Ábaco is a dance created to follow the calls from rueda de casino, and it is perfect for rueda and casino dancers in times of social distancing. It is also a fun addition to rueda, putting ábaco dancers inside the rueda.
Demonstration of ábaco:
ábaco inside a rueda, at the SalsaNor Rueda congress 2015
Educational videos of ábaco figures have been being published at the rueda.casino Vimeo channel since the summer of 2020.
Ábaco is a relatively new dance, created in 2015. The focus in ábaco is the social use.
All the most common rueda figures now have corresponding ábaco figures. Check the current list of existing ábaco figures (updated 2021).
The principles of ábaco
In open position, the basic step in rueda is “guapea“. In ábaco the basic step is also “guapea”, based on the womens footwork, i.e. stepping back on the right foot on beat 1.
When a rueda is in closed position, there are several basic steps or pattern, so any basic step needs to be called. The most common ia vamos arriba. In ábaco this call correspondings to diagonal steps (often used in son). Other figures or patterns may be called in closed position.
Basic partner change
Ábaco follows the rueda, using the idea of closed and open position, even though there is no partner involved. The general idea is that a partner change in rueda corresponds to a turn in ábaco, and the dancers ending up facing a different direction.
- Open position
A regular partner change in rueda (like dame una, enchufla y dame) corresponds to a quarter turn left in ábaco. Hence “dame dos” in rueda corresponds to rotating a half turn left in ábaco (two quarter turns left). And “dame una arriba” corresponds to rotating a quarter turn right. Note that everyone in the ábaco rotates individually, the abaco as a grid does not move.
- Closed position
The most common way to change partner from closed position in rueda is the call sequence vamos arriba > un tarro. The call tarro is the actual partner change, moving straight to the next partner without any dile que no.
In ábaco, tarro is a simple quarter turn left on 7, continuing the basic steps of vamos arriba in the new direction.
Closed to open position
Changing from closed to open position in rueda is done using “dile que no”. In ábaco dile que no corresponds to the steps commonly referred to as “a lo cubano”.
Note that dile que no does not include a partner change, so the ábaco does not rotate in this figure.
Partner change in more detail
Note that in rueda, the order of a regular partner change is to first change the partner, and then do a “dile que no”. In ábaco this order is the oposite, starting with “dile que no” and then rotating. Also, in figures like enchufla y quedate, there is no partner change, so in ábaco there is no rotation after the dile que no.
Most figures in open position starts from guapea, but not all. Figures like paseala, variations of paseala, Coca-Cola, ya tu sabes, saca la vecina start directly with the new partner (la vecina in the rueda). The general traffic rule here is to follow the calls. So in dame > paseala you finish dame, then you do paseala.
For example dame > paseala.
– In rueda you start with changing partner, then lead the lady around the man, and end with dile que no.
– In ábaco you start with dile que no, followed by a left rotation, and then the ábaco paseala steps (side step and cross).
This will result in the paseala steps being not being done at the same time, in rueda in the first eight-count, and in ábaco in the second eight-count. This is just a more visible consequence of what is already a timing difference i dame una.
Not that in enchufla y quedate > paseala, the paseala steps (and dile que no) are done at the same time in ábaco and rueda.
Figures that apply some styling elements (like dame directo, patin, patineta, etc.), use different styling for men and women, following the Cuban dance traditions.
For example, in “dame directo” the women push their arms forward as women do in mambo, and the men pull their pants they way men do in rumba.
Casino figures / complicated rueda figures
How does figures like setenta and salsita, including quite a bit partner work or complex rueda interaction work in ábaco?
The most common rueda commands now have corresponding ábaco figures. Other figures are worked out if needed. If ábaco is used widely enough, it will devellope more figures. Few casino figures are currently included in ábaco, mainly setenta and setenta complicado (see advanced figures). Short animated rueda figures, like policia, may just be improvised in ábaco.
There are no languages without exceptions. In abaco there are a few exceptions to the basic logic:
- dame directo
There is no rotation in dame directo, even though there is a partner change in the rueda figure dame directo.
So the traffic rule of a partner change in rueda corresponding to a quarter turn left in ábaco is in reality a bit more specific: partner changes in rueda involving dile que no corresponds to a quarter turn left in ábaco.
- adios, vacilala
There is no dile que no at the end, even though the rueda figure adios finishes with dile que no.
This goes for a few figures, where it is more important to dance an interresting figure, than to rush off for a dile que no.
Swapping between rueda and ábaco
In the figure fesitval de cambio, the dancers in the front row of the ábaco enters the rueda, in between the couples. Whoever looses their partner in the rueda swap back to the ábaco. All while the rest of the rueda and ábaco dance festival de dame, and celebrate with ¡bulla! if the swapping is successful.
Illustrated description of how to swap for men and women.
Dancing ábaco socially
Time will show how ábaco will be used. But here are a few ideas to start with.
- When using ábaco together with a rueda, the caller should know abaco quite well, at least know which commands will work well for the abaco. Otherwise there will too many calls that are unknown to the people dancing ábaco .
- It is important that everyone can hear the caller well, preferably using a microphone. The ábaco will rotate, so reading lips or hand signs is not an option.
- ábaco can be used also without a rueda, for animation, warm-up, etc.
This might also help remembering the different figures, and also to improve the movement in the differnt figures.
How to get started?
- Study the videos, or learn the abaco figures from someone who already learned it.
- Form a group of 4 or more dancers (9-16 is perfect); it helps if most dance rueda.
- Start with open position and guapea and dile que no.
- Move on to the regular partner change – dame una, dame dos.
- Add enchufla, enchufla doble, enchufla con mambo and dame una arriba.
- Do the basic figures in closed position – al centro, vamos arriba, un tarro, dos tarros, exhíbela.
- Practice the figures to a whole song with several repetitions to help your body remember the figures.
- Now you are ready to add the other figures that you like.
- Have differnet callers call the ábaco, to make it more diverse.
- Finally, try it out together with a rueda de casino.
Why dance ábaco?
- Ábaco is a suplement to rueda de casino, it is not a replacement.
- Ábaco in the middle of a rueda can add energy to the dance.
- Ábaco allows everyone people to join the dance in a rueda setting, even though there is not a balance between lead and follow.
- Ábaco can help improving your personal dance style, by focusing on the styling elements and repeating the figures
- Ábaco can help practicing and getting used to rueda commands without being led.
- Ábaco is a new challenge, it can be fun to try new ideas and learn new dance elements.
- Ábaco can be almost instant fun for rueda dancers, because once you understand the main principles you may be able to dance a lot of the rueda commands in ábaco without too much work.
The question that trigged the abaco idea was this: When you have a large group of rueda dancers with more follows (women) than leads (men), how can you have everybody join the dance and have fun?
This question started a process of exploring the use of rueda figures in a different setting, with focus on allowing more women to join. Elements from rueda figures were forming the base, and then elements from salsa suelta, animation, Cuban mambo, line dance, and even the big apples in lindy hop were applied to abaco.
Feel free to use ábaco, to spread it and have fun with it! If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.