Ladies love him. Men fawn over him. In writing the post on the Rueda de Casino team, I got in a thorough interview with the fabulous Scott Wilson. I have tried to format the interview in a relatively simple way.
1. Matt: Scott, what is salsa rueda and how is it different from what people normally think of when they dance salsa?
Scott: Hi Matt,The first clarification/difference I could give you is Rueda is not consider Salsa in its original context. It’s often called Salsa Rueda or Cuban Salsa more for marketing the dance with terms people are familiar with in the states, but the more correct term for this dance is “Casino” (or fully stated, “Rueda De Casino”). Casino as it’s known was popularized in Havana Cuba in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It gets in name from the venue it was danced in (Casino halls). It’s was influenced by the styles of traditional rumba (Cuban style) , Cuban Son, orisha and other popular styles like mambo. The influence of these dances can be seen in the flashy footwork or body movement (shoulder shaking) which is prevalent in Cuban style rumba. The other difference is the originators (Cubans) won’t necessarily identify their music as salsa for rueda. The same way they distinguish the dance (Casino) from salsa, the distinguish the music by calling it “timba.” To most, it may sound like what you would consider salsa, but the rhythm patterns of Timba will have more intricacies and improvisations. It’s kind of like the distinction many people would make between R&B and Soul music.. Kind of the same with slight differences. The 3rd thing I’d offer is what truly gives Rueda De Casino its uniqueness. It’s that spontaneous use of Cuban dance calls announced during the dance by the leader (“Cantante”) to synchronize the group’s dance and partner exchanges. And finally, because of its circular nature (of the Rueda and the dance moves), it varies from traditional On1 or On2 dances which are danced in a 2-point format. Basically that means it’s danced in a “slot” or rectangular dance space. Casino is far more circular and danced as what is often referred to as 3 points (or more).. no defined rectangle.
2. Matt: That’s a lot of information! When did you first get involved with the dance?
Scott: My first experience with it was 1996 in Honduras. There were a group of us that were into Latin music and we coordinated a little meet up location and named it El Punto Latino. We’d meet up and share dance moves and played instruments on the weekends I learned some of the initial steps from one of the Cuban there who was an Air Force guy.
3. Matt: That sounds pretty cool. Wow do you remember all the calls over the years?
Scott: The basic ones stay pretty much embedded in the brain. As easy to remember as the term “cross body lead” which in Casino is “Dile Que No”. Right Turn similar to “Exhibila”. Like learning a language. Some moves/ calls are
intuitive and just easy to remember. The more advanced movements are a bit harder but after so many years, they become easier to recall. The challenge with calling is more about timing (calling at right time so dancers can
4. Matt: Makes sense.When did you first introduce casino to the Mambo Room? Didn’t you have a team a few years back?
Scott: First introduced in 2009. http://youtu.be/JtPJle095dA. And again in 2013. http://youtu.be/twPbQwQJRPs.
5. Matt: Very cool. Are there any unique challenges when it comes to running a rueda team?
Scott: We’re dancing it On1 so reconditioning the break steps and timing can be challenging at first of On2 dancers. Other challenge is keeping the integrity of the circle. Easy to get caught up in your own movement and forget that the
group relies on each partnership to dance in their space to keep the Rueda in a good circle with the right spacing. Other challenge is ladies understanding at some points they have moments, brief as they may be, where they lead by moving to their next position to allow the guys to pick them up on time and with balance. I think the most important part of Rueda is letting everyone know that their partner isn’t just the person they are dancing with, their movement
affects the entire wheel, so important to by in sync with everyone…
6. Matt: I can definitely relate to some of those nuances from the rueda classes I’ve attended. How do you feel about your most recent batch? Y’all did great Friday night! so fun to watch.
Scott: They are like a family. I love em. Very committed to improving (they practice anywhere like Dave and Busters parking lot. Lol). They help each other tremendously. So cool to watch them connect in more ways than just dancing. I really think this group will be a spark for Rueda community growing.
7. Matt: That is exciting to hear. What steps could be taken in your mind to create a rueda community here in Hampton Roads?
Scott: Having meet ups that are beginner friendly. Keeping it simple socially so that we can pull folks into the wheel. Grassroots movement not driven by the studio but by the students.
8. Matt: Interesting. For those students who travel, where are there existing rueda scenes in case
they ever get close to one?
Scott: DC has a group called DC Casineros. And there’s RuedaRDU in Durham.
9. Matt: Time for personal questions:
1. How did you get into dancing in the first place?
2. I’ve seen your mom dance. she has some moves. what do you call the style that she dances?
3. I’m sure you’re aware that you have a dedicated fan club in our scene, full of swooning men and women. To what do you attribute this?
Scott: I met Sandra and Tracy some time ago (~10 years I think). Met Tracy on dance floor of the Tropicana when it was on Northhampton. I was teaching Latin Dance classes in Chesapeake at the Lifestyle Center (now the YMCA) I would take my students out to social dance on their last lesson. That’s how I met and established a friendship with Tracy, Sandra , and Cesar. When they opened the studio 8 years ago they wanted someone to start up a bachata program and asked if I’d take it on. I did and have been with the MR since teaching in whatever capacity needed, but best known for bachata I suppose. On the other three questions I’ll send follow on text.
1. First got into dancing in 1990 to live band at a Quincienera Up to that point I was pretty much a wall flower. Danced my first salsa there and got hooked.
2. My mom and dad danced all the time. They called it hand dancing and jive. I used to be amazed at how smooth my Dad was for a “country boy”. I never saw them dance anything other than partner dances. I liked watching them move together like a unit.
3. The fan club thing. I don’t know how quite to answer that one Matt. There’s a kindness in it that I’m deeply flattered by and grateful for, but man it embarrasses the hell out of me sometimes lol.. I attribute a lot to my
father who taught me through his example how the temperament, respect, and humility of a southern gentleman goes a long way with most people and I’ve had good fortune when I heeded my Dad’s lessons. All in all, best compliment I’ve gotten tho from a student and dear friend was that “you don’t just teach dance, it’s more you make people feel like dancers.” Best compliment I’ve ever gotten as an instructor bar none.
10. Matt: Thanks so much, Scott!
Scott: Humbled by your interest. Thanks for opportunity to share.