THE #CUBANWAY

 The Cuban Way is an effort to introduce Casino Style of Salsa dancing. Casino was created in the mid 1950’s by a group of young people in Havana, Cuba. Dancing Casino is an expression of popular social culture; Many Cubans consider casino a part of their social and cultural activities centering around their popular music.

The origins of the name Casino are “Casinos Deportivos”, the dance halls where a lot of social dancing was done among the better off, white Cubans during the mid-20th century and onward.

Historically, Casino traces its origin as a partner dance from Cuban Son, fused with partner figures and turns adopted from North American Jive. As with the Son, Danzon and Cha Cha Cha, it is traditionally, though less often today, danced “a contratiempo”. This means that, distinct from subsequent forms of salsa, no step is taken on the first and fifth beats in each clave pattern and the fourth and eighth beat are emphasised. In this way, rather than following a beat, the dancers themselves contribute in their movement, to the polyrythmic pattern of the music.

What gives the dance its life, however, is not its mechanical technique, but understanding and spontaneous use of the rich Afro-Cuban dance vocabulary within a “Casino” dance. In the same way that a “sonero” (lead singer in Son and Salsa bands) will “quote” other, older songs in their own, a “casino” dancer will frequently improvise references to other dances, integrating movements, gestures and extended passages from the folkloric and popular heritage. This is particularly true of African descended Cubans.Such improvisations might include extracts of rumba, dances for African deities, the older popular dances such as Cha Cha Cha and Danzon as well as anything the dancer may feel.

"The greatest dancers are not the greatest for their tecnique, but for their passion"

Martha Graham

WHAT IS CASINO?

Culture and geography

Culturally, Casino is danced as an interplay between male and female gender and feeling the music (“Sabor”) as its main ingredients. Much of the interplay of Casino style dancing is based on the broader Afro-Caribbean cultural context with emphasis on sexual interplay, teasing and everyday experience.

Geographically, in Latin America, Casino and its variants are danced in Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. It is also highly popular in Europe and parts of Asia.

Styles of Casino

  • Cuban-Style Salsa Partnership Dance (Parejas)

 Casino is danced in three points which makes up the circular motion as couple face each other in intricate patterns of arms and body movement. This is distinctive from the North American Salsa styles which is danced in a slot (two points) and linear positions as taught by the North American and European dance studios.

 Casino has a strong basic step known as “guapea” (lit. “Chill Out” by Afro-Cuban Community), also known as “pausa”, in which the male lead put his left foot behind on the break, which is a contrast to the most common basic Salsa step in which the male lead places his left foot forward.

 Casino styling includes men being “macho” and women being femininely sexy, with major body and muscle isolations, through the influence of Rumba dancing. During the dance, dancers often break from each other during percussion solos and perform the “despelote,” an advanced form of styling in which the male and female partner get physically close and tease each other without touching through the gyrating of hips and shoulders while performing muscle isolations.

 The major distinction of Cuban Salsa Styling is that male partners have tendencies to show off (following Afro-Cuban Guaguanco influence) under the guise of cultural behavior of males having to attract attention and tease females. This is the major point of differences between “Casino” and the rest of the Northern American Salsa as the North American Salsa ascribed to the ballroom adage of “men are the picture frame while women are the picture.”

  • Cuban Solo Dancing (“Suelto”)

Cuban-Salsa Solo Dancing (“Suelto”) is dancing salsa without having a partner. It originates from stage singers and dancers who set up routines during orchestra and live performance. Dance singularly or in a group (usually male facing females on the dance floor) the movements are based on “a-tiempo” or “contra-tiempo” with intricate footwork and lively body movements.

  • Other forms of partner dancing

Other partner dancing styles include “Trios” or “Quattros” in which a male lead will dance with two or more female partners in each arm in intricate patterns. There are also a “Trios” version in which two male leaders share a female partner.

  • Group Dancing (Rueda)

Pairs of dancers form a circle, with dance moves called out by one person, a caller (or “líder” or “cantante” in Spanish). Many moves have hand signs to complement the calls; these are useful in noisy venues, where spoken calls might not be easily heard. Most moves involve the swapping of partners, where the partners move around the circle to the next partner. The combination of elaborate dance combinations and constant movement of partners create a visually spectacular effect.

The names of the moves are mostly in Spanish, some in English (or Spanglish; e.g., “un fly”). Some names are known in slightly different versions, easily recognizable by Spanish-speaking dancers, but may be confusing to the rest. Although the names of most calls are presently the same across the board, the different towns in Cuba use their own calls. This is because the pioneers of Rueda de Casino wanted to keep others from participating in their Rueda. Many local variations of the calls can now be found. They can change from town-to-town or even from teacher-to-teacher. There are many different variations of moves in Rueda de Casino.

The circle will either start from “al Medio” (normal closed hold with all the couples stepping in and out of the circle) or from Guapea (stepping forward on the inside foot and backward on the outside foot, tangent to the circle). Some of the most common moves in Rueda include: Dame, Enchufle, Vacila, and Sombrero. You can readily find an extensive list of Rueda de Casino moves in various websites. There are different hand motions that the caller can signal in case one’s voice cannot be heard over the loud music. For example, the hand signal for Sombrero is the caller tapping the top of his or her head. This move is signaled when everyone in the circle is stepping backward.

VIDEOS

Danzón, Son, Pilón, Cha Cha Chá and Mambo

Salsa o Casino?

Las primeras ruedas de Casino

El Floreo y el Son

Qué es la Rumba?

RUEDA DE CASINO HAVANA 1830

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