Cubans call their Salsa dance style ‘casino’.
In the decadent days of Old Havana, all the action in town was going down at the Casinos. The gambling haunts had the money to bring in the big name bands, so that’s where people would go to dance.
Come the revolution, the casinos were closed, and the people started to dance ‘casino’ style in the local community halls. The name stuck, so don’t be confused when a Cuban invites you to go out dancing ‘casino’ you’re off to the salsa club!!
Cuban style salsa differs from the North American salsa styles in that it is ‘circular’ rather than linear and has some similarities to swing dance. The man constantly moves around the woman in a circular dynamic, checking her out and showing her off.
Salsa Rueda de Casino (Salsa Rueda) Dance
Rueda de Casino is the correct name in Spanish. “Casino Rueda” or “Salsa Rueda” are English versions of the correct name, due to the fact that the grammatical structure of English is a bit backwards from Spanish!
Rueda is a synchronized Cuban group dance with constantly exchanging dance partners.
It started out in the 1950’s at the Casino Deportivo in Havana. The people invented a new casino dance, using popular dance steps of the time, danced as a group in a circle or wheel.
In Cuba, the people used to get together in large halls, called ‘Casinos’ hence the name. Some say it started in Santiago de Cuba, others say it started in the famed Casino Deportivo in Havana, or the Casino de la Playa, we don’t know for sure, we weren't there! When the casinos were closed, people still referred to the dance style by using the name of the places where people used to gather to do it: “casino” and the name stuck. Nowadays people refer to the music as “salsa” and the dance as “casino”.
Casino itself has its roots in the ‘Danz’n, as well as its derivative, the Son Afro-Cuban dances such as Guaguane the Mambo, a rhythm invented by Cachao in the world-famous Tropicana Club in Havana, in 1943, and popularized by Perez Prado in Mexico, and “Cha-cha-cha” invented by Enrique Jorre.
Rueda (as it is commonly called in Cuba) is a form of Casino danced in a round with 2 or more couples exchanging partners when one person calls out the turn names (“Rueda” is Spanish for ‘Wheel’ and ‘Casino’ is known outside of Cuba as ‘Salsa’).
In the old casinos, the rueda circle would only be limited by available space – sometimes as many as 100 couples would dance in the rueda circle !!
Modern rueda uses the same kinds of turns and steps you would normally use in ordinary salsa dancing. Each move has a name, which is called by the leader of the Rueda. Leaders execute the move and pass the follower around to the next leader in the circle. Calls come in quick succession, creating an exciting dynamic between the dancers.
What happens next is a result of dance in general being a fluid and ever-changing entity, not stagnant. Moves are invented locally that reflect cultural reality. In Chile you might find a step named ‘Entel Chile’, with a move that mocks someone talking on the phone, since Entel is the largest phone company in Chile. In Miami there is a step called ‘Balsero’, which imitates the movements of the waves (‘Balsero’ is someone who comes to the YUMA (USA) by ‘balsa’ or ‘raft’). You won’t find that move in Chile because nobody gets to Chile by raft!
While some of the moves are graceful and intricate, others are just plain funny, such as ‘fly’ where the guys slap their palms together over the girls’ heads in a pretend fly-catcher move (as in “fly ball”, not the kind that buzzes around your food!). After all, what is dancing all about if not to have fun with it?!