Barb's Helpful Tips for Rueda Dancing
DON'T BOUNCE YOUR STEPS WHEN YOU DO LATIN DANCING
You don't want to bounce the steps in Casino Rueda, or any Latin dance. The
knees are bent very slightly throughout the steps, and the head stays at the same level.
In Salsa, dancers
express their feeling for the pulse of the music with hip and body movement
rather than by bouncing from the knees.
KEEP YOUR WEIGHT OVER YOUR FEET, NOT THROWN BACK
Keep your weight over your center; don't lean back on your heels. Back
weighting like that slows you down as you have to shift your weight forward
before you can take a step. This in turn, can cause dancers to be slow and off
WATCH OTHERS AND TRY TO SYNCHRONIZE YOUR MOVES WITH THEIRS
Remember to watch the other experienced dancers and match their moves so you are
in synchrony with them. Mimicking others is a useful technique in this dance,
but not everyone remembers to do it.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE CALLER AND LISTEN FOR THE CALLS
Listen to and watch the caller so you don't miss a call. That is the
responsibility of every dancer in the circle.
KEEP THE CIRCLE CIRCULAR AND TIGHT!
Pay attention to keeping the circle tight and circular. That is also everyone's
responsibility. Try to stay fairly close to the perimeter of the circle on steps
where it's easy to pull away.
STAY CLOSE TO YOUR PARTNER
Both partners generally should keep enough tension in their arms so the
elbows stay bent, forcing the couple to stay fairly close. If partners
their arms fully, they get too far from each other and leading is
Above: Barb calls a Rueda move
GUYS, DON'T PULL BACK AND TO THE LEFT EARLY ON THE CBL
In every step that ends with a CBL (such as dame una and countless others),
guys need to be sure they are right next to the lady until beat 5 which is when
the CBL begins.
Many leaders start to turn to their left early----on beat three, or they
back and to the left with their left foot on that beat. They are
anticipating their movement to the left....but they shouldn't turn left until
KEEP YOUR FEET MOVING IN THE QUICK QUICK SLOW RHYTHM, EVEN IF YOU'RE
"STAYING IN PLACE"
Ladies, let me tell you what it feels like to be a leader and come to pick up a
new partner who is standing still, not moving her feet at all. It feels like the
lady has stopped dancing and it's unsatisfying. Followers
should keep their feet moving, even if they aren't "going anywhere," so
look and feel like they're actually dancing!
This applies to all steps where either leaders or followers stay in place.
The group spirit of a Rueda circle is augmented by having everyone move in
same rhythm. So even if you don't have to take a step to move or turn, keep
the feet going. This also helps ensure you'll know which foot to step on
you do need to move!
HOW MUCH LEAD IS TOO MUCH LEAD?---THE ETERNAL QUESTION
There is a lot of variance in how forcefully guys lead. Likewise there is a
lot of variance in how much lead ladies prefer. There is no one correct
answer to the question of how much lead is too much. People will judge that
Personally, I prefer as much lead as necessary for clarity and
no more (a sort of "economy of lead" principle). If you start the lady
in motion and her momentum will continue taking her where you want her to go,
for example, there is no need to push the entire time she moves along. That
doesn't mean you don't provide contact so she can feel some guidance. But
force isn't needed to get her to go somewhere she's going to go
Or if you are doing a turn or alarde, there is no need to raise the lady's arm
very high over her head. You just need to clear her head. To raise the arm high,
the lead has to be more forceful. So you can keep the lead gentle by moving the
arm only as high as needed. It takes a greater level of sophistication as a
dancer to lead effectively but still be gentle. It's much easier to lead with
There is one more notable point regarding the stength of the lead.
If someone has too little lead, they'll find out. The lady won't know what
to do, so it's obvious she needs a firmer hand. But if your lead is extremely strong, you don't
get feedback on that as readily. Everyone you dance with will follow just fine;
but it may not be comfortable.
So if you value a gentle lead, this is something to bear in mind.
FRAME AND TENSION TO MAKE LEADING AND FOLLOWING POSSIBLE
Following a lead properly requires
some basic understanding of frame and tension. This is something
people develop over time and experience. When women who aren't
experienced dancers first try a turn, they often let their arm move back but
don't move their bodies, as their partner tries to lead them.
To follow a lead, the lady's arm maintains a shape so that she can be pushed to
move where the leader wants her to go. This shape or frame allows the
leader to move the follower. I have seen a number of
interesting ways to explain the concept of frame. One is that ladies
must be able to see their
right arm out of the corner of their eye. So the arm never goes behind their
THen when the arm is pushed to turn the lady, her body has to go with the
arm---and (voila!) she has been led!
Another unique way to explain this was shared with me by a friend,
Melinda Turner. She said she was in a class where the teacher passed out
tennis balls to the ladies. They were all told to put the ball under their
right armpit and dance without letting it fall. Then when the lady was
turned to the right by pressure on her right hand, she had to hold a rigid
frame and move her arm and body too, or the ball would fall.
I've never quite had the nerve to bring tennis balls to class, but this is an outstanding way to
convey the concept of frame. I have found that even just
describing this in words from the beginning, and asking the ladies to
imagine a ball is under their arm, is enough to get the concept across.
TIPS FOR SPECIFIC RUEDA MOVES
These notes are not intended to be a description of any of the moves.
They are pointers and pitfalls to watch for as you dance.
To do this step, on beats 5, 6, and 7 leaders go forward on their right
foot, then back on their left (as in the basic) and then on beat 7 they step
onto their right foot and turn toward the center of the circle. On
beats 1, 2, and 3 leaders move to their new partner stepping left, right,
left. Then they initiate a Cross Body Lead on beats 5, 6, and 7.
Ladies meanwhile step forward with their left foot, back on their right,
and face the center on their left foot on beats 5, 6, and 7. Then they
do a very small back rock (but they don't throw their weight back) while the
leaders are moving to their new partners (on beats 1, 2, and 3). They
raise their arms so the leader can put his hand on their back.
And then the ladies are led into the CBL on beats 5, 6, and 7.
Ladies do the CBL by stepping first with their left foot and moving in a
straight line across the man's body to get back into the position for the
basic step (guapea). Ladies should not turn left until they have put their
right foot down on beat 6. It is also important for ladies not to
start their cross body lead until beat five---and wait for the guy's lead,
even though they know the move.
Guys should all move at the same time as they travel to their next
partner. If you're not sure of the timing, watch others who are experienced
move when they do.
FLY / HIGH 5 / HIGH 10 / BESITOS / LOW BALL
These steps are simple moves that are great to help teach the rhythm of
the dance. Leaders turn to their right
and face the lady behind them; they clap, kiss or do a high 5/10 on beat 1.
Followers turn to their left and face the leader behind her to do this move.
Then everyone comes back to the basic position by turning back on beat two and
resuming the usual step pattern on beat 5.
Dame dos is conceptually and rhythmically identical to Dame una. But Dame
dos is an exception to the "take small steps" rule. Leaders move to their
partner with a big step on their left foot (that is almost a lunge) on beat
one. Note that guys get most of the way to their partner on that one step.
should be comfortably next to her and facing the center before doing the
An issue in doing/learning this step is that you need to do the
in one beat. Beginners often turn slowly instead of sharply in a single
beat. That puts them behind for the remainder of the move.
On beat 3, you get into what is essentially a ballroom "back-spot turn"
position. Gentlemen should provide a firm but comfortable frame for the
that beat which helps the partners move gracefully through the turn. This
not a common position in Rueda, but it's one that feels very nice when done
PA TI PA MI
This step is conceptually simple---it's just three enchuflas. But it's a
surprisingly beautiful move, given its simplicity.
You have to move
through each enchufla fairly
(turning in one beat) to be ready for the next one. I find that if dancers
lower their arms after each enchufla and then they raise their arms again to do
the next one, it helps mark the rhythm. And to further help, if anyone is
having trouble, I say "down" on the beat when the arms come down. Then
everyone has a sense of doing the turn in the four beats allotted, since I
am saying "down"
every four beats.
I highly recommend this step for demonstrations and
performances by the way--it really looks beautiful from outside the circle.
EVELIN AND FLAMENCO
These steps start like adios. But almost as soon as the adios turn
is initiated, the leader must start to break the lady's movement. It
is unusual to start a move and stop it so quickly, but if that isn't done,
the lady may turn too far. So be ready to lead a turn and put the
brakes on almost as soon as it was begun!
In Flamenco, the guy also leads the lady in an exhibe.
To lead an exhibe, the man should face the lady squarely while she faces the
center of the circle. So they are at a 90 degree angle to each other.
Sometimes ladies make the mistake on an exhibe of turning in place.
Instead, they should step forward on their left (heading right toward the
center of the circle) but leave the right foot in place. Ladies pivot on
the left foot, turning 180 degrees so they face outside the circle. They
step on their right foot which was left at the perimeter of the circle, and
pivot 180 degrees on that foot as well. So they are now facing the
center of the circle again. Then a CBL ends the move.
In Kentucky, guys need to make sure that they turn all the way around to
face the center. They often don't quite get that far around when first
learning the move.
EL UNO AND/OR EL DOS
On uno and dos, remember that both partners are doing diagonal back
rocks (like cumbia steps). No one is doing a forward rock.
Also, I think it's best for beginners to face the center on those steps,
and for their steps to be small.
Also, if the guy takes large, enthusiastic steps, it can tug on the lady's
arms. So it's best for the leader not to rock too far side to side. A
arms are most comfortable relatively low and by her side.
VARIOUS STEPS THAT BEGIN WITH THE TAP ON THE 8TH BEAT
That one little tap really throws a lot of people. Sometimes, it especially
throws experienced Salsa dancers because they've spent so much time stepping
only on beats 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. If you've done something countless
certain way, it can be hard to change even if it's a simple change.
will cure that problem, of course.
But here are a few pointers on the tap itself. Your knee should be bent. It
takes too long and is awkward to straighten the knee out and then tap. It
will be hard to get to the next step in time. And don't put a lot of weight
the tapped foot. It has a little weight, but you step onto that foot with
full weight on the next beat, beat one.
What is important is stepping right on the beats, and this requires good
technique or it's hard to do that quickly. That is why the knee bend
and foot placement are important! If you are off on the timing of the
"5, 6, 7, tap," then it tends to throw the rest of the step off.
SIETE / SIETE MODERNO /
On siete, how far the lady turns in is a matter of taste or preference.
But if you are first learning, I suggest a shallow turn of 180 degrees, from
facing into the circle to facing out of it. If you roll further than that,
unrolling from such a tight pose can be strained in the time you have.
As you go on with other steps that "stem" from siete, it is important for
ladies to leave their hands up around mid-chest level. In Siete
Moderno for example, the leaders need to switch hands quickly and they need
to be able to find the lady's hand easily. So when you do any of the
sietes, ladies should make a special effort to leave their hands where the
leader can easily find them. This is good general advice for other
steps as well by the way.
When Rueda dancers do Candado, there is a tendency to stomp the steps
once they complete that "Kentucky-like" turn and the ladies are facing the
leaders' backs. The noise of this
stomping makes the music hard to hear. Because of this, I've seen dancers
either speed up or go too slowly. So keep a close ear out for the music
whenever you do this step.
This is a dame step, but you move "upstream" or clockwise to get to the
next partner instead of going in the usual counter-clockwise direction.
The trick in this step is that the steps preceding the beats on which men
travel to their partner are also altered slightly from the usual dame.
On a standard dame, on beats 5, 6, and 7 leaders go forward on their right
foot, then back on their left (as in the basic) and then on beat 7 they step
onto their right foot and turn to face the center of the circle. Then
on beats 1, 2, and 3 they move to their new partner stepping on left, right, left. To do Dame Arriba,
after the call, leaders do not step to face the center of the circle on beat
7. Instead they are stepping on that beat in the direction of the "upstream"
partner that they are moving too. Essentially, they are getting a
little jump on the movement to their next partner.
A common mistake that I see in executing this step is for the ladies to
spin the turn. The vacila turns are supposed
to be made evenly, so they are ending as you come to the leader's right
side. You step or walk through these turns rather than spinning them,
in other words.
VACILENSE LOS DOS
This step is identical to Vacila for the ladies. But the guys also
turn in Vacilense Los Dos. Guys can turn in the same direction as the
ladies (to the right), or they can turn the opposite direction (to the
left). The latter essentially uses the momentum of the lead to
initiate the turn and looks quite nice. And I've seen guys do
either one or two turns.
Blending steps means that the next step is called 8 beats before the end
of the previous step, so you go right from one step into the next with no
basic in between. Some dancers consider a goal of a good,
sophisticated rueda circle to have a minimum number of basic steps so that
the movement really clips along. This certainly makes it exciting for
the dancers in the circle.