Cuban Salsa: Guapea Social – A Dance Mode

We have several good ways to start a social dance, and most of us agree that we should start with some form of closed position. One popular way is to use Son Básico or just to walk around more or less randomly in Closed Position or using the Son Box (Cajón), or to use the Adiós Closed Position Carousel.

One can also start a social dance similar to how it is often done in Rueda de Casino with what I call “1-3-5-7” stepping or equally good but more difficult with “1-5” Two Steps, using body rolls to indicate the rest of the steps.

How to start

Maybe we should reconsider what the start of a dance is all about. We invite another human being to join us rather intimately on the dance floor. It is nice to go a little easy and be relaxed, to do a few seconds of small taking, and use another few seconds to get into the rhythm and the feel of the music, to connect with the other person, to get into a common way of stepping, and to get a first taste of leading and following.

The traditional ways to start in closed position is far from ideal: They are often too formalistic. Closed Position is not that well-suited to get into the rhythm and the feel of the music because we step in a very choreographed way and we move our feet and bodies very little. Most often we can’t even see the eyes or the face of the other person, and leading and following is reduced to the most basic frame with no or little musicality.

Guapea Social

An alternative way to start a social dance, which I use half of the time, is to start with what I call Guapea Social. The Guapea is an Open Position figure, but when done with both dancers stepping forward on “1” and on “5” a lot of the time and with additional footwork for variation, two handed as well as one handed, opening up and closing in, as we move around, Guapea Social brings the couple close to one another, face to face with a lot of eye contact.

Since Guapea Social is free-styling and inspirational, no two sequences are the same, and since the whole idea is to get into the feel and rhythm of both the partner and the music, we have a dance mode superior to or as good as Closed Position even when it comes to “connection”, closeness and intimacy.

The “Social Guapea” is not only a good way to start a dance, it is also a good dance mode to get back to a couple of times during the dance, or at the end.

Guapea Social in not a new invention. Many dancers do something similar, and it is documented on the legendary !Salsa a la Cubana! DVDs, DVD-1, #8, Santiago de Cuba, 1999, produced and still sold by At that time in Santiago de Cuba, many dancers used Guapea Social and they even promoted it as the basic dance mode of Casino (example in my video).

The Video features me and two of my dance partners, Mona and Pernille, Copenhagen, 2023.

Link to the same video on YouTube

Guapea in social dancing

I regard Guapea Social as a basic mode of dancing. Since it is free-styling, inspirational and music-driven, we have endless of variations for how to hold hands and for how to move around. In social dancing we should avoid the back-rocking, Accordion-Harmonica Guapea common in Rueda de Casino. It’s a disaster because it legitimises back-rock and reduces Casino to a semi-stationary dance.

“Back-rocking” Cuban Salsa can still be a great way to dance, if you don’t know any better, but back-rocking reduces the computational options to a bare minimum, and makes good walking flows impossible. It is like dancing inside a strait jacket. At least compared to the “always step forward” main mode of dancing for the Follow.

If we need Guapea as a basic figure, we should use the sideways Guapea (a couple of options) in order to give our dance a more authentic look and feel. Sideways basic figures are a rarity in Cuban Salsa, a good contrast to traditional basic figures. And for that reason nice to keep alive.

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