Thursday, September 18, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Reverse Cross Body Lead

For some reason, most of the basic (travelling) Salsa concepts favour movement from a single direction. The lady’s left and man’s right -- the movement for either gender may not necessarily be co-related.

I believe it is important for beginners to explore movement from either side of the ‘line’ of dancing; especially men. Women do get the opportunity to travel / turn across both sides, but generally movement for men remains lop-sided. Consciously creating patterns from either side can help men add at least 30% more variation to their partner-work and make them a lot more unpredictable (hopefully).

There isn’t any content available on the internet -- either via videos or literature -- on the Reverse Cross Body Lead (RCBL). Even in the classroom, most instructors don’t specifically focus on the RCBL, unless it is built into a pattern.

Here is an attempt to fundamentally break down the footwork for the RCBL. Rather than keeping the footwork (for men) as a mirror image to the Cross Body Lead (CBL), a variation has been attempted by yours truly.

How to:
For simplicity of understanding and execution, the RCBL is almost a mirror image of the CBL.

Women’s Footwork:
(1,2,3): Regular back basic
5: Step forward with left foot
6: Step forward with right foot
7: Pivot 180 degrees over the right shoulder and end with left foot next to the right

Men’s Footwork:
1: Step with left towards the lady (regular step)
2: Right foot shifts out to the left side (behind the left leg or even surpassing it as the case may be)
3: Left foot moves next to right. Ensure  you continue to face the lady; however, the frame / feet do not create any obstruction for the lady
5: Step back with the right foot (tagging the lady for the RCBL lead)
6: Shift the left foot (to the right) and attempt to get the feet back in to the line of dancing
7: Pivot 180 degrees on the left foot as you slide the right foot back (right foot finishes next to left)

This variation in footwork for men helps create a different angle for the lead (less predictability), makes the movement sharper (adds finesse), and assists in adding more push / pull variations (integrates concepts better).

There isn’t much to tinker around with the women’s footwork, considering the lead serves as a means to an end (execution).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Cross Body Turn

The Cross Body Turn (CBT) or Cross Body lead with an inside turn is an extension of the CBL (Blog Post). The lady executes a travelling turn to the left (counter-clockwise) as the man leads her through his CBL footwork.

How to:

In terms of execution the CBT is relatively more challenging for the women as it builds upon the CBL, however for men the footwork remains the same as CBL (opportunity to bring in finesse).

Attached image helps visually understand the footwork for men and women.

Women’s Footwork:
(1,2,3): regular back basic
5: lady steps forward with left foot
6: a 90’ pivot to the left with the right foot
7: a 180’ pivot to the left (over the back) with the left foot
1: a 270’ pivot to the left (from the front) with the right foot landing back.

Ensure the momentum for the turn is generated on count 5 and just allow the body to follow through the rest of the counts.
Ensure the left foot steps straight on count 5 (extremely important to ensure the linearity of the execution)
Counts 6 and 7 are progressive steps. Ensure that the free (of weight) foot pivots with the travelling foot
Cut through the turn with the right foot (rather than swinging it across) to merge with the back basic on count 1 of the next bar of music.

Men’s Footwork:
Remains the same as CBL

Lead / Pointers: Connection- Men’s L to Lady’s R (lead remains the same irrespective of the connection)

Raise the hand up to the lady’s shoulder level by count 3 to clearly distinguish between a CBL and a CBT
A short forward tag on count 5 so that the lady starts crossing over to the other side.
Directional nudge to the lady’s left on count 6 (her left) to initiate the CBT. Allow for the fingers to roll with the connection, rather than using the entire arm to lead. Making the lead smoother and not imposing on the followers movement. Keep elbows relaxed.
Try and ensure the lady’s upper arm remain parallel to the floor while leading and the radius of the lead remains close to the lady’s head so that the distance covered by the lady while turning is minimal.
Follow through with the connection on count 7 as you gradually start bring hand back down at the waist level.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Cross Body Lead

The Cross Body Lead (CBL) sets up the stage for dancers to move about and use their dancing space well. All the travelling concepts build on the CBL. The most important characteristic of the CBL is its linearity, which clearly helps the novice dancers distinguish between On1/On2 dancing as opposed the more circular movement of the Cuban style.

How to:
The execution for the CBL differs for men and women. The man will first turn away from the lady, and she will walk “across” and pivot later. This results in the lady passing briefly in front of the man, giving the Cross Body Lead its name.
In terms of execution the CBL is simpler for the women than it is for men. However given the frequency with which men get to practically use the CBL while dancing it somewhat makes it the most important figure for the men.

Attached image helps visually understand the footwork both for the men and women.

Women’s Footwork:
(1,2,3): regular back basic
5: lady steps forward with left foot
6: Lady steps forward with right foot
7: lady pivots 180 degrees over the left shoulder and ends with left foot next to the right.

Don’t be eager to jump forward for the CBL unless you are absolutely sure of the man’s lead
Counts 5 and 6 are two progressive short steps
Avoid pivoting until count 7 to keep your movements sharp and to avoid any confusion of direction

Men’s Footwork:
1: step with left towards the lady (regular step)
2: right foot shifts out to the side | pivot on the foot to come in perpendicular to the lady’s frame
3: left foot next to right | finish the pivot from count 2 and end up outside the lady’s frame completely perpendicular to her frame.
5: check step (right foot almost in place)
6: lift the left foot and move it pointing towards the left from the existing position
7: resolution (right foot finishes next to left)

While stepping out on count 2 ensure not to step too far out
Avoid going to far back on count 5. The closer it remain to the left leg, the better.
On count 6 the left leg trails the distance the partner has travelled (however, distance can always be controlled by the resistance between partners)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Salsa Concepts: Simple Spot Turn (Right)


The simple spot turn is your induction to the world of turns and spins and forms the very basis of executing any turn pattern, be it the dizzying multiple turns or the traveling cross body turns.

How to:

--Execution of the turn is exactly the same for both men and women, just the counts differ, thankfully so that you don’t bump into each other.
-- For the spot turn – right; women (W) turn on the second half of the bar (5,6,7) & men (M) turn on the first half (1,2,3)
-- Step with the left leg forward (on 1 for M / 5 for W). Weight on left.
-- Pivot with both feet 180 degrees (on 2 for M / 6 for W). Weight on right.
-- Thrust left leg and pivot another 180 degrees on right leg to finish (on 3 for M / 7 for W).
-- Follow through back basic (5,6,7 for M / 1,2,3 for W)


-- Keep your back and chin up straight
-- Keep your legs close together to streamline centre of gravity under the torso
-- Do not lift the traveling foot (left leg) off the ground, risk getting wobbly
-- Spot / focus on something at your eye level
-- When practicing by yourself use your arms and shoulders to help generate momentum, but ensure you don’t over rotate/soften stance while turning. 
-- Salsa dancing does not offer any recovery time, you have to immediately follow up your turn with the back basic.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Curse of the No Dancer's Land!

It was the evening of a day. I walked into the club. With Salsa at my toes. And Latin rhythms throbbing the walls of the club.
Scanning the many dancers on the floor, bifurcation comes easy.
The one consciously looking at his left leg move front & right leg move back, more than he eyes his partner, *may* be the Beginner.
The one bothering more about the Hand Flick & the Hair Brush, and less about the Cross Body Turn *could* be the Veteran.

Apart from confidence & style, what stands the dancer out in the crowd is Musicality. When does La Palomilla switch tempo & pace up? When does Vehicle break for a Big 1? This swift Salsa mover knows that, and it's out there for the floor to see & tap!

A slightly more than thin line falls between the Beginner & the Veteran -  between the one who thinks every time he steps & the one who has the music doing the thinking - the large barrage of dancers who are neither Beginners nor Veterans! Generally, the string of basic concept classes, followed by the simple, commonly taught combinations globally, are enough for a dancer to take the step above & beyond the Beginner level. This is the bracket that everyone wants to move out of with utmost urgency! And expectedly so. Back in school, everyone would choose to rather be in the next grade than in the previous one.

But why does it happen that *most* dancers, once they leave the Beginner bracket, stagnate, and take so long to become Veteran dancers? From the phase of conscious moving & toe tripping steppers to those filled with style & pomp; the ones that make the Beginners want to not be Beginners!

One of the biggest reasons for this is the comfort one finds in the few combinations that have been mastered. Sometimes, looking at the neither here-nor there dancers is resemblant of a cassette that's stuck on a particular song - after all, it's creativity & novelty that keeps one going to the next level. The lack of it makes it all too standard. Coming second would be the not-so-much interest in tapping the art of playing with music. It's one thing to not dance on the count. It's another thing to use music only to get through the dance. But it's altogether a different thing when one uses music to enhance his dancing - and a Veteran dancer knows this knack.

How would one want to be a Salsa dancer but still know only those many combinations? Why would one want to be a Salsa dancer but not dance to the music that comes with? Rather dance to create & use the music to marvel! It's only when you embrace both that Salsa triggers you more; all for a good cause.

The art of stagnation, it's a practice one's got to practice against.
Salsa's always going to be saucy. Music's always going to be musical. Now for the dancer to decide - to be a Beginner or a Veteran. Or to be somewhere in No Dancer's Land!

Sunday, January 29, 2012