Cuban salsa

The Best Guide to Dancing Cuban Style Salsa

1. Why Cuban STYLE salsa?

Because of the different styles of salsa, many people tend to put themselves into one category or another. You will often here “I dance New York salsa” or “I dance Cuban style salsa”. The key reason for the distinction lies in the fact that, if you dance with a partner who trained in a different style than yours, the two of you will find it hard to synchronise your steps, unless one of you is familiar with the other person dance style. 
Cuban style salsa is one of the most popular forms of salsa and one of the most characteristic ones. But first, let’s set the record straight.

2. Cuban style salsa doesn’t exist

The term Cuban salsa has been created to fit the casino dance style into a category and to market it abroad. Since it seemed related in style to salsa; they created the term Cuban salsa. In reality casino rueda is the appropriate term to describe Cuban style salsa. 

2.1. What is Cuban style salsa?

It originated during the beginning of the twentieth century in Cuba. Originally, many couples would form a group and dance together (casino rueda, with rueda meaning circle). In casino rueda, couples executed similar moves together which made the choreography beautiful, fun and challenging at the same time. The term casino came from the fact that people associated the dance to the motions of the wheels in a casino. The “wheel” can either move clockwise or anticlockwise. The steps, on which the couples dance, are chosen by a “caller” who announces the move few steps ahead. Therefore, the dancers do not know which moves will be called and have to be quick in their feet to react. A move might call for a change of partners, or the execution of a specific series of steps.

Casino de rueda - a social cuban dance
Casino de rueda – a social cuban dance

Other fact relating to salsa

Casino also precedes salsa which really took shape in the United States (New York in particular) in the 60’s; with groups such as Fania all stars and later on dancers such as Eddie Torres at the forefront of the genre.

3. Particularities of Cuban style salsa

Even if we just saw that the appellation “Cuban style salsa” was not really appropriate, this term is widely used and convey the understanding at least, that the dance form is from Cuba. In Cuban salsa, people evolve more in circle as opposed to New York or Los Angeles salsa which is more danced in line. The other attribute of Cuban salsa is that it derives many of its moves from ballroom dances such as Danzon, Son, Mambo, chachacha and Afro-Cuban dances like Chango, Abakua, rumba.
The clave is a key instrument of Cuban style salsa. There are 4 types of clave rhythms: 

3.1. Rumba (3/2 and 2/3) and Son (3/2 and 2/3)

The most important thing to remember is that, in Cuban style salsa, the dancer needs to follow the clave rhythm. And in order to perform this task, he/she should train him/herself with cuban rumba songs. Indeed, rumba music uses the clave as a rhythmic base, and is danced following that instrument.

Understanding the clave:

A basic salsa step is made of 2 measures of 4 beats each. The clave will be played 5 times on these beats (3/2 or 2/3). In a 3/2 rhythm, the clave would appear 3 times on the first measure and twice on the second. And vice versa.

Rumba and Son claves are used in Cuban style salsa

Example of clave rhythm on Son and Rumba (PUT VIDEO)

The key difference between rumba and Son

–      Rumba is an afro-Cuban dance that was created at the end of the 19th century by black people and was confined to lower class status until the arrival in power of Castro. From then, the dance became a national flagship of Cuban unity and a way to fight racism and class differences. As such, the dance is managed by the government and taught in many dance schools.
Its key instruments are the clave and the drums as we mentioned earlier.

–      Son, on the other hand, is a ballroom dance that descend created in the 19th century. It mixes elements of Spanish and African origins. 
The key instruments are guitar, tres, claves, maracas, bongos, marímbula

5 Typical steps of Cuban style salsa

4.1. Side steps

cuban style salsa basic steps - sideways

The first step is a relatively simple one. You just move from one side to the other. However, your steps must be in sync with the song and the clave in particular. It’s a very popular move in Son Cubano and require that dance partners be close to each others. I love this step because you can learn to dance on beat while enjoying both the music and your dancing partner at the same time.

4.2. Moving sideways

The second of the Cuban style salsa steps, also borrows from Son. Dancers will move one foot after the other in one direction. The motion is a little challenging if you are used to forward and backward salsa steps, as it requires to complete the full measures of the basic steps in one direction. Here again, couples dance close to each other, and use both their hips and shoulders, as the main drivers of their movements, rather than their feet. The feet follow the direction set by these previous body parts. 

son move cuban salsa style
son move cuban salsa style

4.3. Moving forward/backward

This is also another Son step and it’s very similar to the previous one in that the measures of the basic step are completed in one direction as opposed to half forward, half backward. Once again, it’s the same parts of the body that order the sequence.

Forward/backward son step commonly used in cuban style salsa
Basic son step for rueda dance

4.4. Casino move

The 4th dance set is a typical Cuban style salsa move (casino). You use it to initiate turns, or in anticipation of the “caller” ‘s next move announcement in casino rueda.
– On the (1) beat, both partners lead leg goes back and come back to centre on (3) while holding each other’s lead hands.
– Then on (5), the partners use the palm of the hand associated with the other leg to push each other gently. 

casino move cuban style salsa
Casino move

4.5. Move in circle

Anther typical Cuban salsa style motion that exemplifies the difference between this dance and the other salsa styles. Its indeed executed in a circular motion.

🔴 For men:

– The lead leg (left one) crosses the right one on 1,
– Then your right leg goes backward, followed by the left.
– One the beat (5) you put your right leg behind the left one and use it as a propelling tool to move forward
– First the left leg (6), then the right one (7). 

Rueda move
Rueda move

🔴 For ladies:

– You go back first with your right leg (1), then forward with your left (2) followed by your right one (3).
– You then cross the right leg with your left one (5), move the right one to the side then join the left with it (7).

5. Putting the move together

Once you master these moves, you can “plug and play” choosing the orders of the dance steps. For example, a good combination is: 
4-5-3-1-2

6. I have more to offer

Don’t forget to check-out all the info I put out on Salsa, Zumba, Bachata and other afro-Cuban dances. I have many programs that will make your journey to the gym seems useless. My great VIP programs can take you from novice to expert in less than 3 months. They will definitely introduce new muscles to your body.


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