Some advice from Yanek Revilla – One of the World’s Best Cuban Dancers

I do quite a bit of reading and when I came across this article I thought that it was one of those that I should share.  I think that everyone who does Cuban salsa and/or rueda will get something out of reading the article at

I copied some points from it below in case you just wish to get some of the highlights.

Yanek says” I think there are basic rules for being a good dancer. I call them “The 5 Golden Rules” in salsa cubana – doesn’t matter what level you are, if something doesn’t work it’s always [because you are] breaking one of the following rules:

1.Never grab the hands, just a touch which I call full contact and always re-accommodate the hands before any change with the arms, in order to be more comfortable, faster and avoid injuries.

2. Turning around each other clockwise. The Cuban combinations are created to be danced in [a] circle and it makes [dancing] easier.

3. Distance. Dancing too far away from the partner is one of the biggest problems (in my European experience) due to cultural taboos, so the dance is too strong with a lot of tension in the arms.

4. The timing with the arms. All the moves with the arms end in 3 and 7 – defining this [detail will make] the dance be more fluid and clear. 70 (setenta) is the classic example for this rule.

5. Naturalness. Every unnatural or uncomfortable move must be fixed, natural small steps, not jumping. It’s more comfortable to dance the same way we walk.

Followers, he had the following suggestions: “[Learn to] improvise before and during “dile que no”, after “vacílala” and during the figures.”

Yanek compared salsa casino with “Bruce Lee’s Jet Kune Do. You have basic rules but then you adapt your dance to your possibilities, body work and feelings – that’s why all the people look different even if they all dance Cuban style. It’s freer because there is no choreography in the teaching process. You have to lead and improvise-doesn’t matter who you dance with. I think salsa cubana is very free and different from the other styles.”

What Yanek thinks about rueda choreography: “There is a problem with Rueda nowadays, the choreographers are including moves for couple dance into the Rueda and it’s a huge mistake. They stay too long with the same partner, and turn the choreography less dynamic. Besides that they create new long moves in which they change partners only once and I think that in a good figure you change at least twice. Good rueda choreography should include (in my opinion):
1. A figure in which you do lots of changes
2. A figure in which you mix salsa with other rhythms (Rumba, Afro or other traditional Cuban dances)
3. A figure with the hands joined
4. And a figure with lots of changes of directions or formations”

Progress on the Cuban enchufla in rueda

And so today was the weekly pre-performance rueda class composed of people interested in joining the Ithakeros rueda de casino performance group, and again we made great progress. It is exciting for me to figure out how to translate something that comes naturally, break it down and then see other people getting it.

Today I took the leaders and Nan (Nancy A.) took the followers and we worked on using the “Cuban enchufla” for the first half of the basic in al centro position. Then we came together and applied it using con las manos: first holding hands and me calling dame with basics in between, and then con las manos proper. Finally, this was applied to dame while doing rueda.

Next step? Do it with the Ithakeros performance group during our practice tomorrow – Monday night.

Ithakeros Rueda de Casino Group update

Dance Movement – The group is now working on Cuban stepping – enchufla, dame/DQN, abajo with enchufla step…). It is an exciting time for me! I now can see people getting what I’ve been talking about from the time I started this group and how we will be different from others in the area.

Group Membership – There is a strong possibility of some new members joining the demo/performance group. These are people coming from the performance orientated beginner class that Nancy (co-directer/co-founder and I started a little while back) Growth is always great.

Publicity: We have a website, flyers, business cards…

Making An Impact Using my Creativity

I’ve always wanted to make an impact in rueda de casino in my area, always wanted to express my creativity and at long last I find that it is coming to be. I can see rueda de casino eventually becoming what I wish it to be. Teaching on Tuesday, working with my very own rueda de casino group…it’s frustrating, but also wonderful for me. So far, I’ve introduced vacilala ocho to Binghamton and Ithaca, and taking it one step further vacilala as a common entry point into al centro. Now I working on people getting familiar with use of suffixes such as no llegas, por atras, and exhibela to make moves more flexible, and will be introducing new ones….but the next step is easy blending such as Ketucky-Setenta and Abanico-Ponle Sabor. I can’t wait!

Choosing a song to demo casino rueda

So what goes into a song choice:

1. Does it appeal to dancers/choreographer/audience?

2. What are the dynamics of song like and what are we looking for?

– tempo variations and average tempo?

– rhythms played – salsa/reggaeton/merengue/son montuno, guajira, charanga, timba….

– breaks in the song, what is the intro like, the ending

– are there natural places in the song where we can change orientation and/or types of moves being done

– does the song match the level of the dancers – eg Agua by the group Los Van Van is a high energy fast paced song without much variation in tempo. It requires people who can match that energy, and not everyone can do so.

3. Are the lyrics relevant?

I spent a lot of time on this recently and finally tonight our group – Ithakeros – danced to several song suggestions and chose Los Compeones de la Salsa by Willy Chirino.

Teaching Dance – Ballroom frame and the Rueda Basic

I always say that you really don’t know it until you can teach someone how to do it. There is learning that can only come from teaching. In the past couple months I’ve started helping teach ballroom and rueda and it has been a great experience.

In ballroom it is an introductory survey class of over 50 students with 5 dances – waltz,foxtrot,tango, rumba and cha cha – covered in 10/12 weeks. With the emphasis on fun it is interesting to see how “frame” is learned. There is no substitute to feeling what a right and wrong frame is and the best way to do so is working with someone who knows that feeling. So, every time I get a chance to work with anyone I sneak in “let’s look at frame”.

In casino rueda there are many variations on the basic. The one that is safest to teach is where the leader places his palm flat against the followers palm on the second half of the basic. If the correct handhold is used where the leader pulls and then pushes the follower, so his right hand is clasping her palm it is easy for the lady to get her hand hurt. Sometimes people say oh rueda looks/feels boring. There is a reason why. A lot of people aren’t being taught the elements that make it a really dynamic breathing (in/out open/close) circle. And for good reason. Learning that correct handhold and moving well takes time.

In all dance styles most students desire to keep on learning move after move. It is few who both realize the important basic/core elements and do the work to get those right.

Keeping the flow in casino

A lot of people learn rueda and then get stuck converting it to couple dancing in a way that makes it flow. Going back to the same starting point after each move is limiting and can break up a dance. It is only when one begins to treat move combinations as made up of components that can be mixed together that flow can happen. Take the move balsero for example, which consists of [3] 8 counts. At the end of the first 8 count one can then do besito [4] 8 count combination. At the end of the 3d 8 count one is in a perfect position to do an exibe [1] 8 count next, and then one could do abanico starting from the 2nd 8 count of that move combination. I could go on for quite a bit more, but I hope that you see the pattern. And it is something that every rueda/casino dancer should learn in order to improve their dancing.

As you dance and with time you start to see patterns. Some that I have seen as well as ideas how to explore this “flow” concept:

1.Any veil where L Rh veils F at end of 8 count => next abanico starting from 2nd 8 count

2. Exhibe – dedo guarapo y bota can always be done

3. Any combinations with 2 handed R-R L-L enchufe-veil in an 8 count => next exhibe – abanico/sombreo doble/sombreo complicado/sombreo recomplicado/juana la cubana These are montana, montana bella, besito – do after penultimate 8 count

3. exhibe with L Lh-F Rh => exhibe for first half of the eight count and then transitioning into any setenta for the second half of the eight count, ending at setenta position (end of the 2nd 8 count). These are kentucky after 2nd 8 count, setenta abajo after 2nd 8 count, setenta cubano after 3rd 8 count

4. Think about possibilities using the other hand/or not switching hands. e.g. at end of 2nd 8 count of kentucky one can switch hands to do enchufe doble next. One can also do enchufe doble with a L Rh – F Rh handhold for a different feel

5. Anytime L Lh – F Rh at end of eight count- think of moves starting that way which might work: adios/enchufe, evelyn

6. Anytime L Rh – F Rh at end of eight count – think of which move combinations that start that way would work: dedo family, hecho

Move combinations:

balsero-besito-exhibe-juana la cubana-abanico-ponle sabor


juana la cubana-exhibe

setenta abajo-exhibe

dedo-enchufe doble-exhibe-dedo guarapo y bota

habana = candado-setenta

sombrero doble-exhibe