The Differences between Cuban and New York LA Style Salsa

Over the holidays I had been teaching private Cuban Salsa lessons to a NYLA trained follow.  At our local Salsa dance club here in Edmonton called On The Rocks, the Cuban leads are more numerous than NYLA leads and my student was having trouble following Cuban leads.  By having to clearly delineate between the two for my student, it became clearer what the differences are and it comes down to four things:

  1. Circles – Cuban salsa dancing is about moving your follow around in circles.  For example, Setenta starts with the lead and follow trading places, and unlike NYLA, the follow ends facing perpendicular to the NYLA “line”.  From a follow’s perspective the difficulty is that the entire first eight count to Setenta means walking out a circle.  On 1,2,3, the follow turns to the right and gets into the hammer lock and on 5,6,7 the lead, pushing the follow’s hip, moves them around until they have switched positions.  In Rueda de Casino, the follow needs to walk such that they are down stream and face the lead so that the following enchuflas allow the lead to end up on the right side for Guapea.  However, in social Cuban dancing, the lead may take the follow around three-quarters of a circle or more, over multiple eight counts, before undoing the hammer lock.  That pull on the hip to start the follow walking around is what strictly NYLA dancers misinterpret as a lead to unravel the hammer lock.  Which leads me to:
    • Step out the turns – NYLA dancers love nothing better then to run through a triple spin on 5,6,7 where as Cuban dancers take it slower and with accentuated hip motion, walk out a single turn.  The typical problem beginner NYLA dancers face learning Cuban is that they turn much too fast and without knowing where the next “one” of 1,2,3 is, end up out of sync.
  2. Prep on seven – The basic NYLA prep is a downward rotation with the follow’s right hand and happens on 1,2,3 but the Cuban prep is on 7 with the follow’s hand going their left.  NYLA dancers expect to “follow the hand” and step to the left on one instead of preparing to turn on 1,2,3.  For a beginner NYLA dancer learning Cuban, that misstep means they get out of sync.
  3. The “Slot” – “Neutral Position” or “the pocket”.  This is where the follow ends up on the right side of the lead, unlike NYLA, where the follow is either in front of or behind the lead.  The “Pocket” is where Cubans start all sorts of moves, from Dile que no to Sacalas to Pasealas.  It is also the position that Cuban follows should end up when doing a vascilala, e.g. where they are prepped on seven and then turn in place as walk around to the right.
  4. Body motion – NYLA follows are about flowing arms and hands with accentuated flourishes.  Cuban follows are about continuous figure eights with the hips, two per eight count.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below.

Although a fairly common ability, I have danced both NYLA and Cuban for years now and like them both.  What is more uncommon is that I also have training as a follow in both NYLA and Cuban.


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T’is the Season to Give… Music

December Playlist Highlights






Un Loco Con Una Moto Pupy y Los Que Son Son Salsa Cuba
El Capitolio El Capitolio - Latino 46 - Salsa Bachata Merengue Reggaeton Azucar Negra Salsa Cuba
La Yuka Charanga Habanera Salsa Cuba
El Alboroto El Alboroto - Bailá Salsa Mauro Castillo Salsa Colombia
Ven A Mí Rumba Diego Gale Salsa Colombia
Salsa Pa’l Congreso Salsa Pa'l Congreso - Maria Chino Espinoza Salsa Costa Rica
Ayer Ayer - Ayer - Single Opalo Bachata Dominican Republic
Abrazame Amor Abrazame amor - Mi Regreso Luis Miguel Del Amargue Bachata Dominican Republic
Amaneció Amaneció - Amaneció H.O.M. Merengue Electronico Dominican Republic
Ayantame Ayantame (feat. El Potro Alvarez) - Ayantame (feat. El Potro Alvarez) - Single Ilegales Merengue Electronico Dominican Republic
Pata Pata Shikisha Cha-Cha-Cha South Africa


With Christmas just a few weeks away I thought I would use this blog entry to suggest a few CD’s that would make great presents for yourself or someone you know who is a lover of Latin music.


Album: Salsa – Un Homenaje a El Gran Combo

Artist: Various

Recommended dance tracks:

  • Ojos Chinos
  • Un Verano En Nueva York

Where to get it:

  • Digital: iTunes
  • CD:

El Gran Combo hardly needs an introduction being one of the biggest salsa bands of all time.  Their origins date back fifty years during which time they have released dozens of albums.  This album pays tribute to the legendary group and includes many of their most famous songs some performed by El Gran Combo themselves but many others performed by a range of talented artists including La India, Issac Delgado and Willie Colon.  If you are a fan of salsa you have probably heard many of these songs before but it’s always refreshing to hear a familiar song that has been given new life by another artist.


Album: ¿De Que Estamos Hablano?

Artist: Elio (Elito) Reve Jr y Su Charanga

Recommended dance tracks:

  • ¿De Que Estamos Hablando?
  • Ya Sé Cantar, Ya Sé Bailar

Where to get it:

  • Digital:
  • CD:

Elito Reve’s father was the late Elio Reve who started Orquesta Reve in 1956.  Over the years this band has included a whos’s who list of some of the top names in the Cuban music scene.  Musicians such as Chucho Valdés, Juan Formell (Los Van Van), Cesar Pedroso (Pupy y Los Que Son Son), and Juan Carlos Alfonso (Dan Den) have at one point or another been part of Orquesta Reve.  The band has been ground breaking since its inception and Elito has carried on that creativity after taking over the band in 1997.  This is their latest offering and makes a fantastic edition to any timba (salsa) collection.


Album: A Masterpiece Collection

Artist: Grupo Xtasys

Recommended dance tracks:

  • No Puedo Creer
  • Antes

Where to get it:

  • Digital: iTunes
  • CD: Amazon

Hailing from New York City, this group has been together since 2009.  I happened upon this, their first, CD a few months ago and was really impressed by the number of great songs on the album.  Their sound is fresh, urban and very dancable.


Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email or leave a comment.


Hasta la próxima 



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