What is Rumba?


This dance form is an example of a partnered dance. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.
Editor: Mark Stephens

Rumba is one of the most erotic and sensual of all the Latin dance styles due to its slow rhythms and hip movements that create intense bodily expressions. Rumba is related to Afro-Cuban music, which was introduced to Cuba by African slaves in the sixteenth century. It is also influenced by the music brought to Cuba by Spanish Colonizers. There are several different types of Rumba that have evolved over the years:

Ballroom Rumba:
Ballroom Rumba is split in to two main styles, American and International. The main difference between the two is that American-style Ballroom Rumba focuses on the Cuban motion, which requires the bending and straightening of the knee in order to achieve the desired hip-swaying movement. On the other hand, International-style Ballroom Rumba utilises the Latin motion, which requires the dancer to step on to a straight leg, and does not include the bending of the knee that is seen in Cuban style. Even moves with the same footwork that are practiced by both International and American-style Rumba dancers are called by different names.

Ballroom Rumba movements derive from the dance style Son, as is Salsa and Mambo. Son was remarketed as Rumba when it was introduced to the United States, as the name was thought to be more exotic.

Early American Rumba:
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a type of Rumba that is characterised by a fast tempo was introduced in to the American dance salons. The tempo is actually nearly twice as fast as the Ballroom Rumba styles. The prohibition of alcohol in the early twentieth century in the United States also saw a rise in ‘Sainetes’, or short plays, which often featured cabaret American Rumba.

Many of American Rumba’s dance moves are similar in form to Cha-cha-cha figures. It is thought that perhaps Cha-cha-cha developed from Rumba.

Cuban Rumba:
Cuban Rumba originated in the nineteenth century in the Cuban provinces of Havana and Matanzas. It is entirely different to the Ballroom Rumba and its explicit sexual overtones resulted in its suppression and restriction in many areas, as it was considered indecent and even dangerous. It developed in rural areas, and is still danced today in rural and more urban areas, particularly in areas of large black communities. There are three main types of Cuban Rumba – Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia:

Rumba Yambu is the slowest of the Rumba styles, and also the oldest, and often involves movements that feign frailty.

Rumba Guaguanco is faster than Yambu and consists of more complex rhythms. It is a flirtatious dance that involves a dance move called the ‘vacunao’, whereby the man’s movements are aggressive and sensually provocative, and the woman’s are defensive. Both Yambu and Guaguanco originated from the suburbs of big cities.

Rumba Columbia is fast and energetic. It is a solo dance that has a 6/8 beat and originated in the more rural areas of Cuba. Creative and acrobatic movements allow the dancer (traditionally male) to demonstrate displays of agility and strength. Humorous overtones also expresses the dancer’s confidence.
Editor: Nichola Manning