First an idea
‘Dancing the Beautiful Wheel’ was written over a period of about 5 years as something of a labour of love. The origins of the guide lie in my early efforts to learn Salsa around 2002. Like many beginners I made notes to help remember the figures I had been taught in class. I had no vocabulary to describe the complex turns, hand holds, and changes of direction and so just did my best. Over the years I made many notes but found it difficult to remember sequences, which unlike many of the Ballroom and Latin dance figures that I was used to, had no specific names. After a couple of years I discovered Cuban Casino style and Rueda de Casino, and found that instructors would often name specific moves. From that point onwards, I found it much easier to remember moves and to see the relationships between them.
When I started to dance Rueda de Casino I found that other beginners would often make notes after each class, trying to make sense of the daunting variety of moves and dance positions. (This was before the advent of today’s handy digital cameras and phones). I wondered if by sharing my own collection of descriptions I might perhaps save others from this struggle, and help maintain their enthusiasm.
At first the idea was simply to create a set of descriptions, perhaps with a few added notes on points of interest, but this would have been rather dry and technical. After extensively researching Rueda I had also gathered a lot of notes on Rueda in general, the historical background, points of interest, and a large collection of notes on Rueda structures and variations such as Rueda linea, and Cruzada. Until this point, I had no intention of publishing a guide, but friends suggested I should create a book. No guide to Rueda seemed to exist apart from the chapter in the ‘Latin Dance Study Guide’ by Martin Blais. Although there is a wealth of information on the internet, I knew it to be scattered, inconsistent, mostly covering Casino partner moves, and sometimes inaccurate, particularly in describing the origins of the dance. At that point I decided to broaden the scope of the guide, adding as many points of interest as possible, as well as something to help beginners and people learning to call, and to relegate the move descriptions to a (very long) appendix. I spent a lot of time working out the best way of grouping moves into families with shared characteristics, and by dance position, and began to see these lists as perhaps an alternative type of index
Then the reality
The next phase involved more months of fascinating research, unpicking the many different and conflicting stories about the origin of Rueda, from sources in English, Spanish and French. I discovered an illuminating set of recent (2011) interviews in French conducted by Fabrice Hatem with 7 of the people who created Rueda in Havana in the late 1950s and early 1960s (the ‘Fundadores’ or founders). I continued to gather more moves and background information on Rueda from knowledgeable instructors, congresses, and sometimes from internet searches. With the help of the Cambridge Rueda group I weeded out some of the less interesting or awkward moves, and standardised the descriptions. The text went through many draft versions as it was proof read and critiqued. I realised that I had included most of the Norwegian Rueda Standard set of moves (which we generally follow in the Cambridge group), and so decided to include them all in the guide, in which I was helped by Bernt Rygg of SalsaNor.
Self-publishing is quite an effort and takes a lot of time, as you have to do all the work yourself. The decision making and practical tasks of design, layout, pagination, formatting, editing, proof-reading and restructuring the guide probably took as long as researching and creating the content, and was far less interesting. Exhaustive re-checking and re-editing the draft guide took so long that friends began to think I had given up on the project.
I created numerous original diagrams and pictures, using a variety of different
software packages. The Rueda structure diagrams were created using Microsoft Powerpoint. The ‘oil painting’ illustrations were created from original photographs and processed using Adobe Photoshop. The black and white line drawings were drawn by hand. The word clouds were created using the online ‘Wordle’ package. Converting all the diagrams into the specific CMYK, 300 dots per inch format required for printing involved a surprisingly complex combination of software packages.
Almost ready to go, in discussion with Fast Print, a print-on-demand publishers in Peterborough, I looked at some examples of books they had produced for other customers. At the last minute I decided to repaginate and reformat the guide to a smaller format.
I have considered publishing in e-book format, in addition to the current hardback printed format, but the many charges for converting it to the various e-book formats, hosting the book, ‘download fees’ from online publishers, the lower overall price, and 20% Value Added Tax (which is not levied on printed books in the UK) do not make this an economic proposition at the present time.