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Giant Rueda de casino: it’s more than just the record

Giant Rueda de casino: it’s more than just the record

In the afternoon and evening last November 25th, nearly a thousand casino dancers came together on the esplanade of the Malecon that is known as the Piragua, to set a new Guinness World Record.  The goal was to have the largest Rueda de casino in the world and to dance continuously for the longest period of time.

For us Cubans who have lived through most of the last fifty years on the Island, regardless of what our favorite kind of music is, in one way or another casino dancing and its fickle “ruedas” are part of all our biographies.

In the days when material things were out of our reach and also didn’t interest us that much, dancing became one of the most consistent dreams we possessed.  In the midst of a huge array of different poplar dances, casino prevailed.  It has the reputation of contributing spiritual values both to the groups and to the individuals taking part in it.

Being a leader or “casinero mayor” came to represent an important status in those days.  It meant that you had the grace and style to captivate multitudes.  There used to be a TV program called Para Bailar which was a tremendous promoter of the popular dance and Cuban people loved it.

There are quite a few persons who lived through the different experiences that are a part of our unique Cuban social process who found that the ruedas de casino provided the ideal way to let loose their expressive freedom and, consequently, their creativity.

This dance has been closely associated with an important part of popular Cuban music over the last decades.  I would dare say that the influences have gone both ways.  Some musicians initiated styles and manners of dancing and other musicians started composing specifically for the demands of dancers.

For all of these reasons, last November 25th at La Piragua symbolized revisiting part of the past that should never disappear; it has directly influenced the way we are.
Even though they weren’t able to have all the people they needed – only 964 participants – they were able to surpass the previous record for time.  Just about 15 minutes were added on to that old record.

Many visitors from other countries and some of us Cubans ended up getting together under the light of the full moon in the gardens of the legendary Hotel Nacional to enjoy a semi-aerial view of the giant rueda de casino.  The predominant color was red and the synchronized movements seemed to be telling an attractive story about bodies and their hopes and dreams.

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Photos by Yadira del Monte