Dances  >  Rhythm Dances
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Rumba was originally a marriage dance. Many of its movements and actions which seem to have an erotic meaning are merely depictions of simple farm tasks. Rumba became a popular ballroom dance and was introduced in the United States about 1933. Rumba was at the beginning of the Cuban and American dance crazes, and was the basis for the Mambo, and the Cha Cha. Rumba music is usually written in 4/4 time. The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened, causes the hips to sway from side to side in what has come to be known as "Cuban Motion."


Cha Cha became the rage of the early 1950’s and is now one of the most popular Latin dances in the U.S.  Its infectious one-two, one-two-three rhythm demands that sitters become dancers.  Cha cha began as a variation of Mambo called Triple Mambo. From the less inhibited night clubs and dance halls Mambo underwent subtle changes: from Triple Mambo, the peculiar scraping and shuffling sounds during the "tripling" produced the imitative sound of Cha-Cha-Cha. This then became a dance in itself: Mambo or Triple Mambo or Cha Cha as it is now called is but an advanced stage in interpretive social dancing born of the fusion of progressive American and Latin music.


Mambo was born of the fusion of Swing and Cuban music during the 1940’s.  Mambo music produced a fascinating rhythm and, in turn, created a sensational new dance. Originally played as any Rumba with a riff ending, Mambo music may be described as a riff or a Rumba with emphasis on the fourth beat in 4/4 time.  In fact, some musicians specifically played in 2/4 time with a break or emphasis on beats 2 and 4; however, native Cuban dancers would naturally break on any beat. The components of Mambo are small rock steps and side steps with foot styling that includes points, kicks, and flicks.


Salsa is the street version of Mambo.  In fact, many of the movements and figures in modern Salsa descend directly from Mambo.  The timing difference between the two styles can be seen and felt in an emphasis or break "on the 1" (first measured beat) of the music rather than "on the two."  In general, Salsa is said to have evolved as a distillation of various Latin and Afro-Carribean dances. While the name "Salsa" comes from a Spanish word referring to a spicy and flavoursome 'sauce,' the music and the actual dance steps that we currently associate with that name can be traced back to Cuban roots.  Modern day Salsa was largely shaped by the Puerto Rican community in 1950s New York.  There, the term "Salsa" first emerged as a popular nickname referring to a variety of different Latin music and dance styles; the styles have mixed and merged to create the dance and music style that we now know as Salsa.  Salsa has grown through time to unite different sounds, cultures and meanings and it is this diversity and complexity that now represents the very core of this enticing and surprising dance style.


Merengue has two stories or origin: some believe this captivating Latin dance began as a peasant dance in the Dominican Republic by African Slaves; others believe that it was created by war hero General Maringie, who danced dragging his injured leg (which others respectfully imitated in their dancing).  However it arrived, Merengue inspires dancers worldwide to move to its intoxicating beat.  Characteristics include walking steps and chasses or side steps. With “Cuban Motion” and animated body movement, Merengue’s beat invites everyone to enjoy its festive party appeal.


The Bachata originated in the countryside of the Dominican Republic. The dance is a direct reflection of the music being played in the night clubs during the 1960. The Bachata has close ties ti the Cuban Bolero. The music of Bachata is the root of the dance. The tempo is slow,  approximately 120 beats per minute and is played in 4/4 time. Bachata music can be referred to as Latin "blues" music. It usually tells the tale of sadness in love and is one of the most romantic genres of modern guitar music. The Bachata has very basic and simple footwork that moves in a side-to-side or forward-and-backward motion.  The romantic character of the Bachata is achieved from the sensual hip and body actions. Good use of the knees helps produce the desired hip movement.

This Brazilian dance was first introduced in 1917 but was finally adopted by Brazilian society in 1930 as a ballroom dance. It is sometimes referred to as a Samba, Carioca, a Baion or a Batucado. The difference is mostly in the tempo played since the steps in all three dance are very similar. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. They say that the Samba was introduced in the United States in 1939 by the late Carmen Miranda.

The romantic Bolero is the slowest of the Latin dances. The Bolero like many other Latin dances, has Afro-Cuban roots and is thought to have originated from Cuban or Spanish Folk dances. The Bolero is played in 4/4 time and has a tempo slower than that of the Rumba. Bolero characteristics are very dramatic, long sweeping side steps, use of rise and fall, and a romantic softness that makes this dance unique among the rhythm dances.


The Swing, or formerly, Lindy, picked up where the Charleston left off. Introduced in the 1930’s, Swing has climbed the social ladder and remained a favorite through time. Swing includes 2/4 or 4/4 timing and uses Swing or Lindy Rhythm. Swing is characterized by up-tempo single time music danced with triple steps followed by a rock step.


Like Swing, Jitterbug is a uniquely American dances.  Sometimes called "single time swing," Jitterbug is a toned-down version of Lindy Hop which use a 2/4 or 4/4 step, rock step, pattern. The beats and patterns fit most fast, big band styles of music and can be adapted to a variety of “Ragtime” and Jazz music.


Hustle became popular in the 1970’s. Assisted by the movie “Saturday Night Fever,” Hutle marked a return to popular dances where couples touched each other ior danced in partnership rather than apart.  Turns, spins, and wraps, are the primary components of Hustle. The more accomplished dancers will add syncopated timing and elaborate arm styling.  Hustle is usually danced to music in 2/4 or 4/4 time or sometimes to music characterized as “Disco” music.  The melody and beat are based on rhythm and blues and the accent on each of the bass beats makes the music hard to resist.



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