” means “Give One” that is “Continue with the next Follow”.
In order to prevent “changing partners” automatically in certain situation, the Rueda Caller would call: “Dile Que No”. That is “Say no to the next Follow”. Later Dile Que No became the name of the steps, and also used outside of Rueda de Casino.
That is, originally, in Rueda de Casino, “Dile Que No” meant “Say no to change partner, continue with the same Follow”!
It is also interesting that in those early days they didn’t use the “Dame Una” call. Instead the call was the exact opposite, but with the same meaning: “Bótala”. “Bota” means Boot, that is “Give her (the present Follow) the boot”, that is “Beat her up” or “Throw her away” and pick up the next Follow!
I have made a video clip with the relevant Question/Answer from the above interview as well as a link to the full video. The clip starts at 32:00:
I recommend to watch the full video, if you are interested in the origins of Cuban Salsa.