Cuban Salsa: Pirueta al Medio

It makes sense sometimes to turn in the middle of a count of eight, between “3” and “5”, using a full pirouette as a Two Step Turn, turning 360 degrees on one foot, right or left. At least as a supplement to Three Step Turns and to Two Step Spiral Turns.

As a turn technique, a full 360 degree Pirouette is mostly useful for a hand-free turn and and when the Follow dances alone. A pirouette, very similar or identical to a spin turn, is stationary by nature and doesn’t work that well as a travelling social turn. Pirueta al Medio is the exception.

I don’t see any arguments for ever using Pirueta al Medio, except that it is nice to have a turn for the middle, between the first and the second half of a count of eight. It is ok for a change, as an exception, especially in “crazy dancing”, or by mistake or as a Plan B in certain situations.

In Video #1, I show the steps of the Follow for Pirueta al Medio, Denmark, 2023. The video is part of a series showing all the common turn techniques in Cuban Salsa.

Link to the same video on YouTube

Nobody knows

Since most Follows don’t know Pirueta al Medio, there is no big incentive for a Lead to use it. If a Lead try to give a Follow a full 360 degree turn “in the middle”, using a forceful lead, it most likely creates embarrassment and imbalance. But it works for a two handed Setenta Hammerlock, and if the Follow knows it.

A Follow that knows Pirueta al Medio, on the other hand, could do a Pirueta al Medio whenever she is lead into a Three Step Turn starting on “3”, simple by ignoring the intensions of the Lead and step a Two Step turn instead. But the Follow will most likely just irritate or confuse the Lead.

Most Pirueta al Medio happens by error. It is very common to do Three Step Right Turns on “3-5-6”, but if the Lead puts to much force into the lead, if he overdoes the leading, the Follow is likely to do a full Pirouette between “3” and “5”, especially if she normally starts Three Step Turns with half a Pirouette.

Pirueta al Medio also works as a Coca-Cola left turn between “3” and “5” but it is seldom seen in social dancing.

Pirouette and Spin

A Pirouette and a Spin turn are basically the same thing. It is to turn 360 degree on one leg, right or left. A Spin turn, often called a “spot turn” because the Follow needs to do spotting to avoid getting dizzy, is mostly used for one, two or more standalone turns, or the Lead can assist the Follow doing a so-called “stir-the-pot” turn. For unknown reasons, “stir-the-pot” is not common in Cuban Salsa.

Three Step Pirouette

The most common way to turn is to use three steps, doing two half turns of 180 degree. We have three common techniques for Three Step Turns: Pirouette, Pivot and Chaîné. When the Pirouette technique is used, it simply means the the first 180 degree is done as a half Pirouette turn. For the next 180 degree the Follow steps around.

Two Step Spiral

Pirueta al Medio is called “in the middle” because that is really the only place it makes sense to do a full 360 degree pirouette as part of travelling social dancing. But at least in theory, one could do a full pirouette on any step both right and left.

Pirueta al Medio is not the only Two Step Turn technique. We also have the wonderful and highly recommended Two Step Spiral Turn that works very well in many situations in Cuban Salsa, but it is still not that common.

Pirueta Cubana (Diana Turn)

In shows, demo dancing and workshop videos featuring Diana Garcia Rodriquez, we often see an extravagant version of the Pirueta al Medio. It has almost become her signature turn. Instead of touching down on “5” to finish Pirueta al Medio, Diana hangs in the air on “5-6” and lands with her left foot on step “7”.

I don’t know the history of this version of Pirueta al Medio, but Diana is one of the more prominent dancers that has promoted it in recent years.

The “Diana Turn” or Pirueta Cubana can be ok in “crazy dancing” and in artistic self-promoting videos but it has little to do with social dancing for the rest of us. It serves most of us best to focus on getting some proper dancing done (difficult enough) instead of on gimmick and stunts.

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