Casino dance is a dance style in Cuba closely associated with Cuban salsa. It originated at the beginning of the 20th century and is a social dance form.
What is Casino dance?
Originally casino dance was a dance form known as Rueda. Couples would join in big dancing halls in Cuba and start dancing as a group. They would create coordinated dance forms under the guidance of a “caller”, who designated the types of dance movement the group should execute together. One of the particularities of this dance is that the dancers form a circle and ensure this wheel never breaks down. This circle moves clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on what the caller ordered. Later on, casino dance varied from the group format to include individual couples.
What is the difference between Casino dance and Salsa?
Although most of the dance styles that influenced Salsa came from Cuba, Salsa originated in New York in the 20th century. Unlike casino dance, Salsa tends to be danced linearly, while the former is more circular. The beat where dancer break is also different. In New York, salsa dancers are generally on 2, while in casino it can be on 1. Moreover, casino dance has stronger Afro-Cuban dance influences. Indeed, with dances such as rumba, chango, or Abakua, the Afro-Cuban roots are more pronounced than New York salsa.
The original Casino Rueda
Initially, casino dance involved groups of couples who formed a wheel and created choreographed movements under the guidance of a caller. This move created a great visual effect while allowing people to socialize and have fun (take a look at that Rueda de Casino show).
Example of Casino dance steps
The circular motion that so defines casino rueda.
As I mentioned, one characteristic of casino dance is the circular motion the dancers execute. One of these key features is when a man circles a lady. Another circular move is executed when a man takes a figurine pose. As he settles into that posture, the lady moves around him, walking while holding his right hand. The man takes different fixated poses, reminiscing about classical ballerinas. One such position consists of the man resting on the toes of one leg while the other leg is extended. The lady still holds his arm as she moves around him in a circle. This move itself is a Son move.
Another popular move of casino dance is a walking motion, either forward and backward or sideways. This step is another Son move. I love it because it’s a perfect way to match the clave with the dancer’s steps. Since the clave is instrumental in mastering salsa on the beat, this move is perfect.
The lady goes backward as the man moves forward on the 1st beat. After that, the whole eight counts (of a basic salsa step) are executed with the man moving forward and the lady backward. After which the roles are reversed.
The same principle applies to the sideway move. They can either go to the left or the right.
Classical of casino dance
This third move forms one of the bases of the casino Rueda dance. Generally speaking, when a group begins a circle, they start with the walking steps describe above. It allows everyone to settle and make sure they are on beat. These walk moves are followed by a backward and push step once the circle is formed. In this move, the couple faces each other. As they step back on the 1st beat, they gently push each other with the opposite hand on the 5th. This is a preparatory move before getting into more complex moves. It also allows the couples to be on beat with the music.
Move in position
The move is a very simple one. But it’s easy to misstep if you are not on beat. Both man and lady are in position, close to each other. With their hips and shoulders, they shift their weight from left to right on beat with the music. The man will step on his left foot on 1 (lady uses her right foot) and on his right foot on 5 (lady uses her left).
This is a typical move of casino dance.
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