What Does the Dance of Casino Look Like? Stage vs. Social Dancing

I have often asked myself, “What do people outside of Cuba think casino looks like?” It’s a hard question to ponder, especially in the United States, where people are easily fooled into believing that learning a choreography for the television show Dancing with the Stars translates into “knowing how to dance.” That is, in a country where social dancing is not as entrenched into society as in, say, Cuba, people often are incapable of seeing the difference between the dance that occurs on a stage, and the dancing that takes place in a more social setting (e.g. a house party).

Growing up in Cuba, this difference was very clear to me. I knew that what happened on the stage of, say, Tropicana, was a show that had nothing to do with the dancing that I would see my friends do at school, house parties, or discotecas. In fact, we distinguished between a bailarín (professional dancer) from a bailador (social dancer). Regrettably, I often see such is not the case here in the States and in many other parts of the world; for them, a bailarín and a bailador are one and the same.

What I am trying to say is that, because of this inability to separate the two, a number of people believe that what they see on a stage (e.g. a performance) is an actual representation of the social dancing that happens off the stage. Specially, some people will believe that what professional dancers do with a social dance while they are dancing with each other is an accurate representation of the social dance itself.

But we forget that professional dancers are trained to entertain, to create a show that is visually appealing, and that in doing so, there are no rules; everything goes, as long as it elicits amazement and applause. As long as it pleases the crowd. After all, isn’t that what that type of show is for?

Why am I saying all this? Because, when I look at videos like the one below, I honestly ask myself, “Do the people recording this actually think that this is how people in Cuba dance?” More to the point, “Do they really believe this type of choreography­—yes, because all these moves are choreographed and practiced beforehand—is actually sustainable in a social dancing setting?

I do not know if that is what people think, and I do not want to assume. All I want to do is show you what actual casino social dancing looks like in the island. I want to give you a more accurate representation of what it means to social dance, and in doing so demonstrate that there is a big difference between what bailarines sell you as a dance and what bailadores actually dance.

So, without further ado, here are some videos to illustrate what I am saying. I must warn you, though: The dancing in these videos may not look as flashy, “artful,” flavorful, or entertaining as you have been primed to believe, but this is what casino—which from its beginnings has always been a social dance—looks like when danced by bailadores. Enjoy.

For a list of more than thirty videos like the ones bellow, click here.

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