Social Rueda Calling

Outside of Cuba, the Traditional Paradigm of calling a Rueda is a mirror-image of incorrectly called “Cuban-style” Salsa classes.  Many callers watch Rene Gueits’ videos and try to repeat the sequence of the Salsa Lovers curriculum.

Instead of teaching Casino with couples arranged in lines facing a mirror, these instructors typically arrange the couples in a circle. As in the video below, learners mistakenly conclude that Rueda is simply “dancing Casino” in a circle with partner changes.

In “static” Ruedas like the one above, Leaders move from “station to station” dancing with Followers one-by-one while executing the cantante’s calls.  Even Ruedas like the one below that consist of difficult Salsa Lovers’ calls linked by “Dame” are still essentially “static”.

Execution of longer, more complicated Casino COUPLE moves became the default definition of what an Advanced Rueda was supposed to look like:

Consequently, Casino COUPLE moves like Abanico Complicado, La Habana, Dedo de Lázaro became the definition of a “first-class” Performance Rueda:

However, while the Traditional Calling paradigm may work to teach Casino “figures” (turn patterns for COUPLES) and may provide ready-made sequences for a Rueda choreography, it doesn’t really work well for dancing Social Rueda for two reasons.

First, callers must recognize that the primary goal of a Social Rueda is NOT for the dancers to execute complicated Casino to impress / “show off” in a club.  Rather the goal is simply to have fun sharing a dance with friends.

Second, a Social Rueda is a GROUP dance, not a COUPLES dance.  Employing a  Dynamic Calling Paradigm, the caller emphasizes group movement and changing partners, not Casino.  An example of a Social Rueda in Normal Structure with basic “non-static” calls:

Before choosing a Dynamic Calling Paradigm, the caller (and the group) must first decide if the circle will be inclusive … exclusive … or something in between.  

In an INCLUSIVE Rueda, the caller has to limit calls to the “lowest common denominator” (calls that the least prepared Leader can do with proficiency).  With novices in the circle, that often means lots of repetitive guapeas, timing checks (shouts, foot-stomps) and simple calls at a much slower pace with perhaps occasional Enchuflas con  Afro or Reggaeton embellishments. A good example: 

Inclusive Ruedas typically are by nature DOOMED to FAIL.

First, instead of turning the lights up and the sound volume down, club owners handicap the caller as in the one above.  He’s trying but, in one huge circle, he can barely be heard or seen.  Without a microphone, he will definitely be “one and done”.

Second, since everyone is encouraged to join this INCLUSIVE circle, the caller  must “dumb down” his repertoire even more to accommodate Leaders unfamiliar with Rueda vocabulary or efficient Rueda technique.   

Third, experienced Rueda dancers find these inclusive Ruedas to be boring, leave the circle at the end of the song, and usually abandon Rueda completely.

However, the more the Rueda is EXCLUSIVE, the more opportunities the caller has to challenge the group with a wider variety of calls at a faster speed … such as this R3 Social Rueda, Miami-style, February, 2016.

Keeping a balance between INCLUSIVE and EXCLUSIVE Ruedas is the challenge in public places (i.e.. clubs).   In the long run, Social Ruedas will be successful only when cantantes can alternate successfully between calling inclusive and exclusive circles.  

Therefore, BEFORE starting the Rueda, callers should specify the number of couples and pre-announce the Rueda structure(s) he expects dancers to be proficient in [… not just ask “Who knows Setenta?].  Furthermore, once the Rueda starts, the group should discourage others from “jumping in”.

In Europe, Nikola Medic (Serbia, UK) and others embraced movement and speed in both performance AND social Ruedas.  In 2016, in Boston, this concept earned the name Rueda di•ná•mi•ca and, in Berlin, into TOCADOF … NOT structures but rather a new calling paradigm, different from the Traditional one.  On the bar above, scroll down for info!