University of Limerick
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Dancing Cubanía: aesthetics of elegance and cool in  contemporary casino

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posted on 2023-06-15, 14:42 authored by Elizabeth Marie Painter

For more than 50 years the Cuban social dance casino has remained popular, and for many Cubans is an integral part of social life. My primary aim with this thesis is to examine the aesthetic differences embodied in contemporary Cuban casino across two dance venues as a way to gain some understanding of the multiplicity of Cuban cultural identities (Cubanía). This thesis focuses on themes of cultural identity, specifically Cubanía (Cubanness), aesthetic preferences, collective identities, and community creation.

This thesis explores stylistic and aesthetic differences in casino across two different Havana dance communities. The analysis shows how casino can embody different elements of Cubanía, and despite the many differences across dance communities, shared core cultural values exist.

An ethnochoreological approach is used and methods of both research and practice, observation and participation to analyze casino as danced by two distinct communities in Havana today. Ethnographic accounts of the two dance communities reveal distinct casino styles performed by individuals embodying differing habiti and culturally formed aesthetic preferences. The community at Casineando en Playa embodies a traditional style of casino and values an ‘aesthetic of elegance’. The working-class dancers at La Tropical embrace a fusion style of casino which incorporates Afro-Cuban popular dances and an ‘aesthetic of cool’.

Despite aesthetic and stylistic differences across the two communities, shared values extend to include the importance of participation, competition, and an ideal state of flow in casino and in everyday life. Although these notions manifest in diverse ways across dance venues they simultaneously illustrate common core values in Cuban life thus forming an integrated understanding of the notion of Cubanía.This thesis is the first ethnographic account of Cuban casino. It captures a point in time in Havana social life from 2011-2014, just before the December 17, 2014 ‘thaw’ and initial steps towards a renewed relationship between Cuba and the United States after 54 years of hostility.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Catherine E. Foley

Second supervisor

Anya Peterson Royce

Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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