Cross-Body Salsa (Lent 2020)

General Information

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. When your arm is raised, don't let your elbow 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: 18 January 2020

The initial portion of the class concentrated on controlling your own body, getting the right arm tension for leading and following, and learning the core footwork of salsa. We also covered the armography for a couple of basic figures when partnered.

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 (to each side) back breaks (backwards each time) and opening out (on each arm) basics.

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.

Dirty Dancing Routine

Just for fun, we extended these simple figures into the start of the mambo show routine from the Dirty Dancing film. The other figures we needed were:
• enchufla doble (stop & go) ending in cuddle hold
• rolling off the arm (follower's travelling turns, leader's side step)
• follower's around-the-clock roll (leader stationary).


Week 2: 25 January 2020

We recapped the important basic elements of footwork (rhythm, small steps, balls of the feet, weight forwards, soft/bent knees) and armography (loose grip, arm tension, elbows not in partner's face, waist height connection for centre of gravity vs high signals for turning).

We practised moving between close hold and open hold on basic footwork - via slight hand-flick rejection of follower's left hand by leader's right hand to move closer and simple sliding down the arm to move apart.

Leader's Simple Right Turn

In addition to the follower's simple underarm right turn from last week, the leader can also make a simple right turn under the linked arms. The hand signal for this is subtly different (and doesn't require extra time for the follower to notice it's aimed at them). Leader's palm facing follower (fingers up) means it's the follower's turn whereas palm facing leader (before popping it overhead) means the leader's turn.

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

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).

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

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)

We introduced the concept of the follower making a turn under the linked arms during the second half of the cross-body pass. These are stepped travelling turns rather than spot turns or spins. They can turn to the outside (follower's right) or inside (follower's left). The very simplest is almost never used as the follower merely pops under the armhold to turn a half to the right (instead of continuing the half left turn of the pass itself). The next easiest to perform is the inside turn with 1.5 turns to the left.


Week 3: 1 February 2020

With so many new people turning up for the class, we recapped the basic footwork, the importance of arm tension for leading and following, and the simple right turns - as footwork and under linked arms. We also practised moving into and out of close hold again and the cross-body pass ending closed or open.

The new variation for the week was the leader's simple right turn with a hand change behind the back (rather than overhead) going straight into a cross-body pass with a right-to-right handhold. For any behind-the-back armography, whether for leader or follower, it's very important to keep the hand low.


Week 4: 8 February 2020

We covered Various "shines", ie fancy solo footwork for both leaders and followers. Some of them use the normal salsa step timing but others are very strange.

It's possible to simply turn the basic forwards and backwards footwork between 2 or 4 corners to display to an audience in front or one surrounding a dancefloor.

The sideways basics can become cross-overs or cross unders by crossing the closing step past the supporting foot each time. Note that, however neatly you do these, the cross-overs will drift forwards unless you drag the second (replacement) step back a little each time; and the cross-unders will drift backwards unless you shuffle the second step forwards. It's also possible to fit a hook-turn onto the end of a cross-under.

Suzie-Q (or Suzy-Q) steps are tightly twisting "lock" steps. You can get into them in various ways, including simply stepping across on the forwards step of the left-foot half of the basic. They can be done within the usual 3 step timing or as a continuous set.

Sliding Doors has nothing to do with the rumba or cha-cha figure of the same name. Instead it's a step tap sequence starting on the left foot and using all 8 counts of the double-bar: left forwards, right tap closed turning ¼ R, so the next step on the right foot turns ¼ R from a sideways start to end forwards before the left foot taps closed facing the other way; and then repeat those actions exactly to return to the original direction.

Bouncing Ball begins on the end of the previous basic by crossing over the right foot on 7 and releasing the left foot to tap behind on 8. The next left foot taps are around the standing right foot in a clockwise motion for 1, 2, 3 to finish with a left foot crossing over step on 4 ready for a normal backwards basic half-bar with the right foot on 5,6,7.


Week 5: 15 February 2020

We had split the class into 6:15pm beginners and 7:15pm improvers upwards.

Beginners

We recapped the basic footwork from week 1 - using the counts 1,2,3 and 5,6,7 - for the forwards and backwards basics and sideways basics and how this fits together when dancing with a partner. Plus the simple right turn footwork for both leader and follower - and how to perform it with hands linked overhead, keeping elbows safely down.

We also recapped the cross-body pass from week 2, where the leader gets out of the way (turning left in 2 quarter turns) and the follower walks straight through (only turning half left at the end). This included practising the hand-flick into close hold and the slide out into open hold.

Finally we practised the same simple right turns but letting go of follower entirely for their turn (with left-to-right hand push) and with leader changing hands low down behind their back instead for their right turn.

Improvers / Intermediates

We recapped the footwork for the travelling turns to the left and to the right. Within the context of cross-body partnerwork: the 1.5 turn to the left is an inside turn (towards partner while passing) and the 1.5 turn to the right is an outside turn (away from partner while passing). The inside turn is easiest because the leader can keep the follower safely enclosed.

We covered the concepts of the copa position (like a teapot, with follower in front of leader but facing the same way ie having their back to the leader) and the windmill arms. Our practice routines (at a range of speeds!) were:

countleaderfollower
1,2,3 basic, changing handhold from DH to RRH basic, letting leader change handhold
5,6,7 basic, leading right turn and taking LLH over too simple R turn, letting leader take other handhold
1,2,3 enchufla, turning ¼ R into copa position enchufla, turning ¼ L into copa position
5,6,7 basic, leading inside turn with LLH travelling turn to left (1.5 turns)

countleaderfollower
1,2,3 half R turn, changing hands behind back from LRH to RRH basic, letting leader turn away and change handhold
5,6,7 basic, leading windmill right turn with RRH outside travelling (R) turn, with windmill arms

Then we combined these into a longer sequence using a haircomb to get back into close hold for a straight cross-body pass.

countleaderfollower
1,2,3 half R turn, changing hands behind back from LRH to RRH basic, letting leader turn away and change hands
5,6,7 basic, leading windmill outside (R) turn with RRH outside travelling (R) turn, with windmill arms
1,2,3 back basic, taking other handhold for XRH basic, letting leader change handhold
5,6,7 basic, leading right turn overhead to XLH simple R turn, with hands overhead
1,2,3 enchufla, turning ¼ R into copa position enchufla, turning ¼ L into copa position
5,6,7 basic, leading inside turn with LLH travelling turn to left (1.5 turns)
1,2,3 start cross-body pass with LLH haircomb into CH basic and recognise cross-body entry
5,6,7 cross-body pass sliding into open position DH straight cross-body pass, taking LRH handhold


Week 6: 22 February 2020

The footwork practice was on the various turns to the right and to the left. The simple right turn (using the left foot half-bar) is the most commonly used - especially by follower. There is a rarer but valid simple left turn too which is the exact opposite. However, there is also a delayed turn left which is started on the left foot half-bar and only finished on the right foot half. That one has particular uses for the leader. Its rightward opposite isn't used.

Then there are the hook turns (with foot tucked behind to swivel on that toe and the other heel), where the rightward one on the right foot half-bar is in common use by the leader but the leftward one is rarely used at all (by either role).

The travelling turns (chaines turns) are most used by followers as are the spin turns (single or double or more).

The armography practice was a recap of handhold swaps by simple passing (in front or behind both leader and follower), by hair-comb or by hand-drop from shoulder. This included the use of the hammerlock position.

The figures for the week were a double-handhold follower's right turn into hammerlock position with an enchufla change-of-places to undo that twist. We also recapped inside and outside turns (ie travelling turns to left and right) on cross-body passes and changes of hands before and after leading the pass. The follower usually makes 1½ rotations (or 2½ if advanced).

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


Week 7: 29 February 2020

We recapped some of the previous footwork, especially for the various types of turn, and went into more detail over the possible handhold changes for different figures. The turn to the left using the left foot half-bar has no turn initially and is only completed during the next right foot half-bar. In order to use the right foot half-bar for turning left, it helps to perform a back break half-bar first so that the momentum is then forwards into the turn.

To get into a right-to-right handhold (from an open hold), one can simply flick away the leader's right to follower's left handhold and pass the follower's right hand from the usual left-to-right handhold directly into the leader's right hand. Or the leader can perform a simple right turn, changing hands low behind own back. Or the leader can perform a partial left turn with right shoulder hand-drop (as turning right requires an overhead pass first). Or the leader can perform a hand pass behind the follower's back into hammerlock position - which then requires the follower to turn right.

The right-to-right handhold is suitable for a simple right turn, a straight cross-body pass or cross-body pass with outside turn and windmill arms. It can also be preparation for taking a crossed double-hold in front or behind leader.

To get into a right-to-right handhold (from an open hold), one can start with right-to-right as above and then offer left-to-left (usually below rather than above the existing hold). Or the leader can drop the left-to-right handhold and turn left to pass the follower's left hand into own left hand behind own back. Or the leader can turn partially right and use a left shoulder hand-drop (as turning right requires an overhead pass first).

The left-to-left handhold (or left on top of a crossed double hold) is suitable for an enchufla change of places or getting into the Copa position (with windmill arms on performing the inside turn exit from that). It can also be preparation for taking a crossed double-hold in front or behind leader.

A hair-comb (usually over leader's head rather than follower's) can be used to change back into uncrossed hold from either hand. It's most useful for throwing away left-to-left hold and going into close hold.

Left Turn for leader with behind-the-back hand-pass

countleaderfollower
1
2
3
forwards on left foot, dropping LRH;
replace back on right foot, getting left hand ready;
turn left for left foot forwards, passing follower's hand
backwards on right foot,
replace forwards on left foot,
close right foot (near left)
5
6
7
forwards on right foot, completing hand pass to LLH;
turn left for forwards on left foot;
close right foot, possibly taking RRH too
forwards or backwards on left foot,
replace back on right foot,
close left foot (near right)