Dr. Carol J.V. Fisher's Homepage

A Timeline for getting the Cuban Motion

On May 10, 2011 I decided to try and learn (social) dance.
Although I have good rhythm and musical sense (I play piano and sing), I have absolutely no ‘natural’ sense of moving my body in any aesthetically pleasing way. I have tried at various points in my adult life to achieve some grace/fluidity (basically, anything on the opposite end of the spectrum from ‘spastic’), but with very limited success. This time around (Summer 2011) I decided to take private lessons (in conjunction with many group lessons), and—together with many, many hours of practice in the privacy of my own home—I am making progress.

I really enjoy the rhythm dances (e.g., swing, salsa, rumba), and one key to having them look ‘right’ is the Cuban motion. This has been particularly difficult for me to achieve: there were no open lines of communication between my brain and my hip rotations; between my brain and my rib cage. Just trying to isolate those parts of my body, and make them move on my command, was extremely challenging. Here, I document my progress towards the Cuban motion.

For anyone else traveling this same route of trying to master the Cuban motion, I hope you can find some comfort in these clips. For me, it is a long process of establishing communication with various parts of my body, training different muscle groups, and getting enough ‘muscle memory’ so that I can actually incorporate this movement into dance steps.

The movie clips were made with Photo Booth on a MAC, so you may need a plug-in (they are ‘.mov’ files). After watching the clips, just use the ‘back’ key in your browser to return to this page.

For the observant technically-oriented readers, these clips (since they were made with Photo Booth) are actually showing a mirror image of me—that is, you are seeing what I would see upon looking in a mirror. Therefore, what you might think is my right hand, is actually my left hand.

movie clip:
At the Beginning
‘May 10, 2011’
(14 seconds)
I wish I had an actual video of ‘where I was’ on May 10, 2011. This video was taken on June 8, 2011, when I discovered the ability to make these little movie clips. By that point, after almost a month of dancing, I had already made a lot of progress on my posture and frame. I do, however, recall the only way I was able to move at the beginning—hips side-to-side, head bobbing up-and-down. Not particularly satisfying.
movie clip:
Wrong Hip Rotation
June 8, 2011
(17 seconds)
Here's where I actually was on June 8, 2011. I had spent many hours ‘perfecting’ this movement in front of a mirror at home. I was very excited about starting to get the hips rotating with the knee bends, and starting to get some (very limited) rib cage movement in the direction opposite to the hip that is going out. Unfortunately, I have my hips rotating in the wrong direction (sigh). So, here's one of my first approximations to ‘Cuban motion’—with the hips rotating in the wrong direction.
movie clip:
Correct Hip Rotation
June 11, 2011
(17 seconds)
On June 10, my wonderful private instructor John Caballero informed me that my hips were rotating in the wrong direction, and we spent the entire class trying to correct this situation. After many more hours of practicing at home, this video was made on June 11, and I believe it represents the correct hip rotation. It does seem to be smoother (less jerky) than the prior video. There is very limited rib cage movement in the direction opposite to the hip that is going out—I'll work on that later on. By the way, after practicing this motion, my right hip is extremely sore—like I've bruised that entire area. I was wondering if I bashed into something, and didn't remember it. John told me that this soreness is an indication that I'm finally moving that right hip correctly.
My instructor says there is too much upper body motion in this video.
movie clip:
the Rumba Walk
June 19, 2011
(14 seconds)
Next is to incorporate the Cuban Motion into movement. Here is a first attempt at a rumba walk. One key is to make sure that as the leg reaches the front, the front knee completely straightens at the same time as the back knee bends. It is then that back knee bending that forces the opposite side hip out. Also, if the back foot swivels just a bit more towards perpendicular to the line of direction, then it gives a wider base for balance. Be sure to push into the ground (like ice-skating) and lead with your core, not your feet. (I'm not claiming that I'm doing these things well—but I'm trying.) I've gotten rid of a little bit of the upper body motion.