This series explores the many dances that have influenced and helped create salsa.
Last week, we started this series by talking about cumbia, the dance that gave us open breaks. This week, we’re introducing you to guaguanco – the tongue-twister dance that’s all about body movement.
Guaguancó is considered a sub-genre of Cuban rumba. It was derived from yuka, a dance from the indigenous people of Sub-Saharan Africa, who were brought to Cuba as slaves.
At its origin, Guaguancó is an erotic dance between a male-female couple; the male dancer will circle around the female, while the female attempts to entice the male with her body movement. The dance reaches its peak when the male makes a vacunao (pelvic thrust) at the female, at a time when the female is unprepared to avoid it. (Jeff’s note: wow, I did not expect this, but dance did served an important social and courtship function, which should not be forgotten.)
Guaguancó music consisted mainly of a large variety of percussive instruments, and occasionally singers. The clave, a key component of the salsa rhythm, is also found in guaguancó and other Afro-Cuban music.
Guaguancó influence in salsa
Salsa has incorporated some of guaguancó’s body movement, in particular hip and pelvic motions, which are mostly seen during “shines” or freestyle dancing.
The most common guaguancó element in salsa is known as a “guaguancó step” – this can be a simple side step, or it can be completed with hip rolls, shoulder rolls and arm motions, all inspired from Cuban guaguancó.
Most Afro-Cuban body isolation workshops are heavily inspired by guaguancó, both in terms of the moves taught and of the music used. Below is short example: