Why dance salsa in the Cuban style?
Why not "regular salsa"?
One look should show you… more flavour… more natural… more fun!
Couples dancing Casino style
Cuban dance lesson
TV Rueda competition
Rueda de Casino in Cuba
You might spot differences… "Don't they even know how to dip and spin??"
But… on the other hand… there's this sensuousness, playfulness, spontaneity.
Understanding the differences is more than listing moves… you need to understand Cuba a bit.
Casino dance began In the 60's and 70's while a new exciting music was evolving in Cuba… later in the 70's, it began to be called "salsa" by New York marketers.
Within a few years, young dancers at social clubs called "Casinos" worked up the first versions of "Casino" dancing, perfect for the new music.
They used all the ideas at hand: mambo, cha-cha-cha, rumba, son dances of Cuba, as well as a touch of afro dancing. And yes, some of those turns and the trademark hand-push come from U.S. rock-and-rollers visiting Cuba.
But it was a simpler Casino in those days.
Each generation needs to have something of their own. They respond in new ways to the new music that inspires them.
THE NEW CUBAN SALSA MUSIC: TIMBA
Since the mid-late 1990's, Casino in Cuba is danced with a new passion, a new edge, a new liveliness. All because of a new kind of music … "Timba".
The country was desperate in the 1990's… with the loss of support of the USSR. Music and dance became more important than ever… "luxuries" that could be enjoyed without wealth. And a way to forget the problems.
Fabulous musicians were graduating from the state music schools by the hundreds… when bread was scarce, there was still good free education. They began watching each other like hawks to see who would come up with a new sound first.
Jose Luis Cortez formed his group NG La Banda and showed some ideas. The dancers went nuts, the rest is history …
He combined Cuban salsa and Cuban rumba, harmonic progression from the Russian classical composers, with Cuban son and mambo, American jazz and funk, .. into a new craze… A sophisticated, complex, varied, flexible format. A music that very likely, no other public in the world could have understood and embraced the way Cuba did.
HOW TIMBA REINVENTED CASINO:
Timba was born for one purpose… and one purpose only: to inspire and excite dancers.
Everything else is secondary: the singers, the musicians, the chorus, must all serve this need.
The new bands were valued not only for their music, but how inventive they were at dancing. In effect, the audiences and bands showed each other how to dance to it.
The bands looked into the crowd and saw people from poor areas, many of them black, doing rumba variations to the music. They adapted them and fed them back to the audience and they spread quickly to all the fans. Couples started to let go of each other, break apart, come together, break apart… doing "despelote" and other solo moves. To match this energy, the old casino moves were danced with new variations and new intensity.
In the new century, the influence of North America comes full circle again. Hip Hop, never a major style, morphs to Reggaeton in Latin America where it becomes the most popular music. In Cuba, it is even more integrated with mainstream. In the Cuban style "Cubatón" lyrics talk about young people's realities instead of the asocial "I'll be dead before I'm 22" themes of Hip-Hop. And of course, the timba bands include the reggaeton section now… and the dancers respond.
Each timba song is broken into sections, that build excitement level after level, and challenge the dancer to respond. Dancers tune in to this… the best can always surprise and delight their partner as they work with the changes.
Today's Casino dancing and Timba music are joined at the hip.
So when you pick a place to learn Cuban dance… make sure you get the full package.
Trying to dance modern, energetic Casino, to bland salsa music… that's like buying the car without the engine. If Timba seems demanding after a bland diet of night-club salsa… don't worry, it passes! Learn to love the music by dancing to it… just the way they do in Cuba.
MORE ABOUT RUEDA de CASINO:
The group dance, Rueda de Casino, is of course synchronized to the calls of a leader. It might even be thoroughly rehearsed, if there's a competition.
Casino dancing was never "taught" by teachers in Cuba. It was developed by the kids at "casino" social clubs, and it spread directly between young people everywhere in the country. Since Casino dancing is propagated among dancers and not via dance schools, you see a great deal more individuality and spontaneity in dance in Cuba.
Probably the biggest factor in Casino's rapid spread was the boarding schools.
Young students from the city are all sent to country boarding schools (and vice-versa)… as educational policy, to broaden their social opinions.
In the evenings, a favorite activity was of course self-organized dancing. At many schools, students danced in ruedas every night of the week. They invented new steps, difficult steps, funny steps, with good imaginations; and visitors between schools spread the best ideas. It wasn't TAUGHT BY the schools; but it was tolerated ;-)… it was better than a lot of other things the kids could have been doing!
Typically it was, "el que pierde sale": if you screw up a move, you are out of the circle. That encourages better dancing, and careful watching … steps are sometimes a little different in different schools. But also, it allows rotation of the dancers.
After getting back from boarding school, it became of course a favorite party activity, dancing casino de rueda, just like it was done back at school.
SO… WHERE DO THEY TEACH "THE REAL THING"… IN TORONTO?
The biggest Cuban-style school in Toronto area is AfroLatino Dance Company. Why is it so popular? Could have something to do with the relaxed no-pressure style of teaching.
AfroLatino also has an open practice for anyone interested in Cuban style dance, Saturday evenings: see the website.
Juan Carlos Bulnes was one of those kids dancing and honing new casino style steps, to Orqesta Reve, Los Van Van, and others on the Para Bailar TV show on Cuban TV in the late 70's and early 80's.
Now he's here in Toronto, and is available for private lessons in Cuban casino, orisha, and rumba dancing. He teaches group lessons in assocation with some schools, for example, sometimes with Albena de Assis of Afro-Latino Dance Co (see above).
You can contact Juan Carlos at 647 818 6602 or 416 836 2600.
Sarita Leyva is a professionally trained dancer from Holguin, Cuba. She runs the Iré Omó dance school. Currently on Sunday evenings, she teaches a Rueda de Casino lesson, while Billy Bryans spins the Cuban-approved dance music at Babalúu. She also teaches cuban styles to groups on occasion, notably Afro-Cuban rumba and orisha on Wednesday evenings. Sarita is also on the teaching staff at York University teaching cuba n dance and music. See the Iré Omó site for contact information.
Vlad (no web) at Cafe Lurin, 1032 St Clair W 2nd floor, at Oakwood, Toronto. Lessons 5 PM Sundays, then timba music til late. Call 416 666-2441.
The Toronto Casino Rueda Practice is held most Saturdays from Noon to 3 PM near downtown Toronto. It's a self-organized dancing session dedicated to Cuban music and Cuban Casino-style dancing, but also conversation and sharing tips. The session is intended for dancers who know Casino, and want to practice and transmit the feeling better… not really a school for beginners. It's independent of any dance school… and it's free of charge… so long as the venue is free ;-). For information contact
firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you are on Facebook, look for "Toronto Casino Rueda Practice".
Whitby Ontario, east of Toronto: MONDAY group lessons in Cuban style Casino dancing… with el pianista rumbero, Orlando Cardoso, phone Claudia at LA Hair (905) 556-9967.
And the first person to show many of us we didn't have to dance "Toronto-style salsa" just because we live here… Ana Machado still gives lessons. You can meet her teaching the group lesson at Lula Lounge most Saturday nights. You can also contact her at her cell number 416-205-9986.
And now a new opportunity to study Afrocuban dance, the dances of the Orishas, Congo and Rumba with Consuelo Herrera.
Consuelo Herrera is a professional dancer from Havana ,Cuba, who began her studies in La casa de Cultura, and went on to work with the folkloric dance troupe "Liberacion 75", perform in the grand cabarets "La Cecilia" in Miramar, and eventually join Grupo Raices Profundas as a lead dancer and soloist. She has worked with some of the best choreographers and musicians in Cuba. She has appeared in several documentaries about dance in Cuba and has performed in Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, the United States, Japan and Canada. Consuelo originally came to Canada to perform with Jane Bunnett in a North American tour. She has gone on to perform with Ballet Creole and Joaquin Hidalgo's Rumberos. Consuelo has been teaching Afro-Cuban Dance in Toronto in with Ballet Creole and other local companies since 1997.
New session starting this Saturday January 10th!
Location: Capoeira Angola Centre Ori
208 Christie St., #1 (Corner of Garnet , between Dupont and Bloor, north of Christie subway station).