Geneva

Cuban Salsa: An Introduction

After attending that salsa event hosted by Sabor Latino Salsa back in November, I had been trying to convince F to sign up with me for their beginners course. Finally he agreed to it, although reluctantly (he even admitted to hoping that I would somehow “forget” about the class – tough luck!). I’ve always danced salsa at family parties but by no means do I consider myself a pro so I have a vested interest in learning to dance well.

Unfortunately, we missed the first week of class because we found out about the classes too late and then we missed the second week because we had already made travel plans to spend the weekend in Nice. We finally made it to the class in its third week (two Fridays ago).

We arrived a few minutes early at the Maison de la Musique, a really cool space in Onex, fully equipped with multiple dance and music studios, and awaited our instructor’s arrival. I glanced around the dance studio, trying to figure out who the instructor was: Was he the guy wearing the fedora? No, he was dancing in place (code for nervously practicing). Moments later our instructor shows up, wearing red sweat pants with white stripes going down the side (Adidas-inspired), and a white t-shirt – short, tan, and very Cuban-looking. So Cuban, in fact, that I turned to F the moment I saw him and said, “Oh my God, he looks just like Lazaro!” (my stepfather). Needless to say I got very positive vibes from the first moment.

As he was setting up, we approached him and asked if it was okay to join the class; he said it was not a problem since he was going to go over everything they had taught in the past two classes. He brought with him some fans, a small sound system, and an accompanying headset (à la Britney Spears, circa her 2000 VMA performance – no joke, haha).

To start off he went over all of the basic footwork, with a very special salsa song that will forever be stuck in my head:

1-2-3… 5-6-7!

Slowly he progressed to partner dancing, and taught us some basic salsa moves, which I will explain below:

Guapea

Doing the basic step going back on 1-2-3 and then doing the basic step going forward towards your dance partner on 5-6-7 while standing side to side. This is apparently unique to Cuban salsa.

Tiempo España

This moves starts off with both partners facing one another and then coming together on 3. Then the lead turns with his partner on 5-6-7 and continues to move in place, up (arriba), or down (abajo) on the dance floor.

Pa’ Ti y Pa’ Mi

This move involves doing basic turns. It starts off with the lead turning his partner on 1-2-3 and then the partner turning the lead on 5-6-7. Our instructor has us do this twice and on the last 5-6-7 starting the Dile Que No step.

Dile Que No

Dile que no involves the lead keeping his partner to his right on 1-2-3, and then on 5-6-7 the partner crosses over to the lead’s left-hand side.

The first week was a little rough for F – too much, too fast, too soon. But this past Friday we went and I felt like so at ease and I know F was getting there, too. We even started learning the basics to do a Rueda de Casino (lit. casino roulette – this involves multiple couples doing the moves called out by a leader in a circle and then exchanging partners when the leader calls out to do so)!

We have 9 more classes to go but already I can’t wait to get back to Miami to show off!

¡Azúcar! says La Reina de la Salsa herself.

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