You might have seen them at the Chrysler. You might have seen them at our Eight Year Anniversary Party. Maybe you’ve seen them at Dave and Buster’s. In any case, I’m sure you’ve seen the Rueda de Casino team. As curious and hungry as I am for new dance styles, I was sure to stop by one of the rueda classes. After having attended several more and tried my best to join them socially, I found a very welcoming, loving, and fun sub-community right here in Hampton Roads.
I wanted to write a piece on both this season’s team and the dance itself. I had to recruit some of the team members and the teacher himself (Scott Wilson).
(If you’re interested
What is salsa rueda? Besides knowing that it is a Cuban style of salsa that is danced in a circle, I knew very little. Scott told me that the phrase ‘salsa rueda’ is “more for marketing the dance with terms people are familiar with in the states” and that “the more correct term for this dance is ‘casino’ or, fully stated, ‘rueda de casino,’ noting that Cubans “won’t necessarily identify their music as salsa for rueda.” Another unique feature of the dance is how the moves are called. The leader (or Cantante) “synchronize[s] the group’s dance and partner exchanges” through “spontaneous use of Cuban dance calls announced during the dance.”
How does it feel to dance it? Team member Karen tells us that “the fun increases exponentially when we dance in the rueda – or wheel,” also expressing that “It’s exhilarating! Fun to do, and fun to watch!” Karen also claims that one of the advantages of the dance is that “It doesn’t take long for beginners to get the basic moves and start having fun going around the circle.” I have found this to be true in my experiences with them – the basic guapea takes only a few seconds to learn and some of the easier calls (sombrero, enchufla) are relatively simple to grasp as well. Due to its group-centered focus, I find that there are a lot of smiles. Whether someone messes up or the whole group expresses a difficult move set flawlessly, the dancers have a camaraderie that lights up their faces. Team member Marcos concurs, stating that “the fun is transmitted from one member to another.”
THIS TEAM’S EXPERIENCE
Though he’s coached teams in the past (it was “first introduced [at the Mambo Room] in 2009” and “again in 2013”), Scott tells that this team is “like a family. I love ’em. Very committed to improving” and “they help each other tremendously.” I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m really feeling the love here that the team has for one another. Team member Kleiner notes that “Scott’s style is good for us. He’s patient and explains complicated patterns in a simple way for both leaders and followers to understand.” Karen called Scott “the heart and soul of the team,” going “above and beyond.” I have to add one more testimonial for Scott (the whole team had positive things to say about him): Marcos called Scott “very special,” even going so far as to say that he is “beyond gifted” and “one of the most talented dance instructors that I have encountered.”
Whew. Enough fangirling for the moment.
Most dancers at the Mambo Room dance on 2. This poses somewhat of a challenge, says Scott. He mentions the importance of “reconditioning the break steps and timing” because the dance is on 1. Another challenge for the dancers is “keeping the integrity of the circle. [It’s] easy to get caught up in your own movement” and forget “to keep the Rueda in a good circle with the right spacing.” I’ve found this to be my biggest challenge in dancing rueda de casino. I try to check myself after I’ve completed every move and adjust if necessary.
The dance does have its advantages – team member Kim found that “the skills translate naturally into [other] salsa[s], especially the Afro-Cuban styling.” As mentioned above, the dance is also a little friendlier than the on 2 style, with team member Kleiner telling me that “rueda is a less intimidating way to get newer dancers into salsa.”
This team (performance challenge, to use the technically correct term) performed several times in the past few weeks. They have been practicing for many hours over the course of a few months to get ready for these dazzling and fun to watch moments. Karen, after their first performance, excitedly stated that it “[gave] us courage to build our routine out further and do more performances! I can’t wait til the next one!” Marcos relayed that he was “amazed [at] the results. It is hard to believe that we have been doing casino just for a few months.” I’ve had the privilege of watching them perform several times, including informal wheels at different social dancing spots.
As with any sub-community, the rueda de casino dancers are looking to expand their scene. In addition to the classes that the Mambo Room offers every month or two, I wanted to pick the team’s brains for ideas. Karen’s solution was to be as open as possible, inviting me to join them whenever “you see us forming a little mini rueda and dancing some simple moves…we’ll help you and you’ll get it in no time!” Scott suggested “meet ups that are beginner friendly [and] keeping it simple socially so that we can pull folks into the wheel.”
I am anxious to help grow the rueda scene. I truly enjoy the dance and our local members are amazing. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them below!