What is Rueda de Casino?

Rueda de Casino is a Cuban dance that consists of couples dancing casino in a circle, passing partners while performing specific moves designated by the Rueda caller. Rueda de Casino was born in Cuba during the 1950s. It started in El Casino Deportivo, a Havana social club. The name “casino” refers to the style of dancing, which involves ordinary turns and steps but in a unique circular or wheel configuration as a group. In Rueda the followers are passed around in the circle, the leaders rapidly exchange partners, and numerous complicated moves are performed in synchronization, all to the beat of the music.

Each move has a name and many have hand signals, which are called by the leader of the rueda. Moves, which are also known as “calls”, are called in extremely quick succession, creating a very dynamic and exciting atmosphere for everyone involved. The hand signals are designed so people can dance rueda in a loud club setting. In addition, Rueda allows many to take part in the action! As few as two couples and as many as room capacity can dance casino rueda! Sometimes as many as fifty couples dance the Rueda, even in circles within circles!!

A wonderful new group dynamic occurs when dancing Rueda de Casino. There is a unique level of awareness required by the group for the dance to look stylish, to flow smoothly, and above all, to remain entertaining for those dancing and watching. Dancers learn to open their sphere of awareness beyond the normal restricted space of solo or partner dancing. In this way, dancers coordinate and adjust their individual feelings, timing, and style to make rueda work. It is very exciting when the entire rueda is moving smoothly and on beat! A unique group atmosphere develops as you feel the whole rueda flow, listening to the wonderful Afro-Cuban/Latin-American music. It is simply an exciting dance that is fun to do and a pleasure to watch.

Is Rueda de Casino a form of Salsa?

The short answer is no. The mass emigration from Puerto Rico and Cuba into New York back in the 1950s and 60s created the environment which drove the development of salsa. El Barrio, also know as Spanish Harlem, was the main setting for the creation of salsa. Many bands were formed that experimented with different combinations of sounds, which continues til this day.

Salsa appeared later in the form of a dynamic and significant musical phenomena of the 1970s and 1980s. In its various regional forms it is the single most popular dance style among Puerto Rican and Cuban communities, holding great appeal in their homelands, the US, and Central and South America, as well.

While the term “salsa” may be thought of as a mix of Latin musical genres, like the Puerto Rican bomba, plena, and the Cuban rumba, its backbone consists of Cuban dance music. The most famous musicians of the time were the late Tito Puente, the King of Mambo, and Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa. Their music remains a constant in the salsa world nowadays.

The 70s were the true heyday of salsa. Many artists began to surface, primarily due to the record label La Fania. The great music created by the Fania All-Stars and others of the time has inspired many. This style of salsa is often referred to as “hard salsa”. In the 80s a new style of salsa was born. This was the romantic salsa. Artist like Gilberto Santa Rosa brought this new style to the attention of many, and it remains popular nowadays.

With the popularity of the music came the popularity of the dance. Salsa is a spicy, zesty, energetic and sensual partner dance. In the past only people of hispanic origin were found dancing salsa. But now people of all heritages are dancing salsa across the world. Although one can find many styles of salsa, be it New York style, Puerto Rican style, LA Style, Central American style, etc., we think of salsa as one dance where the dancer makes the style.