Casino Moves in One-On-One Salsa & Special Workshops

Click here for info on using Casino moves in one-on-one salsa dancing (below)

Click here for a workshop on "Play in Salsa Dancing" by Erin Brandt

Click here for info on Bachata Rueda Workshop and workshops on other specialty dances


When dancers learn Casino Rueda moves, they become very versatile dancers because these steps are adaptable for “one on one” Salsa as well. They can be danced in the Rueda circle or in partnership Salsa at a club. And the moves look very sharp in my opinion.

Generally, there are two ways that Casino style moves begin. ("Casino" is the name of the style of moves that are used in a Rueda circle. These moves can be done in partnership or in a Rueda.)   Let us assume that in a Rueda, the basic step involves leaders and followers both rocking back and then both rocking forward. Partners move into some steps after the leader and follower both do their backrock. Another way to begin moves when dancing in a circle is from a tap on the eighth beat.

Actually, there are many styles of the basic step in a Rueda circle, so the above rule of thumb may not always apply. Some groups don’t do taps at all, and some don’t do the basic with leaders and followers moving towards and then away from each other. But this is the most common approach that I’ve seen. So I will discuss how Casino moves can be adapted for partnership Salsa based on the assumption that the moves are being done as described above.

If a move begins from the leader’s and follower’s backrock, then that can easily be mimicked in one on one dancing by having the man rock back twice in a row. In other words, instead of alternately rocking forward and then back, the leader does two successive backrocks. On the second of these, the lady will be rocking back as well. So the leader and follower are in the standard position from which moves begin in guapea (in a Rueda circle). From this point, they do the move and at the end, they remain dancing together (rather than changing partners).

If the move wouldn’t involve an automatic partner exchange in a Rueda circle, then they simply resume the Salsa basic at the end of the move. To do this, the leader rocks forward for the first part of the basic step (rather than backward as he would in Rueda). If on the other hand, the move involves an automatic partner exchange (e.g. adios, enchufla, etc.), then the move is altered a bit so the partners can stay together. Rather than traveling to a new partner, the leader can simply rock into the center while the lady rocks back. Then they do a cross body lead to get back into basic with the same partner.  Remember that you must alter the cross body lead a bit so that you are coming to face her before you lead her across; she won't face a fictitious center but will tend to move so she faces you.  So come up to her face to face the way a CBL is done in one on one, and then lead her across to the other side.  The leader follows the lady by going forward as she rocks back to resume basic.

Above: Barb and Mike at practice.

The other manner of entering a Casino style move, from a tap on beat 8, is a bit more difficult to adapt for one on one dancing, but it can be done with practice. If you are accustomed to tapping on the eighth beat to start moves such as sombrero, balsero, beso, setenta, etc., then you will want to approximate a tap when dancing with your one on one partner. You (leaders) can simulate the rueda tap by doing a cross body lead and giving your partner a strong lead to make them tap. Then go into the move. The ending would be the same as described above.

Followers who aren’t accustomed to Casino style Salsa may not do the tap easily. But note that if you find this to be a problem it is possible to do all of the moves without ever tapping. You just go into the “body” of the move and eliminate the tap. The tap isn’t part of the move and isn’t really essential. In fact, some groups don’t ever do a tap on the eighth beat, which proves that it is possible to them them that way!!  (For a discussion of the role of taps in Cuban versus Miami styles of Casino Rueda, you can click here to visit the page on this site that covers different styles of Salsa.)

When dancers know Casino Rueda moves, then they can be blended, creating a nice sequence of dance movement. One move just flows into the next (see more on this below on this page). Sometimes this requires small adjustments such a lopping off 8 beats here or there. Likewise, components can be added to moves to enrich and lengthen them. For example, balsero into Montana into an exhibe and then beso makes a nice sequence. Likewise, ending that or other combinations of moves with a coca cola turn (or adding a turn elsewhere) also creates a nice danceable sequence. For information on blending moves and some nice "suggested sequences," see the page on Blending Moves on this website.

In Florida, where Casino Rueda is very popular, dancers generally learn Salsa through these moves, and the club dancing has a distinctly Casino character. Personally, I think it looks smooth but intricate.  Click here for a video of one on one dancing using mostly Casino-Rueda style Salsa moves.  I think you'll agree this is a sharp looking approach to Salsa dancing.

But there is another, subtle advantage to learning Salsa through Cuban Salsa ("Casino Rueda") moves. It has to do with what an individual can learn in a given amount of class time. Essentially, instruction in Casino Rueda is a learning theorist’s dream. Classes in this dance are designed perfectly for long-range retention of complicated material. Learning theory experiments have shown that the most efficient way to memorize something is from many short segments of practice and drill. In a Cuban Salsa ("Rueda") class, moves are explained in some detail and then danced in the circle, interspersed with other steps. Over time, in the course of many class sessions, the moves become committed to memory.

Cedric and Dalinah performing a turn.

It is my belief that hour for hour, students will come out with a greater “vocabulary” of moves and those moves will be lengthier and more complex than they would have learned in an equivalent Salsa class. This is because there is a concrete set of moves that gets reviewed constantly and can be blended and permuted (combined and recombined) with other moves in many different ways. In a typical Salsa class, one is more likely to cover just a few moves in one hour. Rueda circles are relentless in doing many, many moves over and over as the music pounds away.

In addition, since the Rueda moves are the same week after week, people become proficient at them rather quickly and therefore can progress to longer/more complicated steps. Rueda classes will at least review (if not teach) many moves in every session, helping commit them to memory.  But since the syllabus in a standard Salsa class isn’t as standardized, the moves that are learned may not be reviewed in exactly the same form in future. Certainly four months later, the specific moves one learned might be forgotten or not done in exactly the same way. But the Rueda moves will be reviewed much the same way even a year down the line. So the Rueda moves tend to become very ingrained in the dancers’ minds and bodies through constant repetition.

As mentioned briefly above with an example, Cuban Salsa ("Rueda") moves are useful for one on one dancing and moves can be blended to create unique and beautiful patterns.  Experienced Rueda dancers don't think of the moves as fixed segments that require you to return to basic afterwards.  When dancing in partnership, you can chop Rueda moves off before they are done and move into other steps at will. It's not difficult ultimately to dance with very few basic steps, which makes the dance very interesting.  The better you know the moves, the easier it is to segue from one to another and create nice blends. To watch another segment of one on one dancing using mostly Cuban Salsa steps, click here.

The page on this website titled "Sequences for blending moves" is useful to read.  It has many sequences suggested that make a beautiful and comfortable series of moves. In fact, these moves really becomes instead, a beautiful chain of ongoing movement.  Moves that are blended or ganged create a long, beautiful Salsa dance segment for a couple.  There is no doubt that learning Casino Rueda moves is an effective way to become proficient at partnership Salsa as well. The constant drill and repetition inherent in a Rueda circle enables students to learn moves fairly quickly.  So when a student asks me about the difference between Casino Rueda and one on one Salsa, I tell them that Rueda instruction is a great way to become very competent at moves that are usable in one on one dancing.

Click here for a workshop by Erin Brandt.