Updated: Apr 12
Note that this article is not called "The 8 Features of the Traditional Cuban Casino", but simply lists 8 distinctive aspects. Obviously, there are more features, but the ones mentioned below will help you begin to notice what constitutes real Casino.
In terms of evolution as a social phenomenon, Casino reached its most elaborate expression in the 80s and 90s. At that time, the dance exhibited a polished technique by natural evolution as more complex figures were made (this is precisely the Casino that I propose in my teaching). The dance underwent changes the moment it began to be commercialized outside Cuba. On the subject of these changes, I’m dedicating a future article that will be posted on this blog.
Returning to the main topic, let’s pose the following question: what distinguishes the best exponents of Traditional Cuban Casino nowadays? Here are some traits:
1. The step forward. This dance technique is very noticeable in women, but men do it too. Forward stepping consists of, as the term indicates, simply stepping forward when doing inside turns, “enchuflas” and other figures. This technique represents an organic evolution of dance that breaks aways with the style of the first generations of casineros. Stepping forward is the essence of much of what distinguishes the evolved Traditional Casino, since it is from this peculiar technique that many figures are achieved in a fluid way. In this video you can clearly see examples of forward stepping applied to various figures (Dile Que No, inside turns, etc). Look carefully below and compare with what you've seen or learnt, so that you learn to distinguish between stepping back and forward.
2. The desplazamientos on the dance floor. The word desplazamiento means “movement”, and I’ve emphasized its Spanish spelling to encourage you to use that beautiful word, pronounced des-pla-sa-mee-en-toh. There are various types of movements, from those we carry out while keeping the closed position, to the "paseos" of Traditional Casino, which are different from those of Son, and become more fluid when executed stepping forward, too. Desplazamientos are truly a thing of good casineros. In the Traditional Casino there are other movement figures with great peculiarity, such as the one called Ola, which are impossible to execute with beauty and fluidity if you have the habit of stepping back.
3. Dile Que No (follower’s step) without pronounced step back. In Cuba it is common to find women who like to step back when entering the Dile Que No. However, many, many casineras do not do this. They choose to start the DQN by stepping either forward, or on the same spot. In the first video of this blog (marcaje adelante), this technique is demonstrated with logical and consistent evidence, to help you understand why it’s best to avoid stepping back. This way of entering the Dile Que No evolved in order to more efficiently respond to the guide the follower receives for other figures that derive from the same starting position, such as the Exhíbala. The Exhíbala flows better when the follower starts the figure stepping forward. Also, there’s a logics factor at play here: if the follower receives the push/guide on the 1st count of the Exhíbala move, it makes no sense to step back when she’s being pushed forward. See it here.
4. Emphasis on the figures, desplazamientos and turns. Traditional Cuban Casino is a dance whose focus is on the execution of figures, movement and turns. Precisely its creation as a dance was to facilitate the inclusion of a greater variety of turns, thus differentiating itself from the Son. Have you noticed that there are no turns in Son such as the Setenta with its many different derivations? When dancing, however, there must be a balance in the amount of turns, and we must pay attention to the coherence that must exist between dance and music.
5. Twist or twist of the foot as a technique to make turns and direction changes. This is a super important distinctive detail, as the twist technique is part of the stepping forward. I’ve placed it as a separate trait within the step forward realm, because not all dancers implement swivels/twist as their technique for directional change. Many resort to taps for this. The twist/swivel implies distinction and refinement. You can review this technique by watching the followers' footwork towards the end of first video I uploaded here.
6. Lead on the first count. In Traditional Casino, the lead begins to guide his partner from the first count of the dance figure. If you look closely, you will notice that some dancers nowadays hold the guide during the first and second counts, which partly responds to imported dance patterns from abroad and linear salsa. Later on, I will dedicate an article with videos that will illustrate the advantages of leading on the first count, and why not doing so may be detrimental to your dance.
7. Outside turns and inside turns revolve in a circular pattern. The choreographic map of Traditional Casino is circular, with the follower constantly orbiting around the lead, while he is orbiting on his own axis. Cuban Casino is NOT linear. Casino “en línea” is not Casino anymore. Dancing casino “en línea” is NOT evolution. That’s just a disaster that people are doing out of ignorance regarding how this dance should actually be performed.
8. Open position is indeed semi-open. First of all, in the open position (which you can see here), the dancers don’t stand right in front of each other. They create a 45-degree posture opening with their bodies. The “guapea” or “pa ti pa mi” is executed without doing a pronounced step back when taking the first step. By avoiding that, not only is the execution of the figure more aesthetically pleasing, but also the dancer is left in a better position to start any type of figure. The open position is actually semi-open, with the bodies keeping an opening of approximately 45 degrees, which when transferred to Rueda format allows great circular uniformity, and increased visual field for the dancers to communicate.