casino salsa

How to dance casino salsa marvellously

Casino salsa between a lady and a man

Casino salsa, a term that might irritate certain experts, is the salsa of Cuba. The dance draws its origins from Son, which was very popular at the beginning of last century. 
The particularity of casino salsa is that it is danced in a circle motion with one or many couples (in which case it is called casino Rueda). I will show you the most common types of casino salsa moves and how they are performed. 

Along the way I will answer the following questions:
– What is the difference between salsa and Cuban salsa?
– The key steps you need to consider when dancing casino salsa
– How do you dance casino salsa?

What is the difference between salsa and Cuban salsa?

The term is as diverse as what constitutes the musical/dance style. On the one hand you have New York or LA salsa from North America, on the other hand there is casino salsa who for many is not salsa. The name salsa came from the fact that many other dance and musical styles were incorporated together to form one unique blend (hence the term which means sauce). In fact, even casino salsa has a mix of Cuban son, rumba, and many other afro-Cuban dance styles. 
New York and L.A salsa are linear; the key difference lie in the beats they choose to create their steps. For example, New-York salsa is known as salsa on 2 as dancers use this beat as their main reference for dancing. On the other hand, Casino salsa uses circular motions and a variety of dances that melt perfectly; and in accordance to the music that plays. Some dances will involve more rumba moves because the song dictates it, while others will have more Son

Things to consider when dancing casino salsa

In New York salsa, highly performing dancers have understood the importance of body movement into their routines, and some even extended the name of their companies to integrate an element of Afro-Cubanism into their dance concepts ; with dancers such as Frankie Martinez and his ABAKUA company. Not all New York salsa dancers have gone that deep into the way they approach their salsa. Consequently, although you might see a lot of figures, spins or elegant gestures, you often see the same moves done over and over. With casino salsa, it’s all about “Can you dance?”, meaning can you use body movements to express the god inside you. Therefore, Cuban salsa has a more physical aspect to it, drawing from its strong afro-Cuban roots with dances such as rumba, chango, Abakua etc…
In conclusion, in order to dance casino salsa properly you need to know about body movement.

1. Body movement

I define this term as the ability for a dancer to use his body to the best of his/her capabilities to express him/herself. In order to reach that level of expression, you need to understand how to manipulate and train your body, so it obeys to your wishes. I have developed different levels of body movement videos that goes from the isolation to the full body expression. Unless you can break your body down into many independent pieces, it will be impossible for you to create forms and show your true self, the way the song orders it. In casino salsa music, many different rhythms often meet together; and the dancer needs to have a response to the variation of rhythm. Listen to this song and see how the pace changes to integrate elements of chango music etc.

2. Recognise the clave is important in casino salsa

One of the biggest challenges for casino salsa dancers is their inability to hear the clave on a salsa song. The reason why you cannot hear it is because you have not trained your ears sufficiently enough. Moreover, with salsa songs that have tones of instruments playing at the same time, there is a tendency for people to panic or get lured by one of these instruments and therefore get lost.

All the help you need

I have developed a 5 steps programs that sort this issue out. First, I take you from the kind of music you should listen to first. Then I tell you why. Finally, I demonstrate how to recognise the clave pattern helping you along the way by playing the instrument on the songs. I use the same process for all of the 5 levels. In addition, I created a “Ghost level” where I insert the clave in a song where it’s not even present. It should be done only when you have mastered the first five level. By the way, all of these programs are completely free, so check them out.

A small intro into the clave

In my post (put exact one) I remind how the beats are counted in casino salsa. A basic step is made of 2 measures of 4 beats each. The dancer complete a full casino salsa step when he/she coordinates the steps with the cycle of the 2 measures. Additionally, you will hear the clave 5 times on these measures. Typically for beginners, you step on the first beat and make six steps within the time covering these 2 measures. Still, no matter the steps you do, it is important that you put your whole body into it. You should therefore use your shoulders, hips and arms.
The image below illustrates in brown colour where you typically hear the clave on a 3/2 rumba. 

Rumba clave for casino salsa

Other clave notes

There are other positions for the clave on other types of song such as son etc…but we will not visit that at the moment. If you want to know more, with videos illustrating the patterns head to POST.

3. Practice at keeping the base strong

The third key secret of casino salsa dancing is to practice over and over. Not necessarily the difficult turns and twists (actually once you can develop a full body movement routine and you can hear the clave; you are 90% there. And I mean professionally); but some of the basic steps that never go away no matter the dancer’s level.

– Casino salsa steps that borrow from Son

Casino salsa steps that borrow from Son

In this step, the couple moves in a circular motion. This can be done alone or with a partner. As the man crosses his right leg with the left, he takes a series of back-steps before he moves forward. Because he takes the lady with him, her partner does the mirror opposite of what the man does. Quite a few people struggle with this relatively simple step. Hopefully the video accompanying this post will help sort this issue out.

– 2nd Casino salsa step from Son

This is a very simple pattern to learn, but it sets the tone very well. Both partners shift their weight to one side at the count of (1) and (5) and come back to centre. This is a good way to see if you are on beat. The hips and shoulders do most of the work; the feet just execute what the hips order them to do. 

Second Casino salsa step that borrow from Son

– 3rd Casino salsa step from Son

With these two moves, you will learn how to walk on beat. Indeed, they are two of my favourite steps because they match the clave and help with your ear and body coordination. You either move forward and backward or in a lateral motion. On the lateral one, both partners do the exact same actions. As for the first move, when the man goes forward the lady goes back, then they mark a stop. And they do the opposite with the man moving back.

Steps from Son dancing

– Rumba move

This rumba step looks like the first one we saw, but its more physical in that the male partner does a kind of a squat where he opens his knee while joining his heels together. As a beginner, you don’t need to go that deep, but you need to use your opposite arm and shoulder to create counter balance to the direction you go to. 

Rumba moves

– WW traction

This last of the casino salsa basic moves for this post is another simple one. 

basic cuban salsa move

* For men

We move backward with the left foot (1), then move to centre on (2,3). With the palm of our right hand we gently push the palm of the left hand of our partner, while staying in centre (5). 

* For women

You do the same as with the men, only that you start with your right foot first. 

Where do I start?

I hope this post helped you understand casino salsa. If you want to know more about everything casino salsa, visit my website and select the topics you are interested into. I also visit many other aspects other than dance, such as physical conditioning or flexibility.
I created a series of videos that can help you with the following:
·      Recognising the beats
·      Develop your earing abilities
·      Learn how to use your body
·      Start with simple but great steps

These teaching programs will help you develop your level, at your own rhythm and timing. Just head over to get some of the free contents.
I also created full programs that take you from baby steps all the way to near professional level. There on top of developing the important basic areas, you will also learn, how to:
·      Transition from one rhythm to another during a song. 
·      Change level. 
·      Move fast
·      Dance on a full choreography
·      Create endurance
·      Create your own choreographies.

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