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CUBAN CASINO, CULTURE & DANCE



DANCING SALSA IN CUBA

In Cuba, what everyone else in the Caribbean refers to as salsa dancing is known as Casino, and in Cuba the history of Casino is passionate. Casino became an integral part of Cuba’s dance history and added to the richness of Cuban dancing. According to one of the living innovators of Casino, Juan Gomez, “It was created by a group of young friends, we were not professional dancers or choreographers, or anything of the sort. We were students and all very young, and we started to move to different sounds from around the world with specific steps.”

Casino was influenced by American rock & roll and Cuban Son, and the group of friends began to meet in Havana and dance to music by bands like Roberto Faz, Rumbahabana, and el Chapotin. They were the groups that played the music that Casino was born with. The group of friends never intended to create a new style of dance, it just happened over time and became popular around Havana. “We were just a group of friends who simply started to dance a certain way, there’s nothing more to it,” stated Juan Gomez. That is how the steps involved in Casino developed, steps like pasamela, dame esta and yo te doy aquella. Juan Gomez became involved in the early stages of the development of the new dance style when he was twelve years old, and it became one of his life’s passions. “For me it was very attractive the first time I saw a group of kids, older than I, dancing in ruedas at Havana’s Casino Deportivo. After that first time, without a doubt, I was hooked for life.”

It was first danced at Havana’s Casino Deportivo, then at Havana’s Patricio Lobumba, and it spread across the island. Legendary Casino dance became famous in those early days, like el Oso, the Bear, and Rosendo Gonzalez. “To this day Gaby, Rosendo’s dance partner, still dances with me at the founders rueda.” In a short period of time Casino spread to every corner of Cuba, but it was born in Havana, at the above-mentioned dance halls and others like el Curros Enrique in Havana’s Santo Suarez neighborhood

“After fifty-some years people are still dancing Casino. In my opinion it became, without being presumptuous, a part of Cuba’s cultural heritage and our most popular dance.”

By Clao York


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