Ábaco is a dance created to follow the calls from rueda de casino, and yet danced individually. It gives you a feeling of dancing together even though there is a small distance between the dancers.
Ábaco is perfect for rueda and casino dancers in times of social distancing. And also a fun addition to rueda, putting ábaco dancers inside the rueda (when rueda de casino is back after the pandemic).
Educational videos of ábaco figures are being published at the rueda.caino Vimeo channel during the summer of 2020. See the current ábaco videos here.
Demonstration of ábaco danced inside a rueda at the SalsaNor Rueda congress 2015:
Ábaco is a relatively new dance, introduced in September 2015.
The focus in ábaco is the social use, aiming for figures corresponding to the most common rueda calls, not necessarily to all existing rueda calls.
Today most of the common rueda figures have corresponding ábaco figures, and new figures are still added. Check the current list of existing ábaco figures.
The principles of ábaco
When a rueda is in closed position dancing “vamos arriba”, the corresponding basic step in ábaco is the diagonal step (often used in son). When there is a partner change in closed position, like in “tarro”, the ábaco will rotate left (a quarter turn) on beat 7.
Closed to open position
Changing from closed to open position in rueda is commonly done using “dile que no”. In ábaco “dile que no” corresponds to the step “a lo cubano”.
Note that “dile que no” does not include a partner change, so the abaco does not rotate in this figure.
In open position, the basic step in rueda is “guapea“. In ábaco this is also “guapea”, based on the womens footwork, i.e. stepping back on the right foot on beat 1.
The traffic rules in ábaco follows the rueda in the sense that a regular partner change in the rueda (dame una, enchufla y dame, etc.) corresponds to a quarter turn left in abaco. Hence “dame dos” in rueda corresponds to rotating two quarter turns left, i.le. a half turn left, in abaco. And “dame una arriba” corresponds to rotating a quarter turn right. Note that everyone in the abaco rotates individually, the abaco as a grid does not move.
In a rueda the order of a 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.
In rueda figures like “enchufla y quedate” there is no partner change. The consequence in ábaco is that there is no rotation after the “dile que no” in this figure.
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 will rueda figures like “setenta” and “amistad” that includes quite a bit partner work work in ábaco? This is not all worked out yet, but for the most common Rueda commands there will be ábaco figures. For example short animations that does not necessarily imitate the rueda figure.
There are no languages without exceptions.
In abaco there are a few exceptions to the basic logic:
The rueda figure “dame directo” is exceptional in that it includes a partner change but no “dile que no”. In ábaco there is also an exception in that there is no rotation in “dame directo” even though there is a partner change in the rueda figure.
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 video, 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.