Cuban Salsa: Double Right Turns

Traveling Double Turns is one of the signature features of Cuban Salsa. They are normally done as two Three Step Turns. A Three Step Turn is to do a half turn, 180 degree between the first and the second step, and another half turn, between the second and the third step. That gives us a full 360. We have three common techniques for Three Step Turns: Pirouette, Pivot and Chaîné.

For a double turn, turning in both halves of the 8-count, the Follow will normally use the same turn technique for both turns. We have two timings for the second turn. The first full 360 turn is on “1-2-3” and the second 360 between “3-5-6” or “5-6-7”.

Right turn on “5-6-7”

To do the second turn on “5-6-7” seems the most logical because it gives us a nice symmetry, a turn for each of the halves of the 8-count, respecting the pause in the middle. This is the norm in many Latin social dances, but less so in Cuban Salsa. Right Turns on “5-6-7” do work in many situations, especially when done on a straight line and as a single turn.

As the last part of a double turn, turning right on “5-6-7” is not ideal because:

  1. It can be difficult to time the pause in between the two turns.
  2. Turning on “5” is more difficult than starting on “1” and on “3” because on “5” the Follow turns with the back first.
  3. Step “7” is part of the turn, making it difficult also to use it for preparation of the next figure.

For the above reasons, Three Steps Right Turns on ”5-6-7″ are relatively rare as the second of a double turn.

Right Turn on “3-5-6”

Right Turns on “3-5-6” are very common both as a single turn and as the last of a double turn. It is somehow not strictly textbook to turn over the pause, but the benefits make it the preferred way to turn for many Leads and Follows.

When turning on “3-5-6” we make use of the momentum of the first turn on “1-2-3” and continue immediately over step “3”. This is beneficial in three ways.

  1. Both turns are identical for the foot position on “1” and “3”, and for both turns the Follow starts with the front of the body.
  2. Because of the build-in pause, the Follow gets out of the turn early or very early, probably on “5” or on “5.5” instead of on “6”. This is not bad because it gives the Follow plenty of time to recover from the turn.
  3. Step “7” is not part of the turn but can be fully dedicated to position the Follow best possible for the next count of Eight.

In the video I demonstrate the techniques of the Follow when doing the most common Double Right Turns.

Link to the same video on YouTube

Two Step Spiral Turn

For Double Turns, some dancers like to combine a Three Step Turn with a Two Step Spiral Turn. It makes it possible to respect the pause on “4” and continue with a fast 360 turn on step “5-6”, and still having step “7” free for positioning.

Spiral Turns are universal and versatile, used in many social dance styles and as if invented for Cuban Salsa because they are ideal as part of natural walks (we walk on two legs) and in the corners of many figures. Even the Lead can use Spiral Turns on his own in walks.

The Two Step Spiral Turn is probably the easiest and the most stable of all 360 degree turn techniques, when you have first learned it.

The main problem with Two Step Spiral Turns is that they are still not that common in Cuban Salsa. Regular partners can train them together, and a Follow can use them when led into a right turn on “5” or as a hand-free Vacilala turn at her own discretion. But a Lead can’t expect a random Follow to know the technique.

Vacilala and Giro Habanero

A right turn in the first half of the 8-count is called a Vacilala turn, hand-held or hand-free. A right turn in the second half of the 8-count, on “3-5-6” or “5-6-7” is called Giro Habanero. This name is not that common but it is the one I recommend to use because it is important to have a name for this very common turn in Cuban Salsa.

A double right turn is often called a Vacilala Doble but the full name is Vacilala followed by Giro Habanero.

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