I will be using “Cuban style salsa” to reach an audience that may not be familiar with the use of the term “casino” for the style of dance.
1) Yes, there are cross body leads in Cuban style salsa
“Casino is alive and well in small pockets around the world, mostly cared for by expatriate Cubans who are using it to make a living. Nothing wrong with that but its mostly cross body lead style danced in the 35 or so countries I’ve danced salsa in over the past 7 years.”.
Found in the comments : http://latindancecommunity.com/so-you-think-you-can-dance-salsa/
This dance teacher makes the clear distinction between cross body lead salsa styles and casino (Cuban style Salsa). For him, Cuban style salsa is not a cross body lead style. And it is the cross body lead styles that have been popularized in “35 or so countries”, not casino.
Of course, in Cuba, they are not called “cross body leads”. They may be called “dile que nos”, “paseos” or whatever. Cross body leads in salsa dancing didn’t start with New York or LA styles. Eddie Torres, one of the pioneers of New York style salsa, has stated, “When I got into this dance in the early 60’s, … The cross body lead was there.” That would mean the cross body lead predated the invention of “salsa”, which is generally believed to have been “invented” in the 1970’s. http://www.salsaroots.com/eddietorres.htm
What came before “salsa”? Well, there was “son“, a music and dance that gained worldwide popularity in the 1930s. Look up videos of traditional Cuban son and you will see cross body leads. Perhaps it was borrowed from another dance or from another country, I don’t know, but what is certain is that the first cross body lead done to the clave in son was in Cuba, because son was first danced in Cuba. And remember, the basic rhythm of salsa still comes from son.
Well, let’s say you think what I have written so far is a whole lot of crock. Okay, let’s go to an example everybody can agree on. Think of casino rueda, how do they change partners? Yes, it’s a “dame” and it’s a cross body lead! And look at that, casino was developed in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
Look at the documentary from 1960 ! And yes that’s a cross body lead at 0:22.
You may be shaking your head and saying, “I didn’t say there are no cross body leads in Cuban style. It just not as predominant as in LA/NY styles.” Cuban style salsa has been danced for many decades, and in many cases developed regionally. The “Cuban style” you saw may not be representative of all variations in style casino has to offer.
Can you deny there are no cross body leads in this video? And oh yeah, this is Cuban style salsa as well.
And cross body leads are not just for rueda or for son. Cross body leads don’t have to be in a line or slot; they can be bigger, smaller, curved, straight. I would even suggest each “guapea” that moves around a little could be considered a cross body lead.
Ruedas were first done with cha-cha-cha, where the walking is even more pronounced than in casino. Take a look at how casino and cha-cha-cha were danced before the 1970’s and it’s not difficult to imagine where modern cross body leads come from.
2) Cuban style salsa is NOT the step back and rock to the side step; the “cumbia” style that is popular throughout Latin America
Note: I do generalize. I am sure there are many places in Latin America where they don’t do this step or even dance salsa at all. But many Latin Americans do dance salsa, but they don’t dance LA/NY styles and don’t dance Cuban either. In this article, I try to set out some patterns and commonalities. I also realize the original cumbia from Colombia is danced differently. At the end, I do outline some of new styles coming out in Latin America.
This is basically the style of dancing salsa that is learned socially in many Spanish speaking countries in Latin America, especially Mexico, Central and South America (Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are exceptions). It is a style of dancing that could be danced both to “cumbia” or “salsa” since “cumbia” in its popular or modern form is probably the more durable and popular rhythm in continental Latin America. You learn it from your family or friends at parties in a social setting. You normally don’t take formal classes to learn it at a dance school. Watch the salsa dancing from 1:27 in this video:
In the history of salsa in Toronto, “Colombian” style became synonymous with Cuban style. Only with the advent of “Cali” style in Toronto would this change.
Or look at these couples dancing salsa in Salsa on St. Clair. You can see the influence of family here.
(What is the principal characteristic that separates Cuban style and this style? Again, referring back to my first point, it’s the cross body lead.)
Many of Latin Americans who have come to Toronto and have gone on to become LA/NY style performers in Toronto actually started out dancing this step back, rock to the side style. Back home with family or friends who dance salsa the same way, there is no need to define what style of salsa you dance, because everybody dances the same way. But once you come to Europe or North America, you are pressured into defining what style you dance. Many Latin Americans do recognize the roots of salsa come from Cuba, so they naturally assume what they dance is “Cuban style” , after all they share a common “Latino” heritage, and the people in Toronto accepted what they said. And that’s where the misunderstanding comes from.
Sometimes salsa dancing that doesn’t seem to follow the music or any recognizable style is labeled “Cuban style” just because one of dancers is “Latino”. In this article, it states, “Cuban style salsa dancers do not always stay on the 1 beat and tend to stray depending on where the music takes them.” http://www.torontodancesalsa.ca/articles/The-Different-Styles-Of-Salsa.php
Even some salsa instructors in Toronto make the same mistake of equating Cuban style with this step back and rock to the side style. This instructor describes the salsa dance scene in Toronto when she started, “When I first started it was more Cuban, Colombian circular style of Salsa.” http://torontosalsera.com/post/45302433488/ifreestyle-leading-torontos-salsa-on2
In this video, without the side-to-side partner work and the switching hands, one can imagine the basic steps she teaches as actually Cuban.
But it’s the only basic step that is labeled as “Cuban”.
A New Step?
Her forward and backward step isn’t. In my mind, her “Salsa Basic Forward Back Step” is just as Cuban and is a fundamental part of Casino (Cuban style salsa).
In this part instructional/ part historical documentary on casino, this “Salsa Basic Forward Back Step” is the first step they teach. You can’t get more basic than calling it the “primer paso basico individual”.
But even now when you go to Cuba, that is the exact step they teach in the beginners’ Cuban salsa.
Is that the influence of NY/LA style that they have incorporated into Cuban style? Are these Europeans being cheated on their “Cuban” salsa experience by being taught salsa styles from the United States?
But just have to look at my son videos above in my first post to see dancers stepping forward and back. And of course, you can just watch the videos of the founders of casino, who still to this day maintain the traditional style of casino of the late 50’s and early 60’s, to see the “Salsa Basic Forward Back Step.”
Look at Pepe Argote’s rueda
Let me quote Eddie Torres again, “When I got into this dance in the early 60’s, Mambo had already developed into a slot dance. The cross body lead was there. The back and front attitude was there.” http://www.salsaroots.com/eddietorres.htm . Exactly Eddie, the front and back steps were already there.
Once in a while in Toronto, you will hear someone say they sure do miss those “old school” salsa dancers. They usually mean a more acrobatic version of the “step back and rock to the side” style, like this :
This nostalgia for this “older” style of salsa is coupled with a longing for a more street, more Latin American, more authentic style of salsa; whereas the new styles of salsa seem more American, more ballroom, more showy. But what these people don’t realize is that the foundation of those “new” styles that consist of cross body leads and the front and back steps are actually old, more “old school” than they ever imagined. (See my first point above)
But this division of “old” and “new” salsa styles would live on in the minds of many.
Old Versus New Styles in Latin America
In a Latin American country, how will you get people to come and take classes? You introduce new styles. Of course, everybody likes something new. However, you can’t call the new styles “salsa”, because a significant percentage of the population already knows how to dance “salsa”. You can’t call them New York or Los Angeles styles, but would seem to take away the “Latin” flavor. Names they have come up with are “salsa en linea” or “salsa casino”, etc.
Where do these “new” styles come from?
Many Latin Americans learned these “new” styles in North America after moving here, that would make sense, because these styles come from North American cities – hello, they called “Los Angeles” and “New York” styles for a reason. Many bring it back to home.
But also Latin America is much more connected than ever before to the worldwide trends in salsa dancing through the internet, television dance shows, salsa dance congresses and competitions around the world, etc.
And it is a different sector of Latin American society that is embracing these new salsa styles. Often these dancers don’t come from economically disadvantaged barrios of society anymore (see My Soul of Mexico City video above). It’s the growing middle class who have more time and disposable income. They have money to travel and the curiosity to try different things from different cultures. They want to try sushi, visit Cuba, or dance like the people on Dancing with the Stars. So, Latin Americans who would have never dreamed of taking salsa lessons are now taking classes at dance studios. But this is something that has just happened in the past 10 to 15 years.
Even at the World Salsa Competitions/ The World Latin Dance Cups, yes, many of the competitors are from various Latin America countries like Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. The fact that you can’t tell which country the competitors come from by the way they dance is really a sign of the triumph of the globalization of salsa dancing, of course, lead by American linear salsa styles.