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Rueda de Casino – A brief look through the eye of a Dancer

Updated: Mar 6

What is Country dance or Contra Dance?

When we look at the timeline of Rueda de Casino it is necessary to also look at some of the countries like England and France that influenced the movement of partner dancing in couples and groups especially during the reign of Luis XIV in France where we see a significant development of the evolution of couples and group dances due to his passion as a dancer.

When we look at partner and group dancing in its earliest form country dance or contra dance in 1651, a book was published in London: The English Dancing Master. Plaine and easier Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances which was sold by John Playford, this is the oldest reliable source for contra dancing which contains dances in many different formations therefore, country dance may be a generic term for all group dancing in this traditional formation.

Where did Country dance or Contra Dance start?

It is said that French dancing masters came across the Channel to bring English dances to the French society they changed the name Country Dance to Contre Danse (dance of opposition), which seemed more logical to them, because here dancers stand opposite each other instead of merely describing the dances verbally as the English books did they made drawings of the paths to follow.

How did European dances influence the Caribbean Island?

In 17th Century Europe dancing was an important social skill for anyone in high society. Dancing masters in England and France developed and taught stylised versions of traditional folk or country dances which were copied and adopted by upper classes and European court society, which also became popular in Spain as Contradanza.

Contradanse and other popular European dances of the period were brought via several routes to Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean region by the principal European colonising nations of Spain, France and England.

Cuba had been a Spanish colony from 1492, then the British also had a short influence after capturing Havana in 1762 during the Seven Year War. The French came to Cuba between 1791 and 1804 when large numbers of emigres fled to Eastern Cuba because of revolution in the French colony of Haiti. All these colonies from Europe brought their respective musical and dance traditions.

Where did Rueda de Casino start?

There has been contradiction between the informants of the place where casino first appeared. Some say that it first appeared in the Spanish Casino, Grammar school of Havana, the Patricio Lumumba and others say that it came from the Sociedad de Recreo de Casino de la Playa; what is true is that it expanded throughout the capital.

The name Rueda de Casino has its own history after 1959, gambling casinos were closed and some of them reopened as dance halls at the beginning people kept calling the dance halls casinos and, it is said as a result the type of dance done there was called Casino.

Who first started dancing Rueda de Casino?

Rueda de Casino takes its name from the club, the first venues for Rueda were upmarket sports clubs in Havana, particularly ‘El Casino Deportivo’, and ‘Club San Carlos’, where it originated but quickly spread to other clubs around the beachfronts and later to the capital.

Rueda was not created by professional dancers or musicians, but perhaps surprising by a group of young teenagers from the relatively privileged upper classes of Havana, by the late 1950s given the popularity of the music and dance, numerous Rueda de Casino dance groups grow on the island made up of friends, family members, and professional dancers.

Although the names of most calls are presently the same across the board, the different towns in Cuba use their own calls, this is because the pioneers of Rueda de Casino wanted to keep others from participating in their Rueda.

Many local variations of the calls can now be found they can change from town-to-town or even from teacher-to-teacher. In today’s Rueda community we now see well over 700 calls, variation relating to over 650 moves and lots more Rueda structures.

When was Rueda de Casino first shown on TV?

In the 1980's, a couple named Rosendo y Caruca, choreographers and dancers of the National TV Ballet in Cuba, brought the Casino style and Rueda to the big stage of dance on the TV program Para Bailar, which featured live dance demonstrations and competitions supported by top Cuban bands, since then and due to its popularity as a dance Rueda de Casino is danced all around the world.

Interesting Facts about Rueda de Casino

In 2002 a Founders circle of Rueda de Casino Los Fundadores de Rueda de Casino was formed in Havana by Juan G Gomez Barranco, one of the original 1950s group of Rueda dancers from Club Deportivo, to become a member of the founders circle you must have danced in one of the most popular original venues in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 2014, the first International Rueda de Casino Multi Flash Mob took place in which people from 67 countries, including 199 cities, danced Rueda de Casino simultaneously. In 2017, the International Rueda de Casino Multi Flash Mob drew 230 unique groups dancing Rueda de Casino.

The differences between the Miami-style Rueda de Casino and the Cuban-style Rueda de Casino are stark, and these differences can be seen throughout the performances of the 230 groups that participated in 2017 Flash Mob.

In 2022, the largest Rueda de casino dance consists of 1,585 people and was achieved by Retomando el Son "Bailando Casino" (Venezuela), in Caracas, Venezuela, on 27 November 2022. Dancers from more than 100 dance academies rehearsed for about six months before the record attempt. On the day, the participants danced for almost 12 minutes.

Final Thoughts

Rueda de Casino is a popular social Cuban dance that arose during the late fifties and due to evolution, intervention, and migration of a collective group of minds and thinkers, this dance style has transcended borders as part of the process of constant cultural change associated with the worldwide movement and global popularity of Cuban dance and music.

Rueda de Casino is a dance that celebrates unity, connection, and pure joy. Whether you’re drawn to the dynamic structures, the vibrant music, or the sense of community, Rueda de Casino offers an experience like no other. So, step into the circle, embrace the energy, and let the spirit of Rueda de Casino guide your dance.

Compiled by Carlton Thomas

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