Learning about Casino Rueda: Cesar Rojas

Samantha StoutJuly 06, 2020Ballroom Chat: Episode #12
Ballroom Chat #12: Cesar Rojas
This week, we talk with Cesar Rojas about Casino Rueda. We discuss the history of salsa and the Casino Rueda dance style, how this social dance is opening doors for people to learn more about Latin dances, and the importance of finding your dance community.
Ballroom Chat on Apple PodcastBallroom Chat on Spotify PodcastBallroom Chat on Google PodcastBallroom Chat on Stitcher PodcastBallroom Chat RSS Feed

Show Notes

  • Artes de Cuba

    D.C. Casineros - Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center

Episode Transcript

SAMANTHA: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha from Love Live Dance. And today I'm joined by Cesar Rojas and we'll be discussing the history of the Casino Rueda dance style along with information broadly relating to Latin social dance styles. So come join us and learn along with us.

Thank you so much, Cesar for agreeing to be a guest today.

CESAR: My pleasure. Thank you, Samantha, for having me today.

SAMANTHA: So I like to ask all of my guests, when we first get started, how in the world did you get into the wild world of the dance industry? What's your personal history with it?

CESAR: When I moved to the States back in 2017, I went to grad school in Boise, Idaho. it was my first time living by myself first time living in a different country. So I was trying to find a place where I could fit. so I went to a random meetup group events, where I met someone and that someone went, hey theres a salsa event this Saturday, wanna go? Oh, sure, let's go. Go check it out. So it was different to what I used to experience experience at home. from there, we got some information before that events and classes. So we went to check another one out, and after a couple of events, here's comes a funny story. I met this young lady that I, that I liked. So I was just trying to like, To get to know her or like see her again. So she kept telling me she was gonna go next time and the next time came and then the next time came. And so, to sum it up. I kept in touch with her, but she never came back to another event, but just that little next time kept me going. I kept taking classes.

Down the road I started, like, hosting events. And then DJing and everything else. So it was, it's a little of a, like a funny story, but I mean, that, that's how I got involved with the scene or the industry as it is.

SAMANTHA: So had you danced at all prior to coming to Boise or was that your first salsa experience?

CESAR: Well that was my first salsa experience. Before that I wasn't, like involved in to dance at all. I was more into like hard rock music, like listening to like, you know, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Metallica. and all that stuff. I wasn't used to these like soft rhythms. So after exploring a few other things, I started taking classes.

Then I found these Rueda de Casino group too, unfortunately I missed the cut of the first class for two weeks. So I had to wait six months for the next group to open.

SAMANTHA: Oh my gosh.

CESAR: I was like, okay, well, go fast go fast. when I got that, I mean, , it was easy for me in the sense that in the Rueda translates into, well, it's a circle that is one person making all the commands, which is the caller of the rueda. So it takes away from being completely new. That weight of, okay, my mental processes, well, I have to combine this move with this other move, the timing and everything else. So there is someone else doing that for me, and until I get used to synchronize my legs and everything else, I could keep participating and learning how to dance.

That was one of the first things that got me hooked into it. So back in Peru, the idea of taking dance lessons is not common. Most of the dancing people do is learned very casually, like at parties, or you have a friend that knows some moves and they teach you. So it's a completely different approach to what it is here. So once I got started into this dance lesson, and I dig more into that I saw they're all their styles. Each style has its techniques, theory and history. They're more than just, hey I'm Latino, I have it in my blood.

SAMANTHA: Very cool. So you said you were originally from Peru?

CESAR: Yeah, Peru. The traditional salsa for Latinos usually was like very big in the eighties, nineties. Then it turned more into like Cumbia, Reggaeton kind of, emphasis. So as you will see people dancing salsa, but they have some Cumbia steps or a little bump that Cumbia has. Its just how it is there. Its different.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I'll be honest. Being a ballroom girl and from a ballroom mindset, we kind of lump everything into these sub-categories. So for Latin social dancing is almost saying that salsa is not competitive, which it absolutely is. Within the ballroom umbrella, we kind of just shove it over to the side and we're like it's one of those things that we do at parties. I can do salsa. I've competed in Mambo. I do a little bit of bachata, a little bit of merengue. You had me try casino rueda once, so I can say that I've done it once, but when it gets into the reggaeton or the cumbia, I have not experienced it.

I have the same glazed over look that I give people when they start talking about Texas two-step and triple-two in the country scene.

CESAR: Yeah, it's hard. It's because it's two totally different worlds. When first started, I found this instructor that was mainly a ballroom dancer. People don't move like that where I am from. I really don't want to move like that. So it doesn't appeal to me, but there's some people that like it. It just comes to a personal preference. Each style has its supporters and other groups have its detractors, It's just the way it is for everything.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. The dance world is big enough that you can find the style that speaks to you and is authentic to your experience and that resonates with some part of you.

So, let's get into what casino rueda is. You mentioned that rueda essentially refers to it being in a circular style. I kind of refer to it as like salsa in a circle meets squaredance, because you have somebody that's calling out the patterns and then you're rotating through.

But what's the history behind it. What is it for those of us that know very little about it?

CESAR: Yeah, so lets travel in time back to the 50's and lets go to Cuba. Cuba has some of the traditional dances. It had like Danzon, Son Cubano, which later would become casino. But back in those days before the revolution, they had these social clubs, which were more like judge clubs. So you had like this particular class, but society will go - well, let's put it in these terms - there was a club only for white people. There's another one other club for black people. And then there was a blend of both. At some point they will get together to have some drinks and you're enjoying the ocean or dance or whatever.

So there was this particular club called Casino. The name at the time was Casino Deportivo De La Havana. People would just go there and start dancing Danzon, Sons, Cha Cha Cha. I think also at that time they had Mambo and a few other things. Again, rock and roll was starting to take off at that point, so they started to mix or blend steps like sometimes happens. Once you feel comfortable enough with a dance rhythm, you can start adding some elements from other dances and make your own blend.

So let's say there were two couples dancing Son next to each other. And then you say "damela" like, give her to me, and they will switch partners. Then just to make it more fun, someone will say, "enchuflala y dile que no." So they will do the move, and they will switch partners again. From that it started adding more couples three, four, five, and then they will have this person on the side or inside the circle making all these calls and people will start repeating them.

So it was entertaining. It was dynamic. People started to refer to it as the dance from the casino, refering to the Casino Deportivo De La Havana. But since that's way too long, they just shortened it into casino. Then in central America people tend to shorten words, so instead of saying rueda de la casino it became rueda casino. They wouldn't pronounce the "L", so they just stuck with rueda casino.

So let's go to the dance of the casino, referring to that particular dance and it went viral like that.

There are a lot of like theories as in anything. Some people debate if it was the egg or the chicken in this eternal debate. The same happens with us. Some people instead say that from Danzon, it evolved to Son Cubano, then to casino, and then from casino it went to the rueda with all the variations that came along the way. So, Casino is basically an evolution of those dances. And then, as time went by, it took an identity of its own.

So if you go to Cuba -- I haven't been, but that's what I hear -- people don't dance salsa. They dance casino or son.

Then it comes to this other debate of what is salsa. So if you look at the history of salsa and the origins of salsa, you can hear Tito Puente, Celia Cruz -- people like those big names from back in the day that are no longer with us anymore. They say that when the term salsa came out, it was just some marketing name. One of the versions that I heard is that there was a record label that had these huge windows, and this company was originally a tomato sauce company and the name that they had was salsa.

So then when people refer to it, okay, what kind of music is this? It's not Son. It's not casino. It's not danzon or Cha Cha Cha. What is it? I'm assuming that they simplify things. They said, okay, it's salsa music. That's one of the theories.

When Tito Puente was asked in an interview, he used to refer to the same thing. That they were playing with "la Sonora matancera" is the same thing they were playing today. We just know that people call it salsa. To add more to that debate, salsa is something that you put into food to make it more flavorful.

There was a lot of interconnecting parts and people develop their own theories and it's just part of evolution. As of today, it's easier to say its Cuban salsa. To go through all the story of, okay, this is a Casino deportivo de la Havana, then the Casino, then the Rueda de Casino. Okay, its salsa.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I, have a feeling that it's also just a matter of time. When you look into ballroom dance, we have the Viennese waltz that dates back hundreds of years at this point. So the history has been written and rewritten and dialed down over that length of time. So when you're dealing with something that's coming out of the thirties, forties, fifties, we're still in a relatively new time. It will be a while before history kind of refines and distills and becomes truncated, so to speak.

You mentioned a couple of dance styles. Since we have a majority of ballroom listeners for this podcast, I just want to clarify a little bit, because they were new to me or relatively new to me.

danzon and "on."

CESAR: no "Son" like s-o-n.

SAMANTHA: Son. What are they?

CESAR: Well, it's their partner dances. It's like going back in time. I could be wrong on this. If I try to associate it with something else it's like going from one dance that you have, and then go to its ancestor then to its predecessor. It sounds like that. Trying to think something in ballroom, let's say you have west coast swing, and then before that you have lindy hop. So its just an evolution of that kind of thing. It has similar steps, similar foundation, but it has its own identity now.

SAMANTHA: So if you went into a social dance or a club, would that be something that you would see folks dancing or would it just look like salsa, cumbia, bachata, merengue at this point?

CESAR: Well, I would say that in the way things are right now with globalization, if you want to apply, you will find music from current Cuban music, which is referrered to as Timba or like Timba slash Cuban salsa, which is different to the traditional salsa that you will hear with the orchestra on a New York salsa. Like let's say Fania All Stars. It's a very orchestrated kind of music. And then the Timba or the Cuban salsa has more of the softer urban sounds. If you go to a club, that's what you would hear and you would see people dancing nowadays.

If you get outside of a club, when you go to certain parts of the Island, you will see people doing demonstrations of that on the streets or a neighborhood party. You can differentiate. You can tell by the style that it looks more old school.


CESAR: Yeah. The steps are simpler and the styling is more old school. There is less complexity, so people can be doing just a couple of steps and be fine.

SAMANTHA: Gotcha. So, I guess it would be similar to if listeners or viewers go back and watch like the 1950s or 1960s international waltz and foxtrot competitions where they're in a very social hold. There's not a lot of tricks. There's not a lot of shaping. There's not a lot of athletics to it. It's just dancing. So kind of similar that this is where it started, and then we've developed it into more extreme fashions on either end.

CESAR: Yes. It was just a social dance then. Now there is a rueda championship in Europe. It's in Germany. People from all over the world over there and they did the competition and stuff. It has taken a social dance and made it more complex, more technical. It's cool to see. It's nice to see.

I also forgot to mention this before, but it limits the participation you could have for newcomers. So it's cool to see this other one. That was my case when I saw these people doing all these flashy salsa, mambo. Okay. That's cool. I can't do that. I mean, I don't have that speed.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I would 100% agree with you. Even as a professional dancer that's been dancing for a decade -- more now -- I am terrified when a salsa dancer asks me to salsa dance on a social floor. I'm like I can do one-two-three, five-six-seven. I can do that in my space. I can do some turns. I can do like a cross-body lead, but if you have me do a hammer-lock to a figure-eight to a double-spin, and around the back to like an overhead hair-curl... I don't know. I'm terrified that you're going to rip my arm out of my shoulder.

CESAR: Yeah, it increases the complexity. I mean, some people can do it, and I've seen people locally win trophies and everything, and they get all the fancy custom costumes. I mean, great. That's awesome. But for the average Joe, no, not that. Not everyone can move their feet at the speed of light.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, it can definitely be overwhelming for newcomers. That's something that I wanted to talk about specifically with the Rueda.

So we work and teach out of the same dance studio. Before the pandemic hit, I had just finished up with lessons for the night and here you come around the corner and you're like, hey, I need you for one dance. Can I get you for one dance? Like. Ah, sure, thinking that you were going to be explaining the calls and explaining how to do everything and little did I know I was just going to get pulled in.

The music was already going. People were already moving, calls were already in play. But from someone who had no knowledge going into it, it was very user-friendly. It was one of those times where you can trust your partner -- all of them, because you go through many over the course of the dance. At least in my case, like a basic salsa or a basic Mambo, just adapted to dance on the one.

You can survive your first rueda though without much difficulty.

CESAR: Yeah. That's something that I also forgot to mention at the beginning. Since there is someone doing all these mental processes and leading all the commands, you just have to follow. I keep an eye on how everyone is doing. If someone is struggling, I have to repeat the same move two, three, four times until they get it, and then I move to the next one. Something else that grabs my attention is someone that is a complete newcomer and a little shy. I mean probably the most terrifying moment for any male dancer or anyone in particular is when you make your way all across the dance floor to ask someone to dance and they say, no. That's a terrifying moment.

So in rueda, you're dancing with everyone, even though we can go build some kind of connection to the other person when the Rueda finishes and everyone is like, this was fun. This was entertaining. Okay. Let's do another one. Well, you probably don't want to do another Rueda, but maybe you can enjoy a dance with someone that you like. You share that Rueda with them socially, just in partner dancing. So it helps to create community, a community of people without that pressure of just me and the other person dancing together. And let's see if we like it. I don't get my arm ripped off, or they've tried to do a body roll or they injure my neck and all complex things.

There's people that do it and they are great at it. My respect to them. My approach is more just to like giving a space for everyone to come try something that probably they felt intimidated to do before. Not necessarily that they have to stay and do rueda, but maybe they came to an event that we do and then they see bachata and then there's people that do bachata and teach bachata and they go there and they stay there. Or probably they come to an event we do.

I do like mixed events where I played ballroom swing and salsa. Someone came for salsa, and it was the first time I ever played some swing dance. They ended up taking swing lessons. So I see it as an opening of a door for anyone that wants to come check it out. Then if they like it and they want to stay, great. But if they saw something that they like and a different group can go for it, maybe they're someone for another group. It's the same as the way they come for swing and then they stick for rueda or anything else.

It's easy to follow because it keeps on that repetitive pattern, but then once the complexity level increases, that's when the circle gets smaller. Then you have to be on the right timing to follow the tempo and the beat so that you can proceed with the next figure. It can get complex, but it's still fun. I mean, we can make a mistake. No one is gonna be looking at you and pointing. Oh, shame on you. We just laugh because it's part of the fun of what we're doing. It's very user-friendly. no judgment.

I have put this on myself. When I put on my first Rueda, and I was like woah. A lot has changed. I met people who had never danced before and were super intimidated that people will make fun of them. You see that guy, great, give it a try.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed it. When all of this calms down and you guys are back and doing practices more often, I might stick my head in from time to time, because it is a great way to meet people. It's a great way if you are new in a city or if you have never danced before, and you're looking for a way to kind of enter into the dance community, it's a great way to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time and kind of build your own dance family very quickly with that group.

Like you said, just being in that world then gives you opportunities to explore other dance styles and see, okay. Am I happy here? Do I want to play with swing? Do I want to play with ballroom? Do I want to play with salsa and bachata? It gives you an open doorway to move within the community, which is very helpful, I think.

I want to talk a little bit about where you see this moving forward, either specifically to what you're doing with Rueda in Salt Lake City or just general trends that you're seeing in the US or internationally, as far as, like, where do you think the future of the Rueda style will go?

CESAR: Well, you have the people that dance salse "on one" or people call it LA style for the ones that are not familiar with the terms. And you have "on two" salsa, which is a New York style.

SAMANTHA: which we're going to circle back to here in a little bit.

CESAR: What I see at least for a month, these groups on Facebook pages. Sometimes I jump into too, just to see how people talk about it. There is always this sense of performance competition. Who's better, which is fine. I mean, if you want to like get on top and invest in your training education and get your gear, and taking private lessons, paying up to $150 an hour for a private lesson, just because you want to improve your level. That's great. There are congresses and festivals for that too, but people go and they are packed. It's a personal preference. I mean, that is also for Rueda, I mean the biggest festival, congress is in San Francisco and it happened early in the year right before the pandemic hit. They had a festival and they brought Elito Reve Y Su Charangon from Cuba. So they have that, plus they brought an actual Cuban band to play for them, and everybody had a blast.

A lot of people critique rueda because it's not for them. It's too simple. There's no complexity. There is no shine or there is no whatever they want to say. They don't like it. It's fine. To each their own. Other people, they do enjoy it.

I mean, you cannot do rueda all night. You have to be honest, you can do three, probably four as much as five in a night, and then you're good. And you do your other styles. It will take time to grow little by little. When I moved to Utah, there was nothing. I mean, there was no Cuban group. Everything was like bachata, salsa, and that was it. The way I see this progressing is that if we keep promoting and get traction and attention to it, it will eventually start growing. The challenge that I see with the other styles that are highly competitive is that it limits the audience. You have to have a certain profile and certain skills to be able to do that.


CESAR: Some people try to take shortcuts. This is my personal opinion. They try to take shortcuts. They avoid the private lessons. They see a bunch of YouTube videos, and then you see a bunch of injuries. They're trying to replicate something that they have seen, but they don't have the proper training.

By limiting things, you have a lot of people that could have potential, but you just leave them out because they don't meet the criteria. There's people out there that probably they don't meet that criteria right now, but you're giving them a chance. They could probably evolve into a higher level if you give them a chance. So there are a lot of complexities on the way. One for me at the beginning, at the time where I lived, a private lesson was $75 an hour, which is I think the standard, but for me back in 2013 as a student, it was a fortune.


CESAR: Yeah. When I found my casino rueda group, they were charging like $50 a month. This was more affordable and then they got me into it. So if we keep an open door, It will start growing again. We have to reformulate everything now with a pandemic. I mean, I can no longer attempt to do an event with 400 people because it will be like, not right now.

So after we reformulate everything and we see, okay, this is okay. Safe to do these numbers and this location. And with these guidelines of safety. Okay. We can, we can start promoting again. We can do a social dance. I was actually going to host an event at one of the really nice bar slash restaurant slash clubs in downtown in front of the Salt Palace, but unfortunately it didn't happen because everything got shut down. As long as there is someone promoting something, it will grow, it will flourish, but it requires a lot of community engagement, finding the people that are into that same boat of community engagement. It's hard, but once you find them, they are committed to it, they support you.

And then it's a network. I kind of thought like a domino effect.

SAMANTHA: I was just going to jump in and say, I feel like you have kind of a double-edged sword when it comes to this particular dance style, which is you can't do it on your own, right? The entire point of it is this sense of community in the sense of mixing partners and working together as a group to create this awesome experience. So especially with the pandemic, you're limited by, well, we need it to be safe for everybody, but when it grows and when you have that community, I feel like the question would then become, okay, do we keep this as a social fun community, stepping stone for you to learn other dance styles and build this kind of hobby experience? Or do we move it into that competitive realm where we're doing more of the formation team? But if we move to competitive, then we're telling people that it's exclusive. Only if you want to do the athletic competitive thing. So then you lose the social base that got you there in the beginning.

CESAR: I saw an example of that in Oregon, which is where my instructor is from. They have their formation team that's performing at a festival, which is the highest of the levels. I was surprised to see people from all ages. I even saw a lady in her sixties. The group was so mixed and diverse and everybody was able to catch up, but it was okay. If we take this to a performance level, everybody has a chance to participate because you get to a point in which you do develop your skills. After taking your classes and practices everything else that you can, you can manage to do it.

I didn't expect to see someone in their sixties participate in a performance with a group of young people. Usually the misconception we have for someone that is 60 plus is that they have to take care of their grandchildren and stay at home or go to their senior center and play golf. But I mean, if we didn't have the pandemic, they would just keep like doing the events and classes until we would have started on the other groups, because there were quite a few groups that just really started last year. We went on starting to take off like growing. We went over to talk in between the group that we have to start going to like the congresses. Like building connections from the other groups. So we have people from out of state and even from Europe that came through salt Lake that reaching out to us just to come to meet us.

It's good to have a reference. rueda in Utah? Okay. Let's let's go check it out. It's nice to have that out there to be a point of reference. There are other casinos that have come from other places and they have a place to meet, Yeah. I mean, it's, it's that this was a "what if" scenario. So I would say that probably we'll be looking into like, having like a performance team where everybody has a chance to participate, but they have to first clear level one, level two, level three, a certain amount of practices. And when they have polished up their stuff and I see no potential in injuries. Okay. Jump in.

SAMANTHA: I like that. And you're creating a system that hopefully will build on itself, right? If you have a really large base in group one, and then you take a smaller base to group two, group one can still continue, can still recruit. And then it just filters up and it builds on itself in a way that is sustainable.

I feel like, at least in the ballroom community, what I've seen unfortunately happen at studios is that you have 20 people in group one, and then you move all 20 onto group two, but you don't backfill group one. So you just have this one group that goes all the way through your different levels to eventually, hopefully, a performance, but you aren't creating a system that continues to bring in new people to the community.

I think that this style of dance specifically is kind of built on a more sustainable path.

CESAR: Yeah. There were a couple of times that I was not able to make it to practice, but I had someone that was able to do the same thing that I was doing. That's a cool thing. I mean, sometimes I joke with them in the case that I have to move somewhere else, you guys can continue on your own. That's the cool thing that you can say in this kind of system once it has been developed. Even if the caller or the lead of the group is not there, the rueda can continue because everybody knows the same stuff. If they can dance, they can little by little add the calls. The hardest part with everything is to synchronize your body with your head and start making calls as you move.

That's the hardest part, but once they get it they could come back and continue on their own, wherever they go. That's a cool thing. Wherever they go and find a group of casineros, or rueda, they can jump in without issues because of the moves. At least the ones I tried to share with them are standard. Speaking of that, there are standard moves that everybody has and then each city or each group has its particular add on or version of it, but the base is the same.

So everywhere you go. You're fine.

SAMANTHA: That's awesome. Do you see a future where there is a standardized syllabus where someone actually writes down or is, or does that exist already?

CESAR: There's two. There's one in Norway in Europe. By the way, if you want to go to Europe rueda there is huge, it is everywhere. It's one of the main areas in the world where there is rueda everywhere. So there is a group called Salsa Nor like Norway, so Salsa Nor, they developed a syllabus by levels. They have the channel one day, now they switched to a on-demand platform. We have to pay now to watch the videos, but it's there.

They teach you the move. They show you what it looks like, and then it's your foundation. That's in the Europe side, in the, there's a guy from Cuba. his name is Yoel Marrero. He created his own system or syllabus was called MCC, which translates into Método del Cuadro del Casino, which is the square method for casino.

It's more traditional, like the way it used to be, but he's referred to it as more polished. It's a system that he developed. It's gaining popularity in some places. It looks different to the other casinos because usually the lead steps back. In his method, I believe it's a step forward, but I mean, they don't step back at all.

So, it exists. I tried to see what we had around. This is what you can use. And these are, these are some variations. in this state and this, this little explanation takes us back to the beginning. Son, it evolved, into casino and then from casino, it evolved into everything else. So each places or as time goes, it adds it's particularities, its preferences. So it just keeps evolving. It's hard to say, okay, this is the right way. It's just how people interpret it, how they share it.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, absolutely. And like you were saying that circles beautifully back around to where we started, which is, this is still developing. It's still in the history of the world. It's still a new dance. So where it ends up in 20 years and 50 years. Well, we'll just wait and see.

I do want to talk about just because this is, this is a frustration of mine and a question of mine that I have gotten many different answers to. So, while I've got you here, what is the difference between "on one" salsa and "on two" salsa? Let me rephrase that. Let me rephrase that so that it's not as controversial, hopefully. How do you count on two salsa at a very base level?

CESAR: Okay. So this was one of my struggles too, because when I live in Boise that I think people just refer it to salsa. So this was just one thing and I didn't know that it was salsa on one. When you have a claves, you go like clapping rhythm, so in that space after the counts is where usually, well, we have to train our ears to say, okay, this is the one and a lot of people don't teach it. People just started one-two-three, five-six-seven. Now, repeat. Okay forward back step. Okay, good. And nobody teaches you what the clave is or how you have to associate the sound with your steps.

Once you find that out, you can do your step on one. That's one of the main things that I tried to promote in my group. I don't care if you know a hundred moves, but if you're off time or you're not on the beat it looks horrible. I'd rather take time for you to learn, but if your timing is good and I only know three moves, they will be great.


CESAR: Okay. So going back to the "on two," when I moved here and I saw people doing on two, like why do their feet move differently? I mean, why are they stepping? I mean, it looks cool, but why do they look different? So I struggled for that for like probably two years. And I moved here back in 2017, So by 2019, I was like, I would like to try this out, but I kind of have issues with the feet so I found a video of, I think his name is the Mambo King. I think his name is Eddie, Eddie Torres. He had a very simple explanation with the congas. I kind of recall the sound, but he was like, Hey, you hear the congas, and he plays out the sounds. After you hear these percussion, this is when you step one, when you break on two, and then you just reverse engineer your on one. So you have to have your steps to the, to conga beat.


CESAR: And then it kind of made for me to click that way. I don't have a sound at hand, but that's how it worked for me.

SAMANTHA: we did have a comment from the chat, which is that zooms because we have audio filtering on for the zoom call. it cut out when you were doing the clave demonstration. If you go on on YouTube or online and just searched for a clave percussion, you'll be able to find an example of that.

CESAR: There's two claves, clave two-three and clave three-two. After researching that, its just personal preference of the composer. Yeah. Everything else is the same.

SAMANTHA: Good to know. So, I also would agree with you. I just learned salsa, and then I came to Utah and found myself in the middle of a debate. So if you are going into a salsa class, the instructor typically counts at one-two-three, five-six-seven. If you are dancing on two, does that mean that the count then is two-three-four, six-seven-eight, or have your quick, quick slows changed? Because, and the reason why I asked this, you pointed out that the guy that most people referred to for "on two" instruction is called the Mambo King. In ballroom, we refer to breaking on the two in a quick, quick, slow pattern to fast music Mambo.

CESAR: Okay. And this is something that I also would like to point out, its just, we have to see the ballroom as one universe.


CESAR: and latin dance that's a whole different universe. Usually we try to like blend both and try to make associations, but if we try to ballroomize salsa or Latinize ballroom that's the conflict, because even though they have similarities and things in common until we get to a point, okay, this is its own thing. And the tests each are different codes. we're gonna jump into each, just like I tried Charleston once, probably twice. And I was trying to make the association with, I mean, where's the beat? Like where is the clave?

SAMANTHA: Yeah, there's not a clave, but you're still doing the same action as salsa on the one you're just doing some turnout with your feet as you do it.

CESAR: Yeah. I mean for me, I try to find the rhythm or the beats. I mean, even it doesn't clave there's like a mimics bass beat and go from there. I, for what I recall from on two, I only took a class once. Two or three, two, three. Six seven, eight, something like that. So there's the one and the four that is missing. I could be wrong. That's what, that's what I recall. You also have to switch gears, have to switch your, your, your foot. And then if you have it, if you, if you have never done salsa on two and you have only done just regular salsa, you will give your brain a hard time for a while until it clicks. Cause that's your muscle.

That's how your muscle memory has been built.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I feel a little bit more comfortable saying that salsa on two is just Mambo. We're just calling a different, the music is just slightly different, but the emphasis is different, but it's the same action. It's the same count. Still a quick, quick, slow. You're just breaking on two.

CESAR: Yeah. If you guys got like want to dig more into salsa on two go on YouTube and look for Eddie, Eddie Torres, he's a AKA, the Mambo King. He's like, even though he's Late eighties right now, he still performs and goes around, but he has a very simple way to share it and make it understandable without getting into in science. Let's put it that way. So, if you want to dig into it, he's a good source of information. And I mean, it never hurts to learn something new.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. anything else that you wanted to share with folks again, because we have majority ballroom audience, anything from either the Rueda point of view from a history of just Latin dancing, that you wanted to share with our listeners so that they are more educated, because that's really what we're trying to do is have a better level of understanding of everything.

CESAR: So if I could tell something to anyone, I will just say that Latin dance doesn't have to be intimidating. It's fun. You just have to find your right spot, because not everybody has a similar approach. You just need to find your group and start to have fun. For me, it's not getting technical and getting into the "on two" arguments or doing like five steps in one second versus you can only do three steps in one second and all that stuff that people like to argue about all the time. My main point is that you have fun if someone doesn't make you feel comfortable and makes you feel like a little intimidated after one dance, because he tried to get all flashy without understanding that you will. It's probably the first time that you went to dance.

What I always do is when I ask someone, okay, is this the first time you have come to the social dance? Okay. If the person who is the first time that they come okay. If I tried to do something simple so that they can, and enjoy it, they can have fun and they come, they are willing to come back. And again, the next time will probably take a class. So some people get all flashy. They like to show off and they don't understand probably the other person doesn't have the same skills. That happens to you. It has happened to everyone.

One of the first social dances that I went to, I was doing the best that I could and the other person simply left in the middle of the song. It happens. It happens. Well, she is one of my best friends right now, but, it happens. So don't feel intimidated if you went to one particular place that you didn't like it. Check another one. If you probably dig a bit. If you see people that dance the way that you like, go ask them where they learned and try to dig that because that's what I did. Use this as an opportunity to like expand your network. Back in Boise, we had a group of people that were from 20 different countries. So whenever we had like a house party or a potluck, I mean, you've got 20 different dishes from 20 different countries, which was really great.

So ask questions, don't be intimidated. If you don't like it, if you don't want to dance with someone because whatever reason, say no. No one is going to force you to do anything. And if you're dancing with someone and they make you feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason you can say, okay, thank you. But I mean, w we're done. We're good. Whatever works for you. Ultimately. If we go to music more than just to dance and there's music for everyone.

When I started, there was all this mambo kind of music. That's the xylophone. I know that these soft sounds make me feel that I should be wearing a tuxedo with a bow tie and getting all flashy. But then when I discovered Cuban music, which was more like urban and more something that reminds me of home. Let's put it that way. I find that that was more appealing to me. You have the traditional salsa music, then you have the more like urban music. Then you have sounds in English. That's what I like to play. There is something for everyone. One of the reasons that I point to music is that when you connect with the song, I believe that someone is selling something that you associate that that's happened to you. Man, its great. I mean, I feel it. And then once you feel it, you can, you can move. People criticize me and say that's not real salsa, thats some combination someone created, they just put lyrics in English, but I mean, the people that I play the music for, they like it. So try to find things that you like. If you really want to explore it, try to find something that will fit for you and try and then go from there.

It might not be salsa. Maybe you like bachata. Now we have Kizomba, too. If you don't like Kizomba, maybe you're into Zouk. There is something for everyone. Just give it a try.

SAMANTHA: I love that. One thing that I just quickly wanted to follow up on, you mentioned that you're a DJ and that you actually are a DJ for some of these events.

Are you finding, I mean, you kind of just mentioned it, that you, that most people are responding more positively to the, the pop, European. Like we're, we're gonna put Justin Bieber singing over top of Despacito in English, kind of music, or are you seeing from a DJ perspective, if you put on a mix of those more like popular songs and then blend in some of the more traditional music that, that keeps people on the floor? Or are you seeing that like, no, as soon as something that has a more difficult beat to hear, people are pulling off the floor and waiting for something else to come back on.

CESAR: Okay. So let me backtrack a little on the dj part. So they said yes, just to give someone my perspective or maybe this could happen to me one day too. When I was starting to learn to dance, I was okay. If I learned to my classes, I learned the moves, then the guy that was hosting the night class to be out of town. Hey, can you take care of the night? Okay. Are you sure? Yeah. I mean, you can do it, just do this and okay. Fine. Then my personal tastes differ a little from what he was playing.

So I was like asking him, it gave me a chance to play and see how it goes. When he gave me a chance to play, I was able to share my personal preferences with, with the audience back in the day, I'm talking 2013, we didn't have DJ controller controllers. We didn't have like fancy flashy lights and speakers on these smoke machines.

What we had was a laptop an AUX cable and windows media player with whatever audio files we could find. Nowadays, we have the DJ boards where they're not cheap by the way. And they are within 700 to $1,400. just in like mid range ones. And all these complexities that only what they do is they, improve the experience that we are trying to, to share.

Now, when it comes to music, now we have a, if you guys want to check it out, we have Tony Succar. He recently won two Grammys last year for best salsa album on the year and best producer of the year. He made, he's the only Latino artist or producer that has the rights to run the Michael Jackson family to redo all his songs into salsa.


CESAR: So if you want to explore like, Oh, to attract, to try it out, you can check it out. You can't have it like a Billie Jean salsa or I Want You Back in salsa, and many more, then you have Djs, like DJ Soltrix and DJ Tronky that they took all these popular pop songs and they transferred it into bachata. let me put it this way. its always this debate between the purist and the other side. I mean, the guy won two Grammys the academia. I mean, it's like. I mean, if you're on top of your game now, but that's not salsa. So what is that? If they don't know what they're doing. I mean, things change

SAMANTHA: Mhmm, things do change.

CESAR: Personally. What I try to do is I try to, I, if I don't know the crowd, I test, I see what works. And then until I reach out, I can mid point. That's what I, what I, what I like put more like probably someone doesn't has, finds bachata dominicana, or traditional bachata as they call it now, too, a little unusual, but then they hit a remix from one of these DJs, which as a song that they like with, with the beat, okay, they like this. I mean, they, from that song. They gave to the traditional one. So it's a bridge, the same way, the mix, the salsa in English. Let's say someone hears this Michael Jackson salsa song and they like it. And then over time they get to like Fania All Stars. Or Tito Puente or Celia or any of these big names from back in the day.

So it's, I see it as a bridge. First of all, if you like, if, if you, if you gave it to them directly, probably that first, they don't have any idea where they are listening to, but if you use that as a bridge and then it's a starting point, they can get through there, explore it on their own and then get where do they have to get on its own.

So it's just a way to facilitate open the door. Put a bridge and then, yeah,

SAMANTHA: I think that's such a beautiful way to think about it. What am I correct in thinking that a couple it's probably been more than a couple of weeks. It's probably been several months at this point, that you had shared a story on Facebook about being at a Harley Davidson club and starting to play like bachata music or something.

CESAR: Yeah. So close to where I live there as a club with a nice rooftop area. It looks like a motor bike club. So the guys with the leather, the, the head, the headbands, the sunglasses, the vest and the boots and the motorcycles. the first floor. It was some sort packed. They had these jukebox machine where you just like put on your phone, you use purchase created some play songs.

So we went up, started with some friends came from out of town. We were the only ones upstairs. We started like buying, buying songs. So we could dance a little, no biggie, but then let's say we play a salsa song. And then we saw on cue that there were like five country songs. And then it was like, okay, we paid extra just to like, have our song play next, but then somehow it got bombed by the other one.

So it was like, mine goes next, no mine goes next. It was fun, but there were people that it was the first time ever. They saw people dancing. That was it. And then as soon as the other approach that I have. Okay, that looks cool. What are the, what can, where can I learn? You open up a door for them to check it out. If they want to learn, then we did. We did something else. And people was like, I mean, I thought this was more complex as I, as you only see on TV is the only, the only time I saw this person. what's the name of that show? There was a, I forgot the name, this dance show. Yeah, Dancing with the stars,

SAMANTHA: Yeah, Dancing with the Stars, I was going to say, it's either So you think you can dance or dancing with the stars.

CESAR: It's always interesting with Dancing the stars and I thought it was way, much more complex. So you see as these, these huge gap of, okay, this is way too complex to, okay, I can do this. So it always happens like that. So at the end of the night, I mean, some people, they were, they were clapping, hey that was awesome, come on, come, come again soon. And when, when, when, when, well, we went downstairs, everyone, like people were like, you guys were the ones playing music.

SAMANTHA: Oh. Cause the jukeboxes were linked. So downstairs was getting these random salsa songs without any context of what was, that's funny. That's really funny.

CESAR: Yeah. So, I mean, it's only been the way I see it is an invitational apporache. Okay. This is something that the average Joe can do. You're more than welcome to come check it out. If you want, maybe you don't want to stick with us, but you can go to any of the other groups that do classes, too, dance styles, it's a bridge. So that's, that's the way I see it. And I, I kinda like I had students that ended up in a different group. I'm like, Whoa, that's what you like. Cool. If you find something that you like, I mean, stick to it. I mean, it's this isn't, this is not a cult. I mean, I'm not a, I'm not a God that you have to stick with me for eternity.

I mean, if you find something more appealing to you, I mean, that's great. I mean, that's what happened to me. Why would I tell you don't go there. I mean, you want to go go.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, I, I would hope that anyone listening to this podcast would a hundred percent agree with you on that. I feel like from a dance community perspective, we can only benefit if we open doors for everyone and bring everyone into the community because dance is such a wonderful experience on a physical level, on a mental level, on an emotional level. It is so positive that why wouldn't we want people to be brought into the fold regardless of what community they end up in. I know from time to time, I will have a younger couple come in and we'll do a couple of lessons and they're like, Oh, you know, I'm going to the Dominican Republic, in two weeks time or an older couple.

And I'm like, Oh, I'm going on a cruise? I'm like, well, we should probably talk about salsa then, because that's the music you're going to hear. And I'll take them through a couple basic steps. And if. They're loving it at the end. It's like, all right, great. I have four business cards of people that are much better equipped to take you on your next journey in salsa.

Please reach out to them. Please continue. Because I mean, I know my limitations as an instructor when it comes to. The Latin social styles. I'm not going to tell someone that I can dance cumbia when I've never seen it or danced it myself. So if, if that's something that I can tell that students are interested in, I want them to go and explore it and continue, continue dancing, or if somebody comes in and we start doing East coast swing and they're like, you know what, I'd rather do West coast, or I'd rather do Lindy. Okay, great. I've got instructors that you really need to meet and continue with. So I would hope that. Students are getting the same information and the same options, regardless of what community they start in.

CESAR: Yeah., that should be, That's a community approach. And that's like, whenever I had a chance to do like events like the one's I did in Provo well, we were able to blend different groups. I mean, we share what we have. Oh, these were free events. From there. I mean, each group had like new students or attendance or probably some people did. They didn't even knew that it was a swing night in Provo and they were looking for one. So by sharing, I mean, I'm cooperating. It's, it's the only way a community a city can grow because I mean, we have different experiences. We have different backgrounds and we have something to add or to share. The issue is when it becomes controlling. And it's like a monopoly. I don't know if that applies in English or Spanish in monopolio. We went from like monopolize, everything. That's I know that there's an idea that it could work as a, as a business. Becuase, I mean, buisnesses are created just to make a profit, but it live in the side of the community as a whole. Because even though there are different businesses as a whole, we are part of a bigger community.

We face our time limitations and issues along the way. So we'll see what happens with the pandemic. I mean, we have been, I shut, I shut down everything early March when it was starting. So. There will, there will be challenges because we have to reformulate everything. Personally. I cannot look up to doing another event of 400 people because I will be crazy. So we will have what happens. Have we read out how people react to what we do, hopefully as time develops, we will find there will be a time when it's, when it's, when it's safe to do so. I mean, it is, this has affected everyone, not only locally, but globally. So there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of misinformation.

Some people don't want to follow the guidelines because they, for whatever reason they, they, don't take it as serious. It's it's it's crazy times for sure.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. I would just end with the thought, cause I don't want to get too deep into to pandemic doom and gloom. but I would just end with the thought, which is we are a community, you know, we only succeed as a community, if we stay together. So that means doing the best for others, not for yourself, which is tough. I think, especially as Americans, we are taught to hustle hard for you and your family and to be very individualist. But that doesn't work when something like this happens.

So wear your masks and wash your dang hands.

I'd like to thank Caesar for being a guest on today's podcast. There will be links below with more information on the history of the Rueda dance style, along with, the artists and the musicians that we spoke about in today's podcast. If you are in the Salt Lake area and want to be a part of the Casino Rueda community, you can follow Cubania SLC on Facebook and Instagram for more information and any event postings will be listed there as well. Thank you again, Caesar for being a guest.

I've been your host, Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. You can find this and all of our other podcast episodes at https://www.lovelivedance.com/podcast and you can also find us across social media at Ballroom Chat.

If I can ask two favors of you, if you are not already subscribed to our YouTube channel, please do so. You'll get a notification every single time we post. And if we get to a hundred subscribers, we'll be able to unlock a custom URL. That'll make it easier for folks to find us across the web.

We also just launched a Patreon page, so if you are interested in supporting the podcast and unlocking exclusive content, you can find out more information at patreon.com/ballroomchat.

Please also consider giving us a review across your favorite podcast platform. It does help us out.

As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing.