Cross-Body Salsa (Michaelmas 2019)

Timing: 8 beat music with very distinct flat rhythm (like rumba, cha-cha and rock'n'roll); but "on-1" dancers take steps on 1,2,3 and 5,6,7 while "on-2" dancers take steps on 2,3,4 and 6,7,8. Most of Cambridge is currently dancing "on-1", with the gap at the end of each bar or half-bar rather than the start.

Footwork: keep all steps small but deliberate, under your own body, so you don't tread on your own partner or kick another couple nearby. Leaders start with the left-right-left group of steps while followers start with the right-left-right group. Then each dances the other grouping to fill a complete bar of music.

Legs: "soft" knees and mobile hips. Don't be all stiff-legged.

Torso: move your body with the steps (forwards, backwards or even sideways); don't simply stick a leg out in some random direction. It's a whole body lead for much of salsa, not merely signalling with armography.

Arms: you need an "elastic" connection between you and your partner - ie some tension in both biceps and triceps to allow you to push and pull against each other rather than being all floppy and unable to lead and follow. Elbows are usually bent rather than fully extended. Keep arms relatively close to yourself: to your sides and forwards like a puppet when down and in the pizza-carrier position when up. Don't let your elbows go behind your ribcage, as you have less strength there and are at risk of hurting the shoulder joint, nor point outwards to hit your partner in the face.

Hands: don't grip your partner tightly (especially not the thumbs). You need a flexible connection which can rotate in orientation during the dance. This often means something like a ball and socket joint with one person's fingers cupped by the other person's fingers.

Eyes: look at your partner, not at the floor (nor your feet or hands).

Holds: can be open or closed/close, single handed or double handed. In open hold, leaders offer both hands (or just one) in the opposable thumbs up position (palm slightly upwards), while followers take the hands in the meerkat position (palm downwards). In close hold, leader's left hand holds follower's right hand, leader's right hand goes on follower's back just below the shoulder blade (but slightly more central than for ballroom dances) and follower's left hand goes on leader's right shoulder or upper arm.

Don't Panic! The intent of a salsa move is more important than precise footwork or armography. However, if things have definitely gone wrong then it's better to stop, reset and restart cleanly on the beat than to fumble around trying to retrieve the move. Remaining calm and relaxed will also make it much easier for you to dance.


Week 1

Controlling your own body, leading and following, plus the core figures of salsa.

Forwards & Backwards Basic

This is what you do while thinking of something else to do! It works well in close hold or (double-handed) open hold.

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
forwards on left foot,
replace back on right foot,
close left foot (near right)
backwards on right foot,
replace forwards on left foot,
close right foot (near left)
5
6
7
backwards on right foot,
replace forwards on left foot,
close right foot (near left)
forwards on left foot,
replace back on right foot,
close left foot (near right)

There are also sideways basics and opening out (on each arm) basics.

Cross-Body Pass

This is a half rotation to the left to change places. The leader executes a three point turn in the road, while the follower drives straight through (only turning at the end). It's much easier to lead from a close hold than an open one; but you can end it in close hold or open hold (by sliding arms out).

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
left foot forwards into close hold,
right foot back turning L to get out of the way,
left foot sideways/close leaving clear path
right foot backwards,
left foot forwards,
right foot forwards into the space
5
6
7
right foot step while leading follower onwards,
left foot forwards onto path turning left,
close right foot (near left)
left forwards past leader,
right forwards turning left,
close left foot (near right)

More advanced variations can start with a right-to-right or left-to-left handhold.


Week 2

Everyone practised moving into and out of close hold and open hold. The break-out group at the start extended the cross-body pass to include an inside turn or an outside turn. The main group covered the simple right turn for leader and for follower.

Follower's Simple Right Turn

The hand signal for this is a raised handhold (after a downward bounce) - usually leader's left to follower's right, with the leader's palm pointing towards follower (fingers upwards). It can be executed from closed or open hold but when close to partner the leader will definitely need to step back first.

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
left foot back to gain space,
right foot forwards, raising left arm,
left foot close, left palm facing partner
right foot back,
left foot forwards,
right foot close, detect raised handhold
5
6
7
right foot back, let go with right arm,
left foot forwards, left hand above partner,
right foot close, arm down again, regain hold
left foot forwards, turning to right,
right foot forwards, still turning right,
left foot close, come back into hold

Go back into closed or open hold afterwards.

Leader's Simple Right Turn

The hand signal for this needs to happen beforehand and has the leader's raised (left) palm pointing towards themselves while letting go of any other hand grip which isn't involved.

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
left foot forwards turning right,
right foot forwards, handhold overhead,
left foot close, facing partner again
right foot back, let partner lift handhold
left foot forwards,
right foot close
5
6
7
right foot back, restoring normal handhold,
left foot forwards,
right foot close
left foot forwards, regain hold,
right foot back,
left foot close

In a combination turn, the leader would turn first then keep the handhold high for the follower(?) to turn afterwards.

Cross-Body Pass with Inside Turn

A change of places with half a turn to the left for the leader but one and a half turns to the left for the follower.

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
left foot forwards into close hold,
right foot back turning L to get out of the way,
left foot sideways, bounce L arm down then up
right foot backwards,
left foot forwards,
right foot forwards
5
6
7
right foot step, raising L arm between couple,
left foot step, enclosing follower within arms,
right foot close, turning L and regaining hold
left foot forwards, starting to turn L,
right foot sideways, turning half L,
left foot step with more L turn

Cross-Body Pass with Outside Turn

A change of places with half a turn to the left for the leader but one and a half turns to the right for the follower.

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
left foot forwards into close hold,
right foot back turning L to get out of the way,
left foot sideways, raising L arm ahead of follower
right foot backwards,
left foot forwards,
right foot forwards into the space
5
6
7
right foot step, L handhold above follower,
left foot forwards onto path, turning L,
right foot close, regain hold
left forwards, turning R,
turn R more onto right forwards step,
turn R more to finish on left foot step

More advanced followers can add an extra turn. The simplest half turn to the right under the arm is less used.


Week 3

The break-out group at the start of the combined class practised precision side-by-side footwork for travelling turns which would be necessary for making higher numbers of revolutions, eg 2.5 inside or outside. We also covered the footwork for a hook turn - ie a right turn using the right foot (for leaders rather than followers) - in context as an underarm move or behind the back with change of hands.

The main group practised changing hold from closed to open and back to closed again, but also a change of hold to same handhold (via flick and pass) and offering the other handhold above or below for a crossed double handhold. There was also practise of how the crossed holds turn to the right or the left for either partner and end up in the other crossing as a result. Then we covered the options for changing hands using the hair-comb move.

The mini routine for the week (with or without extra basics in between each move!) was:
• from closed hold to open hold
• flick & pass for R-to-R handhold into crossed double with right hands on top
• into follower's simple right turn (on left foot, 5-6-7) leaving left hands on top
• leader's left hand hair-comb into cross-body pass


Week 4

The breakout group covered the footwork difference between simple (spot) turns, travelling turns and spins (and the armography to enable these). The main group recapped last week's routine and then covered the armography (and footwork) for hammerlock position, enchufla and engancha.


Week 5 ... will feature the copa position.