Cuban Salsa, a dance that embodies the soul of Cuba, has captured the hearts of dancers worldwide. With its infectious beats and sensual movements, it is more than just a dance; it’s a cultural expression that brings people together in celebration of life.
In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through the captivating realm of Cuban Salsa, delving into its history, key moves, and the joy it brings to those who dance it.
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Cuban Salsa also known as Salsa Cubana is a popular style of dancing in Europe, Central America & parts of Asia. Specifically, it is danced on the “on 1 timing” and is also danced in a circular fashion rather than in a line.
Moreover, it is danced to Cuban Salsa music or Timba. Dancers use exaggerated hip movements and spins to create a dynamic interplay with their partners and the rhythm itself. These movements and spins are what give it its signature flair and excitement.
Salsa Rueda is when a group of dancers get together in a circle and dance together while transferring the follower both forwards and backward around the circle. In Salsa Rueda, there is also a leader who calls out each move to the group.
Cuban-style salsa especially stands out in nightclubs in the USA. It’s not the typical type of salsa such as New York Style or LA Style Salsa that is more prevalent across the USA.
The exception to this is the Miami, Florida area which has a large amount of Afro-Cuban dance due to the large Cuban community in South Florida. Additionally, the Cuban dance community is growing in popularity in New York City.
The above YouTube Video shows a couple dancing salsa at a 2022 Cuban Salsa Festival in Greece.
The foundation of it lies in the basic salsa step, a rhythmic pattern that serves as the starting point for various moves. Specifically for the handwork, the leader’s left hand holds the follower’s right hand during this step.
The basic footwork for the leader is done (on the 1 count) by stepping back a little with your left foot, then stepping in place (on the 2 count) with your right foot, and then returning your left foot to its original position ( on the three count).
After a pause, the leader steps forward (on the 5 count) with their right foot and right hand held up to meet the follower’s left hand. Then the leader (On the 6 count) steps back slightly with their left foot and on the seven-count the leader steps back with their right foot to its original position. Followers just do the opposite and start with their right foot stepping back a little.
Remember to maintain the connection between the leader’s left hand and the follower’s right hand during this step. The below YouTube video demonstrates the basic steps and body movements.
In English, this means “Tell Him No”. This move is the Cuban salsa cross-body lead. Here is the breakdown of the steps but don’t worry, you can just watch the below instructional video.
This move normally starts with a V-shaped closed position. The leader’s right hand is on the back of the follower’s shoulders and the follower’s right hand is held by the leader’s left hand.
On 1 the leader is moving their left foot forward and at the same time is pushing the follower backward with their left hand. The follower moves their right foot backward at the same time.
On 2 the leader moves with their right foot, and the followers with the left foot. The leader’s foot is located approximately 90 degrees from the follower.
On 3 the leader moves their left foot backward to match the right foot. The intention is to be 90 degrees to the girl and move backward enough to give the girl a straight path forward. Simultaneously the leader gives a small indication with his left hand to stop there. The follower then moves their right foot forward but still behind the left foot.
On the 5 count, the leader steps with their right foot on the ground and pushes the follower’s back with their right hand. The left hand is still connected. The follower moves their left foot forward.
On 6 the leader steps with their left foot on the ground but turns it about 90 degrees to the left. The follower moves their right leg forward and to the left passing their left foot. The foot should turn to the left as the follower is about to complete a turn.
On 7 the leader brings their right foot with their left facing the follower. The follower moves their left foot forward while turning with the left shoulder backward and thus the follower is now facing the leader.
Enchufa: A classic move where the leader guides the follower through a series of turns.
Sombrero: In this move, the leader creates a hat-like motion by rotating their partner’s arm over their head.
Pro tip: To become an excellent salsa dancer it is vital to have a solid foundation in the basics including timing, balance, cadence, and weight transfer. Check out this very informative YouTube Video from the Messina Dance Company. He breaks this down into an easy-to-understand tutorial.
Vacilala: In English, this term best translates to “show her off”. This is a popular move in Cuban Salsa. It can be done without hands, with the left hand to the left hand, the right hand to the left hand, or two-handed, etc. Since there are so many variations to the vacilala, take a look at the below YouTube video which demonstrates it.
Specifically, Salsa Cubana, often referred to simply as “Casino,” originated in the streets of Havana, Cuba, during the mid-20th century. The dance halls where it was danced were known as “casinos”. Historically, the dance was highly energetic and incorporated many partner switches and hand movements.
Additionally, it has elements of other Cuban dances such as Son Cubano, Cha Cha, Danzón, and the Afro-Cuban Rumba. Rooted in Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms, this energetic salsa dance style emerged as a social activity that transcended age, gender, and social status.
The dance’s infectious energy and free-spirited nature quickly turned it into a global sensation. Today you can find many Cuban dancers all over the world, especially in locations with Cuban immigrant communities.
Can I learn it if I have no dance experience?
Absolutely! This salsa dance style welcomes dancers of all skill levels. With dedication and practice, anyone can learn and enjoy the dance’s rhythms.
Do I need a partner to dance it?
Yes, Cuban-style salsa is a partner dancing activity but don’t worry, many dance classes rotate partners during practice. Additionally, remember Cubans are known for their friendliness and love of salsa. When you are at a Cuban Salsa club, you will always learn new moves, dance steps and find a dance partner!
What should I wear to a Salsa class?
Regardless of the style of salsa class, wear comfortable attire that allows freedom of movement. Moreover, choose shoes with smooth soles that facilitate spins.
Is it only danced to traditional Cuban music?
While traditional music forms the core, it can be danced to various popular music, Latin rhythms, and remixes adding excitement to the experience.
Is there a competitive aspect to it?
While it is primarily a social dance, some dancers participate in competitions to showcase their skills. You will find competitions at many of the Cuban Salsa Festivals worldwide and also at Dance Festivals that feature a Cuban category.
Where is it danced around the world?
You can find Salsa Cubana dancers in areas where Cubans have immigrated to. For example, Latin America, Spain, Italy, and many other parts of Europe have excellent Cuban Salsa dancers. Moreover in Asia, from Bangkok to Tokyo, you will be able to find a lot of social dancing and dance schools dancing Salsa Cubana. Lastly, we can’t forget about dancing in the streets of old Havana.
This salsa style is more than just a dance style; it’s an expression of popular social culture. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced dancer, exploring the world of this dance style will enrich your life with new experiences and cherished memories.
I have had some amazing experiences dancing Cuban Salsa at large dance festivals in Europe to small salsa clubs in Tokyo, Japan. So, put on your dancing shoes, immerse yourself in the rhythm, and let it take you on an amazing journey.
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