Day 8 in Beijing: Casino dancing in the your FACE!

The Maestro and me.  A truly wonderful person and dancer.

The Maestro and me. A truly wonderful person and dancer.

David Huo is a famous dancer in Beijing, and actually, in most of China.  He has traveled to, and lived in, Cuba. He has studied Latin culture and different types of Latin dance.  He teaches at the highly respected Beijing Dance Academy.  He travels often and teaches, and performs, all over China.

David is “El Maestro” of China.

Luckily for me, I met him at the San Francisco Salsa/Rueda Festivals where he has taught when he visits the states.  Casino is the term used for Cuban style salsa dancing and rueda is a particular way of dancing where there is a circle (rueda means wheel in Spanish) and one person calls out the dance move and everyone does it at the same time.  Then you pass your partner on to the next person and there is another call and this continues until the song ends.  It is a rather beautiful free form choreography when done well.  On top of being a phenomenal teacher of casino and rueda, David is kind, humble and has the pure joy of dancing casino style salsa that I respect and love.

I had been in contact with David before I came to  Beijing on an infrequent basis and wanted to make sure he would connect and I could see him in his element as soon as possible.  I’ve been here 8 days so far and have seen so much and been busy as can be but haven’t yet been to a salsa event so I was really looking forward to seeing him in action and doing a little dancing also.

David took me to a club called, “FACE” in Sanlitun.  Sanlitun is the more “Western” area of Beijing and there are many clubs and bars.  From what I’ve been told, this was because the westerners came over and “imported” these places as it was their gathering place.  Bars and clubs weren’t a part of the Chinese culture.  I find it interesting to think how different cultures, and people, congregate and show community.  From what I’ve seen, the Chinese will congregate in the parks and courtyards and do dancing, tai chi and other community events.  Very different than in the United States of America.

As for FACE, It is a beautifully designed restaurant that not only has an indoor restaurant but an outdoor patio.  The third floor has hotel rooms and the dance area is on the second floor. There are two medium sized rooms with mirrors and the floor is very smooth and easy to move on.  This is what I came to experience.  There was an intermediate salsa class going on and I felt that classic feeling of joy and a flood of happiness in my body as it woke up and knew that hours of fun lay ahead.

David introduced me to his sister, Queenie, and a few other people and we started dancing.

Smiling wide.
Eyes blazing.
Body moving.
Purity.
Joy.

Queenie is an excellent dancer and seems to have that same love of dance that David and I have.  It is contagious.  There is something about Casino dancing that brings me to another place.  It is so grounded and yet so malleable.  It can be one’s own personal dance and it becomes a work of art when done with joy, skill and freedom.  After thirteen years I am a still a beginner in so many ways and that allows me to enjoy each and every song, each and every dance, each and every partner. So much to learn and so much to love.

I took a few songs off and simply watched David and his partners. His skill, and joy, is so evident and it shines through when he dances in each and every moment.  I smiled watching him and feeling how much he loved the music and how life affirming it must have been, first learning the ballroom style, and then finding casino.  My journey was similar in that I started with the more classic style but quickly went to casino style when I saw people dancing it.
Two worlds.
The same joy.
The same love.
The same dance.
Spoken in English or Mandarin.
It is pronounced,
“Casino.”

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