Saturday, May 13, 2017

Dream Come True: Dancing with the Creators of "Rueda de Casino" in Havana, Cuba

My May 2016 trip to Cuba was literally a dream come true: mixing music, dance, and history lessons. After 16 years of dancing, teaching and promoting ‘Rueda de Casino’ (or simply ‘Casino’) in the U.S., I got to meet those in Cuba who helped create my favorite group dance form.

During pre-revolution days, the Fundadores (‘Founders’ in English) couldn’t enter Havana’s Casino Deportivo social club to dance due to discrimination in 1957, even though the club was owned by a man of mixed race. In the video the president of the Fundadores, Juan "El Abuelo" Gomez, describes how the early Rueda de Casino turns and calls started as just a fun game among friends. Gomez credits the movie, "Rock Around the Clock" as having a huge influence on these early Casino dancers. (NOTE: Clips from the "Rock Around the Clock”  movie are included in the Fundadores profile video by MetaMovements below.)

Essentially, Rock and Roll music (and the rock-step) in the late 50s, combined with Son and Salsa music in Cuba, to create what we now know as Rueda de Casino. After the revolution, all Cubans were allowed to enter the Cuban social clubs to dance. As a result, Casino dancing spread throughout their country as people travelled for work and play. Rueda de Casino emerged in the U.S. with a strong presence in Florida and California, as well as in Italy abroad. It has continued to spread around the world the same way as it did in Cuba, by learning one step/rueda call at a time.

Attached is a video of the Founders interview and of the Founders dancing their earliest moves. It’s just over an hour long, but I hope you’ll take the time to enjoy the oral history as much as our dance group (led by the DC Casineros) did on May 7, 2016 in Havana, Cuba.

Rock Meets Son & Casino: Oral History of Rueda de Casino (70:11)

Fundadores Dancing in a Havana Nightclub for Us (3:40) –

Fundadores profile video by MetaMovements (4:14) –