By Matthew Sng
When I first saw rueda at Xenbar, I was impressed by its seemingly complex moves and quick tempo. Rueda, to put it simply, is a form of salsa in which couples dance in a circle. A commander, who is himself one of the dancers, calls out or signals by way of hand signs the moves. Member couples then execute the commands, creating a co-ordinated visual display of spinning, twirling bodies.
You could think of it as a circle of men dancing with a circle of ladies. With the shout of a command, the circles rotate in opposite directions, instituting a change of partners. This is perhaps the biggest draw for dancers of rueda- the frequent change of partners. Every few moves, a command to change partners would usually be given. For those with a short attention span or for who get bored dancing with the same person for a whole song, this would be an ideal arrangement. One might even think of it as speed dating.
For a beginner, rueda provides many opportunities to learn and improve. The most significant difference between rueda and typical salsa, to the beginner, is that in rueda, there is less pressure to keep up a consistent performance. If you screw up, its just for a few moves before you move on to another partner. Itís a win-win situation for the advanced and not so advanced dancers. The latter gets to build up his or her confidence on the dance floor without having to go through the trauma of a very bad dance for a whole song (which is in fact a very very long time for a beginner). The former, well, just wonít run the risk of dancing with a total newbie.
Rueda also has the effect of increasing the dancersí sphere of awareness. To dance rueda, one has to be very alert- to the commander who calls the shots as well as to the other couples in the circle. The enjoyment level definitely goes up when you feel yourself co-ordinated with your fellow dances and the wheel rolls on smoothly without a hitch.
Finally, rueda is a great way to pick up new moves, or to improve on already known ones. Because the moves are called out, itís possible for the ladies to pull it off even without a lead. That means that a guy doesnít have to be well-versed with a move before he can dance rueda. You could call it smoking, but itís one way of practising moves before you take them one-on-one in normal salsa. Most guys wouldnít have the flair to carry out a new move straight away on the dance floor, so rueda provides an avenue for practise. And, many, if not all, rueda moves can be adapted into normal salsa.
However, despite the fun and learning opportunities to be had in dancing rueda, it is definitely no replacement for normal couple-salsa. One canít help but feel the lack of spontaneity in rueda. Dancing to fixed commands might be restrictive to some, especially to advanced dancers who want a dance which gives more space for flair, individual expression and experimentation. After all, the moves need to be understood and known by all the dancers for them to be used in rueda. That significantly reduces the common set which can be used in a social, unrehearsed rueda.Anyone whoís serious about salsa should know rueda because it brings another dimension into dance. However, at the end of the day, nothing beats the excitement, flair and romance of salsa.
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