Manager’s Forum: Why do I need to learn Cuban Motion if I only want to be a social dancer?

In this week’s Manager’s Forum, we asked a very popular question that we hear from a lot of students! Why do I need to learn Cuban Motion if I only want to be a social dancer? Our managers at Arthur Murray Dallas and Plano gave us some great feedback! This should clear things up for you!


Cuban motion in the simplest definition is traditionally “proper hip movement” … Cuban Motion is what the body does naturally to maintain balance and control when shifting weight from one leg to the other.” – Joe Donato


Let’s hear from our female managers first:

Sarah: You need to learn Cuban Motion BECAUSE you want to be a social dancer! Well, wait. Maybe I should ask if you want to be the kind of social dancer that no one wants to dance with and that looks stiff and awkward trying to do a bunch of steps? OR if you want to be a well-rounded, fluid, fun-to-dance-with and can clearly feel and hear the music kind of social dancer? I am guessing you want the latter. 

Imagine this; You are walking in to get your relaxing full body massage, it’s cold outside and you are very tense… You go into the room and you get on the table, ready to relax and feel a physiological change. Next thing you know, a clumsy, awkward and stiff metal robot walks in and a recording says, “I will be performing your full body massage today.” The robot robotically dims the light and clunks over to you like C3PO and begins your massage… I have one word for that…. “YIKES!!” This is what NOT learning Cuban Motion does to your dancing and “YIKES!!” is the word everyone around you will be thinking when watching you dance “Socially”.


Cuban Motion gives you a quality that can either help you FIT IN to the social crowd or if you’d like, you can “Wow!” people and stand out in a good way. In addition to all the logical reasons why we need Cuban Motion like stronger lead, sound style of dances, feel for the music and control/understanding of your body in movement, Dancing is a ‘Human’ thing. Dancing is NOT a Robotic thing. Dancing involves emotions, feeling, MUSIC, connection and communication with another person that has to constantly change and adjust to any and all outside influences… Rigidity will fail in these situations. Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Social dancers MUST be able to adjust.You can’t predetermine who will be at the club, what songs they will play or what kinds of scenarios you may have to face on the dance floor. Flexibility in your body is necessary to be a great social dancer, a comfortable, strong, fun, “Human” social dancer. Like a lava lamp or a Volcano, you can be stubborn with your structure, your frame and your lead/follow, but when it comes to your body moving; Be infinitely FLEXIBLE and constantly AMAZED. 

Nikki: I get asked a lot why someone, especially men, need to learn Cuban Motion…  And while there is an aspect of “looking the part”, the answer is actually much more simple.  It is the lead needed to communicate with your partner.  I’m speaking mostly to men, as many women are willing to let their body move naturally and so they are ok with body movement happening.

As men, there aren’t many times in their life when they have had to move easily with motion, so there aren’t many practice opportunities.  However, there ARE things in real life that will help everyone to understand why Cuban Motion is so important to the rhythm of dancing.  If you are on a sail boat, and need to walk from one end to the other, and you try to do it stiff legged, and without adjusting to the motion of the ocean, what happens?  IF you make it down the boat without falling over, it was a really rough ride, right?  Dancing is the same.  Using at least some Cuban Motion allows for a “smoother” ride along the dance floor.  And it allows your partner to have a good sense of what you are doing, and what you are going to do next, which allows THEM to have better time with you.  Now, do you need to learn competitive Cuban Motion?  No.  Only high competitors need that.  Everyone else will be just fine with an understanding of how to move their body easily, and then translate that into something their partner needs.  Your teacher will likely work on the concept of Cuban Motion quite a bit, maybe more then what you think you might need, but what they are really working on is your ability to move your body easily and freely.  And often, we need to exaggerate things in the beginning,  and then we can tone it down later.

Hang in there, Cuban Motion is necessary.  We promise.  And it isn’t to turn you into a competitive dancer, it’s to make YOU a better partner to everyone else!

And now the men:

Ian: Well, cuban motion is the whole reason they’re called RHYTHM dances.  The body action used to make the dances recognizable is also what makes them both feel and look good. To look your most beautiful or feel your most studly on a dance floor, you need to look relaxed and fluid.  And let’s be honest, no one ever watched a robot move, and said, “Hey, those moves are hot!”.  And feeling good comes from feeling in control of your body so that you can relate how the music makes you feel and how much fun you’re having to your partner without having to literally say, “Wow, this is so much fun” (said in that really awkward and nerdy voice only heard in movies).  Cuban motion isn’t for competitive dancers only; it’s for anyone who wants to look and feel great while they dance, both for themselves and for their partner. 

Justin: Cuban motion helps you look better AND feel better. It is definitely not one of the most natural things we do as dancers (at least not to start) but the more familiar we get, the more it helps it helps our dancing. In terms of how our dancing looks, cuban motion is what puts the body rhythm into our “rhythm dances.”  It allows us to express the music through multiple layers in our body.  As we develop those layers, we’ll look at how we use our feet, knees, hips and torso. It will eventually lead to more fluid movement, even though in the beginning it feels like even more to keep track of. When we start our rumba, for instance, the box step often feels choppy. As we add cuban motion, the dancing can feel like your teacher asked you to play twister while walking.  We promise, it will become less awkward and more connected, creating a better feel as we dance. It also will help the guys lead better, through clearer weight transfer.

All of this does require you to be patient- none of this happens overnight. Most of us didn’t grow up doing cuban motion, and we don’t walk through the grocery store doing it (most of us), so the limited practice means you need to cut yourself some slack. And unlike many other techniques that only have a couple layers, cuban motion has many layers. So you should expect to continue developing it for a long time- no rush, and no beating yourself up unnecessarily! Have fun with it, and you’ll find cuban motion really does enhance your dancing!



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