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