Cuban Salsa: Three Step Right Turn – Pirouette – Pivot – Chaîné

Three Step Turn is called Three Step because three steps are used to do a full 360 degree turn. 180 degree between each step. This gives us the natural option of turning on “1-2-3” and on “5-6-7”: The two halves of the eight count with a pause in between.

Three Step Right Turn on “1-2-3” is the standard way to do Vacilala Steps. Three Step Right Turn on “5-6-7” is common in many Latin Dances and they are also used in Cuban Salsa but they don’t work that well because we prefer to turn on a curved line, and we want turns to be continued into new figures in flows of forward walking dancing. For that reason we mostly “cheat” a little and start the second half already on step “3”, giving us a “3-5-6”.

Turning on “3-5-6” means that we can use exactly the same technique we use for “1-2-3”, keeping it simple and making double turns easy, turning first on “1-2-3” and then use the momentum to continue with “3-5-6”.

A major benefit from turning on “3-5-6” instead of on “5-6-7” is that step “7” is not part of the turn. Step “7” can instead be used to position the Follow best possible for the next figure giving us more options for how to continue or making the options easier.

Many Techniques

There are many ways for the Follow to step right turns. In this tutorial we only look at the so-called Three Step Turn techniques for travelling right turns, and we focus entirely on the steps, as simplified and as easy to understand and to replicate as possible.

I will cover Double Turns, Four Step Turns, Two Step Turns as well as Left Turns, so-called Coca-Cola turns, in other tutorials and videos.

Turn techniques is an almost unknown topic in Cuban Salsa. Most Follows just turn the way they first learned it, right or wrong. They don’t know the different techniques. Leads have mostly no idea about how the Follows turn. For that reason they are bad at leading the turns, bad at timing them and bad at supporting the Follows during their execution of the turns.

Three Step Pirouette Turn

Tree Step Pirouette Turn is not a standard turn but very common in Cuban Salsa:

  1. It is easy to learn
  2. relatively soft on the Follow’s knees and feet
  3. and it works well on any surface.

This is definitely a turn technique all Follows should know:

  1. The Follow steps forward on “1”
  2. makes a Half Pirouette between “1” and “2”
  3. steps around on step “3”.

The sequence is exactly the same when starting on “3”. When starting on count “5”, the Follow starts to turn with her back forward but the sequence is similar.

Three Step Pivot Turn

Three Step Pivot Turn is a standard turn technique used in all Latin dance styles and in many other social dances. The exact technique differs. It is the natural way to do traveling turns, 180 degree for each step.

In Cuban Salsa, the Follow:

  1. Steps forward on “1”
  2. and on “2” and pivots the foot as it touches the ground
  3. and steps around on step “3”

The sequence is exactly the same when starting on step “3” and step “5” except that on step “5” it starts with the back forward.

Three Step Pivot:

  1. A long, elegant turn on one line
  2. Less easy and less soft on knees and feet
  3. a universal turn

Three Step Chaîné Turn

The turn comes from ballet where it is a chain (chaîné) of Two Step turns, collecting and twisting around on the feet for every second step. Most Latin dances and many other social dances have their own adaption of the Chaîné turn. In Cuban Salsa it is a Three Step Turn.

Chaîné is exactly like the Three Step Pivot except that the Follow collect the feet and twist around on step “3” instead of just stepping around:

  1. Steps forward on “1”
  2. and on “2” and pivots the foot as it touches the ground
  3. Collecting the feet and twist around on step “3”

Chaîné works well on “1-2-3” and “3-5-6”. But Chaîné is not ideal for turns on “5-6-7” because the Follow ends up with collected feet on step “7”, a difficult point of departure for some of the options, we normally do at step “7”, like pivoting the Follow into Caída position (DQN start position) on “7-8”.

  1. The Chaîné turn is very elegant
  2. but it’s difficult
  3. and the surface better be good

Video #1 shows me at Kirkemosen, Brønshøj, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 2022.

Link to the same video on YouTube

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