The words "La Rueda" are Spanish for "the wheel", but the rueda that we're talking about doesn't fit on some wagon. La Rueda is the name given to what can be briefly described as a "Salsa Square Dance.
The evolution of salsa brought about the development of La Rueda. The Cuban dance enthusiasts of the 50's developed a way where more than one couple can dance salsa while switching partners and executing the same combinations at the same time. To do this, the participating dancers must have at least a basic understanding of salsa dancing as well as a basic understanding of the rules of La Rueda. Once these requirements are met, a rueda can be performed by two or more couples.
Dancing La Rueda
When getting ready to dance La Rueda, couples line up around an imaginary circle with the leader's left hand towards the center while followers who are facing their partners have their right hand towards the center. Leaders face counterclockwise while the followers face clockwise. One of the dancers participating in La Rueda serves as the "caller." The caller's job is to call out a salsa dance move or combination which the particpants of the rueda then execute at the same time. The caller also makes a hand signal when calling a move as a provision for times when music in the club is too loud for participants to hear the call.
The caller sets the momentum and directs the actions of the participants. The caller can call anything from basic or intermediate dance moves to highly advanced combinations. Most dance moves and combinations are performed by the couples separately from each other, but still in the circle, as though they were not in a rueda. But when the caller says "dame" (which means "give me"), look out! The leaders in the rueda pass their partners off to the next leader who then picks up a follower that is passed to him from another leading dancer. This is where things get very dynamic and exciting. Switching partners can be done in either direction and partners can be skipped to pick up the next partner in line, depending on what the caller wants the participants to do.
The group performs a variation of "Dame con las manos", a rueda only move
Types of Rueda Dance Moves
Many of the dance moves and combinations performed in La Rueda are the same combinations performed by couples when they are dancing on their own. However, some combinations are "rueda only" which means that it can only be done in a rueda because it requires two or more couples to do it together. For example, "El Puente" is a combination where all the leaders join hands in the center forming a true "wheel" as the followers all duck under the leaders' arms and come back ducking under the leaders' arms again. After that, the leaders spin off to the next follower in the circle, effectively changing partners all at the same time. These types of combinations require other couples, therefore, they are rueda-only combinations. However, once again, most of the combinations are the same ones a couple would dance by themselves. This is why someone who already has a knowledge of salsa is an eligible candidate for participating in a rueda.
The Standard Calls
It wasn't until the 1990's that La Rueda became very popular in the United States and thus began to flourish. Since then a standard library of dance moves and combinations has been compiled into what is known now as the Universal Standard Rueda Calls. At Dance Connection, we utilize the Universal Standard Rueda Calls ensuring that you can participate in a rueda as long as the group also adheres to the standard. An added bonus to dancing La Rueda is that any group of people can implement their own dance moves and combinations that expands on the standard library.
Benefits Other Than Fun
Dancing La Rueda is truly an exhilarating experience. Not only is it so much darn fun, but there are positive side-effects that result from frequently dancing La Rueda as well.
One of the positive side-effects of dancing La Rueda is the fact that it makes the dancers learn their moves faster and better. This phenomenon occurs because of the following. When the caller calls a move, the dancers must execute it within the next two measures. This means that the dancer has no time to think and must execute the move in order to keep the rueda intact. This keeps dancers on their toes and reinforces the moves they've learned making it an intense form of salsa dance training.
Another positive side-effect of dancing La Rueda is that it makes the leaders better leaders. Because the leader must execute the move accurately, on time and at the same time as everyone else, it forces the leader to truly lead their partner so that they can both get through the combo successfully, thereby keeping the rueda intact. Since the leader can never tell which follower he will be dancing with next, the leader does not get "used to" any particular dancer and learns to dance with a variety of partners. After a while, the dancers become sharp, executing their dance moves smoothly and effortlessly.
To say that dancing La Rueda is fun would be an understatement. Dancing La Rueda is nothing short of addictive. The flow, the excitement, the rhythm and the adrenaline is intoxicating. It is so much fun and the fact that it is not a bunch of choreographed routines makes dancing La Rueda different every time. However, we encourage you not to take our word for it. Take a rueda class and find out for yourself! You won't be surprised if you become a regular!
Before coming into the Beginner Rueda group class it is required that the Rueda dancer have Beginner level Salsa skill and experience. For the Advanced Rueda group class it is required that the Rueda dancer have Advanced level or at least Intermediate level Salsa skill and experience. Please consult with Dance Connection studio if you have any questions.