We are primarily a Cuban dance company, specializing in Cuban salsa and son. But what is “Cuban salsa”? What is “Cuban son”? And what is the relationship between the two?
Casino, sometimes referred to outside of Cuba as “Cuban salsa”, was born before salsa music and salsa dancing. A lively social dance that is led and followed, casino draws from son, chachachá, and other Cuban sources as well as American rock and roll. It is unique among Cuban dances in that it has no musical genre associated to the name and actually can be danced to a variety of music, but today often paired with Cuba’s timba genre. The dance’s namesake is Havana’s Casino Deportivo, a popular concert venue during the 1950s and 1960s, where “el baile de casino” was all the rage among what are referred to then and today as “casineros” – Casino dancers! The dance is characterized for its upbeat energy and its many enredos, or pretzel-turns, which test agility all while marking time. In recent years, dancers incorporate steps of many of the other Cuban popular dances into casino, resulting in a beautiful fusion.
Casino is danced not only in pairs, but also alone and as a group. Steps danced outside of partner work are referred to as pasos sueltos, or sometimes as “salsa suelta“, and sometimes as timba (especially when mixed with other dances, although timba may also refer to a way of dancing in couples).
La rueda de casino, sometimes mistakenly referred to as “casino rueda” or “salsa rueda”, is a dynamic way of dancing some casino moves within a group while rapidly changing partners, and the formation has achieved international popularity. At Anaya Latin Dance, it is important not to teach simply rueda de casino, but rather casino as its own distinct genre, integrating partner work, pasos sueltos, and la rueda into all of our casino classes. This said, the rueda remains a unique and essential feature that is emblematic of the playful aspects of Cuban dance. ¡Busca tu pareja y goza!
Son, or Son Cubano, is at once an antedecent to casino, a basis for the first “salsa” dancing in New York, and also thought to be the basis of the “International Style Rumba” or “Rhumba” ballroom dance (not to be confused with the Cuban popular dance of the same name). It is a musical and social dance genre from Cuba’s eastern side which has existed for well over a century, and is performed contratiempo to the son clave, a rhythm which has long permeated Latin and American music in the United States and beyond. Cuba’s numerous son groups, past and present, provide an excellent soundtrack for dancing. Learning son also equips salsa and casino dancers with an ability to identify and respond to rhythmic shifts in salsa and timba music, and in fact it can often be danced with contemporary salsa music. This dance’s suave elegance and its characteristic tornillos are a highlight, along with its classic patterns which have inspired dancers across social dance genres.
Other Cuban dances which you may find making appearances in our workshops and/or with guest instructors include: Afro-Cuban rumba (such as guanguancó and columbia), other Afro-Cuban dances (Yoruba dances and others), pilón, yuka, mozambique, chachachá, mambo, and conga, among many other Cuban popular dances. We also teach the Cuban style of reggaeton, and while we are primarily a Cuban dance company, we also invite guest instructors to teach other Latin, Afro-Latin, and Afro dances – all of which are pertinent to Cuban dance!
You never need to bring a partner to come to a partnered dance class, but bringing along a leader if you are a follower, or a follower if you are a leader, is always encouraged. You will rotate within the class and dance with everyone. Please wear comfortable clothes and shoes (no heels necessary).