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Cuban Motion Technique

Proper Hip Movement In Salsa Dancing


Cuban motion, also called latin motion, is the typical hip movment in all latin dances that creates part of the "latin" style in salsa dancing.

But more so, a correct cuban motion is going to influence your balance, your timing and your leading and following ability.

Unfortunately cuban motion is often thought as an advanced concept rarely explained to beginners, with the result that most salsa dancers eventually will have to re-learn a basic movement pattern they have practiced wrongly for years.

Cuban motion is hopefully the first thing you learn and most likely one of the last things you'll master. Not because it's difficult but because it's different from how we normally move. A lot of teachers say that salsa dancing is just like walking, but it's not that easy. In fact, the cuban motion is the opposite of what we normally do when we walk.

When we walk, we step with a straight leg, heel first. In cuban motion we step on a bend leg, ball first. And that's all there's to it actually - the salsa hip movement is not a hip movement at all, but comes naturally through an alternate bending and straightening of the knees.

The hip will naturally move diagonally back and up - or "out" - on the straight leg (alternativly you can think of the hip dropping down on the bend leg). This is due to the difference in hight created by one bend and one straight leg.

Note that the cuban motion in latin ballroom dancing is executed slightly different, the hip is rolled back on a stretched leg to create a more stylized effect.


Correct Footwork

When we start practicing cuban motion it is easier to do it "flatfooted" first, to concentrate on the knees. But what will eventually create the soft grounded feel is the proper "ball-flat" footwork. We step with the (inside) ball first, then roll through the rest of the foot. The heel does touch the floor, but it does not get any weight - the idea of "kissing the floor" with your heel is a good metaphor. Try to feel the floor by gently yielding into it and using it to push off into the next step. This push will straighten the knee and cause the hip to roll back.


Upper Body Movement

The movement created by the feet and knees does not stop at hip level, it travels upwards through the body affecting the torso, shoulders and arms. If the footwork is done properly the upper body will naturally move sidewards toward the bending leg, creating a diagonal from the outer hip to the opposite shoulder for balance.


Cuban Motion Practice Tips


Some things to keep in mind when you practice cuban motion:

  • Step on the bend leg and KEEP THE OTHER ONE STRAIGHT - do not bend both legs at the same time (careful: a straight knee does NOT mean a locked knee)

  • Start stepping in place (merengue) until you have the correct motion, then expand your steps slightly until you reach your full basic step

  • Make sure your stepping leg is bend on the beat it hits the music - the straightening of the leg happens BETWEEN the beats, on the "&" (123)

  • Don't actively move your hips - let your knees move them

  • Remember your hip goes "out" to the opposite side of your stepping leg - if you step with your right leg, the hip goes "out" on the left side and vice versa

 

You can watch this excellent video about cuban motion for further instructions, it's walking you slowly through the technique and different exercises:

 

Related Articles:

Salsa Body Movement & Isolations

 

 Cuban Motion

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