In defense of Cuban motion

27 Feb

I really enjoy reading other blogs. I read some about food. OK, a lot about food. And some about ballroom dancing. OK, a lot about ballroom dancing. I like hearing other people’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how their experience compares to mine. And what’s different.

But every once in a while, I read something that gets to me. And I feel the need to respond. And debate a little.

This happened a few days ago when I read this entry from Facing Diagonal Wall. Go read it and then come back, because otherwise my post may not make sense.

Done? You’re back now? OK good. Let’s continue.

Believe me, I know how hard it can be to learn Cuban motion. When I first started working on it, there were huge mental blocks in my way. HUGE. I was raised NOT to move my hips like that EVER. Plus, I was still a relatively new dancer (early in bronze II, I think). So that was a ginormous thing to try and work through, which I did with the help of my teacher.

But I disagree with what Facing Diagonal Wall says: he states “I know it is an essential part of any Latin dance but let’s be honest, you’ve either got it or you don’t.”


My whole experience with dance and my studio is that you can anything related to dance. You may not be able to do it like a professional, but even the most-challenged dancers can do a version on Cuban motion (or any dance technique or step), and it doesn’t look stupid. It looks appropriate for how they dance.

And I can attest (and my friends can, too) that I cannot move on a non-ballroom dance floor at all. AT ALL. I’m pretty white. I mean, when I started dancing, I was convinced I wouldn’t be good at it because I was so uncoordinated. But with a great teacher, I am able to do these things and do them well. (Helps that I had some undiscovered talent for ballroom dancing, too, but still.)

I wonder if the difference between his (Facing Diagonal Wall) experience and mine is the teaching. And the teachers. Mine could recognize that this was a mental block for me (yet ANOTHER one) and could draw on his experience to know when to push, when to pull me through it, when to switch to something else for a while, and when to just let it rest. And maybe Facing Diagonal Wall’s teacher didn’t have that insight or experience to draw on for whatever reason.

Yes, Cuban motion can be awkward when you first work on a new portion of it. So can any new technique in dance when you first try it. Of course it’s awkward – it’s NEW. It’s a new and therefore not muscle-memory-comfortable way of moving. But eventually it will be comfortable. You just have to remember how the basic step in waltz felt at first – awkward, too, right?

I’m going through it right now as we work on the next level of Cuban motion. (Well, not right now, because I haven’t been able to dance for a week or so because of this stupid flu.) But it’s awkward. And I’m still not sure how to tell what muscles to move where. But I’ve been through enough of these experiences in dance to know that it’s just part of the learning process, I know I’ll get it eventually, and I just need to keep trying and keep working on it. It doesn’t freak me out anymore or derail me.

I’m guessing that Facing Diagonal Wall has some mental block on Cuban motion that he needs to work through. And probably his post was just a rant that we all need to do about dance at times. (My poor friend SP – she gets so many texts from me that are rants about my dancing. So does AD. And they’re both still my friend – that’s amazing. Thanks, guys!) I think he’s stuck in the thinky place on this. And we all know how much I’ve been there, right? I’ve just learned how not to set up a second home there.

So hang in there, Facing Diagonal Wall! I feel your pain. I will say that if you think it’s something you either have or don’t and you don’t have it, you’ll never get it. But I believe (and I’m sure your teacher believes) that you can and WILL learn it. Just remember the four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. Also known as initial, awkward, conscious, and natural for you non-nerds.

(Oh my goodness, my teacher would be so proud of this post. Defending Cuban motion, claiming anyone can do Cuban motion, and spouting the four stage of competence! Don’t tell him, OK?)

So, Facing Diagonal Wall, if you have anything to say in response, I’d love to hear it! But meanwhile, just know I’m rooting for you. You’ll conquer Cuban motion yet!

8 Responses to “In defense of Cuban motion”

  1. Terra Rindels February 27, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Well done, Daniel (Cathy) San… lol He is right, it is not initially “natural”. However, if his teacher could show him where it does appear in the real world that really helps. I used to take students to the stairs and we would go up very sloooooooowly…it’s the exact same mechanics from beginning to end! For some at first, and pretty much regardless of gender, no it’s not a great look; but you’re a student and at every point things don’t look good! It smoothes out over time and in the end looks pretty darn natural. Practice, practice, practice…one morning you will wake up and that Cuban Motion that didn’t work yesterday will miraculously be in your muscle memory.

    • The Reinvented Lass February 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      Yes, Terra, yes! Exactly. It’s gotten to the point for me where it’s hard to dial it back now. 😉

  2. loveablestef February 27, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    I am loving the debate and I side with you Lassie! It’s a matter of working through it. I believe in our potential more than any perceived limitations. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    • The Reinvented Lass February 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

      Agreed! And I think we limit ourselves with our thoughts far more than with anything else.

  3. rocco0724 February 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    OK – I’ll accept the challenge. First, I’ll freely admit to having a huge mental block around Cuban motion. Secondly, please don’t speculate or run down my teacher because she has tried many of the very things you mention. And, yes, I am actually capable of doing some type of Cuban motion because I’ve been told on many occasions that I’m much better than I think I am. My main point is that those with more natural talent are going to be able to make it look much more natural than I ever will be. And, no, I’m not talking about comparing myself to a professional. Take dancers at any level and some will just do it better than others. I happen to believe I’m more of a natural smooth dancer than a rhythm dancer but I still do both. Its just that a man has got to know his limitations.

    • The Reinvented Lass February 27, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Thanks for chiming in!’ I would simply argue that thinking we have limitations is what limits is. I mean, of course we all have limitations in reality. But thinking about limitations makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, by thinking you can do it all, you stretch yourself further than what you thought you could do.

  4. madetomove2 February 27, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Cluck, cluck, cluck. Afraid of looking stupid while you are learning? Hmmmm, kinda makes learning hard, eh? You have to change your mind to change yourself. I bet our friend could learn to do a reasonable hip action, if he could let go of all that anxiety and believe in the possibility.

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