We teach and create spaces for social dance - dance that is about celebrating the music and connecting with others. A solid social dancer needs to feel and understand the music, be able to connect with a partner, and know the basics.
What are the basics? Basics are something that experienced dancers as well as new continually refine and develop. They are where you start, what you continually practice, and what you should aspire to master. Everything else is secondary.
Timing & Musicality
Cuban music ranges across many genres. Timba is what we dance to for Casino & Rueda de Casino. Like popular music you hear on the radio, it places the emphasis on the 1, known as the downbeat. For some hearing and feeling the music comes naturally, but for many of us, it is a skill that has to be learned. This is a critical skill so we encourage you to use the videos and practice, practice, practice!
To develop a sense of musicality, you have to know the music, feel the music. If you don't already, we encourage you to immerse yourself in Cuban music. Check out this internet radio station:
To connect with a partner in dance, we are agreeing to be present and to seek each other out. This allows us to move together, communicating with our eyes, our visual presence, and body position, with small gestures or signals as well as through touch.
To be connected and have clear communication when dancing, let's start at the beginning:
These are the basic steps we teach in Casino and Rueda de Casino. We also use them as exercises to teach rhythm and timing. You can drastically improve your timing by using a metronome for pacing while practicing the steps at regular and half time. Take care to make any changes on the first beat of the 8 count, the one.
Lead & Follow
Have you ever heard the saying 'lead, follow, or get out of my way'? When you move from social dancing into partner dancing this is important. While a very experienced pair of dancers might switch in and out of the roles seamlessly for fun, one is always leading and the other following.
The way we teach, leading is deciding where to go and asking the follow to join you. Following is seeking out and choosing to go with the lead.
KEY POINTS FOR LEADS
KEY POINTS FOR FOLLOWS
As with many forms of dance, Casino has two main positions - social position and open position.
In the Social Position (also called Closed Position), the Lead and Follow stand facing one another creating a shared frame, connecting and communicating through this frame.
In the figure above, they are dancing a waltz but the position is the same. Right arm of the lead goes around the left side of the follow, taking hold of her back just at the shoulder blades and pressing slightly up to support the Left arm of the follow that rests on top of the Leads arm. The follow rests her Left hand on the leads shoulder and presses down slightly to create a solid physical connection.
Left arm of lead holds the right hand of the follow at about shoulder height with both Lead and Follow pressing in slightly to create a solid connection.
Basic Steps to Practice in Social Position: Paso de Son, Paso Diamante
The other common position in Cuban dance is Open Position. It looks a bit like this (well, not really, but the concept of being open in the same):
Basic Steps to Practice in Open Position: Guapea
There are 5 turns from which many other turns are built. These are what we consider to be the basic turns. As a new dancer, focus on the first three. The others will come in time.
Dile Que No
Sueltas are Cuban line dances. Typically at a concert where a rueda (see below) or partner dancing would detract from the performance, dancers will line up and dance in unison. Like Rueda, there is often a leader setting the movements. Sueltas are also used for learning basic steps and Cuban movements in classes and sometimes danced at parties spontaneously.
Casino is the main dance that we teach. It is a Cuban popular dance that evolved from Son Montuno that is sometimes called Cuban Salsa. There are different styles, different ways of teaching, different interpretations of an evolving dance that share a common love for the music, a playful seductive nature, and a touch of elegance. The dance originated in Cuban dance halls, known as Casinos. It was a semi-formal affair back then. In modern times, it crosses over to the streets.
Rueda de Casino
Rueda de Casino is when pairs dance Casino in a circle or a rueda meaning wheel in Spanish. It becomes a dynamic game of call and response. You'll find it danced by kids in the street, spontaneously at the beach and by adults in suits and stilettos in a club. It is surprisingly addictive, and its only a matter of time before someone proves its better than Sudoku for keeping your brain active and young.
Not surprisingly, the circle is said to be the oldest dance form and studies in occupational medicine support that dancing in a circle creates a shared sense of empathy and improves quality of life. More than anything though - it makes people smile.
Naming and Such
Rueda de Casino naturally takes on the flavor of the places it is danced. You will find that there are regional variations in the calls, names, and styling. Where the variations are known we will give you all of the alternative names so they are at least familiar.
'Bookoo' is the New Orleans version of the French word beaucoup, meaning a lot. Rueda is the Spanish word for wheel, as in Rueda de Casino. Being a creole nation a creolized name made sense. The wheel, a circle is much like a hearth - it draws people to it. It invites new dancers. It connects people, communities, and cultures breaking down the notions of us and them.