The Rumba is considered to be one of the most beautiful Latin style dances, earning it’s nickname as “The Dance of Love.” It is characterized by swaying hips, a still upper body, and close partner connections. Although it is traditionally danced to slow Latin music, it is now common to dance the Rumba to current, popular ballads. Because of this, the Rumba is a popular style choice for a wedding dance and slow partner dancing.
History of the Rumba
Taking a look at the history of rumba dancing, one should know that the word “rumba” is used to describe different styles of dance. In one sense of the word, rumba can be used to encompass a variety of dances relating to the rumba genre of Afro-Cuban music. Theses island dances include Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha, Nangino, Yambu, Colombia, and Guaguanco. In other contexts, rumba refers to the ballroom dance that occurs in social dance and international dance competitions. This ballroom style of rumba came from a Cuban rhythm dance called the bolero-son. The word “rumba” comes from the Spanish verb “rumbear” which means to go dancing, party and to have a good time.
The dances associated with rumba stemmed from two prevalent sources. They were shaped by both Spanish and African influences. Cuba hosted Rumba dancing’s main growth and there were similar dance developments that took place in other Caribbean islands and throughout Latin America in general.
The Rumba originated among the African slaves in Cuba in the sixteenth century. It began as a fast and sensual dance with exaggerated hip movements. The dance was said to be representing the male pursuit of a woman and the music played with a staccato beat to keep time with the expressive movements of the dancers. The claves, the marimbola, the maracas and the drums were instruments used to inspire and accompany the dancers.
Up until the Second World War, the popular dance of middle class Cuba was the Son. The Son was a modified, slower, and more refined version of the native Rumba danced by the African slaves. The wealthy Cuban class danced an even slower version of dance in the rumba family called the Danzon. The Danzon had even smaller steps than the Son, and women’s hip movements were very subtle with tilting of their hips created by alternately bended and straightened knees.
The Rumba came to the United States when Lew Quinn and Joan Sawyer tried to introduce the dance in 1913. It wasn’t until about ten years later that the dance started catching on. In the early 1920s, Rumba was danced slowly in America and made more “civilized” by the dance studios of that time. The American Rumba is considered to be a modified version of the aforementioned Son. Band leader Emil Coleman imported some Rumba musicians and a pair of Rumba dancers to New York in the 1920s and in 1925 Benito Collada opened the Club El Chico in Greenwich Village. By 1929, real interest in Latin music grew and Rumba dancing became very popular in New York. Rumba received a further boost in popularity after the Rumba was featured in the very first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, “Flying Down to Rio” in 1933.
Rumba’s popularity continued to grow throughout the United States and its introduction into Europe was supported by Monsieur Pierre. Pierre was London’s lead dance teacher in Rumba and in the 1930s his demonstration with his dance partner Doris Lavelle popularized Latin American dancing in London. Pierre and Lavelle introduced the “Cuban Rumba” which was eventually established as the official recognized version of the dance in 1955.
Rumba Dance Today
The ballroom style of Rumba dance is still highly popular throughout the world. It is most largely embraced as a competitive dance, and in competition-style dancing, Rumba is the slowest of the five Dancesport Latin dances. The World Dancesport Federation is the international governing body of dancesport and is recognized by the International Olympic Comimitte. It hosts national and international ballroom dance competitions featuring Rumba among other ballroom dances year round.
In competitive Rumba dancing there are two different styles: International and American. The Rumba is considered a “Latin” dance within the International dance structure and a “rhythm” dance within the American dance structure. The dances are performed differently in their emphasis and their basic steps are performed on different counts. American style rumba uses counts 1, 3, and 4 while International uses counts 2, 3, and 4. The hip motion varies greatly. In the American style, the dancer steps onto a bent leg and in the international style dancer steps onto a straight leg.
In addition to being danced competitively, rumba is also danced socially. In the United States Rumba is most commonly danced socially within ballroom dance studios. The Rumba is a favorite for dance instructors and new dancers alike for the forgiving slower pace of the dance’s steps and music. Rumba provides a great starting point for the foundational moves with social Latin dancing. Rumba is also a popular style for wedding couple’s first dance.
Today, the Rumba is danced to slow rhythms. The feet stay close to the floor with a sliding action and the hips move easily from side-to-side. While the dance has evolved over the years, the spirit and soul of the dance lie in Latin American music and dance. The beautiful rhythms and body expressions of the Rumba make it one of the most popular ballroom dances.
Rumba Dance Music
- “Your Body is a Wonderland” John Mayer
- “Mi Buen Amor” Gloria Estefan
- “I’m Like a Bird” Nelly Furtado
- “What’s Going On” Marvin Gaye
- “The Way You Look Tonight” Michael Bublé
- “No Me Llores” Conjunto Rumbavana
- “I’m Still Breathing” Katy Perry
- “My Best Friend” Tim McGraw
- “It Will Rain” Bruno Mars
- “The Girl from Ipanema” Bebel Gilberto
- “Lovesong” Adele
- “No Air” Jordin Sparks featuring Chris Brown
- “Savin’ Me” Nickleback
- “No One In the World” Anita Baker
- “Stickwitu” The Pussycat Dolls
- “It Must Have Been Love” Roxette
- “Take a Bow” Rihanna
- “It’s Too Late” Gloria Estefan
- “Too Little Too Late” JoJo
- “Blessed” Elton John
- “Tattoo” Jordin Sparks
- “Estar en Cuba” Mamborama
- “Corzon Aerodinamico” Estopa
- “Sway” Dean Martin
- “Surcos de Dolor” Los Chichos
- “Como Se Goza en el Bario” Johnny Almendra & Los Jovenes del Barrio
- “Entorno” Rumbantela
- “Flor D’Luna” Santana
- “I Wanna Go Home” Michael Buble
- “My Baby You” Marc Anthony
- “Do You Know” Enrique Iglesias
- “Say It Right” Nelly Furtado
- “Irreplaceable” Beyonce
- “My Love” Justin Timberlake feat. T.I.
- “Falling Into You” Celine Dion
- “It’s Now or Never” Elvis Presley
- “In The Misty Moonlight” Stevie Wonder
- “I’ll Take Care of You” Dixie Chicks
- “I Wanna Love You Forever” Jessica Simpson
- “Breathe” Faith Hill
- “Besame Mucho” Andrea Bocelli
- “And I Love Her” Paul McCartney
- “So Sick” Ne-Yo
- “Because You Loved Me” Celine Dion
- “Runaway Love” Ludacris feat. Mary J Blige
- “A Groovy Kind of Love” Dan Finnerty
- “Hate that I Love You” Rihanna feat. Ne-Yo
- “Bleeding Love” Leona Lewis
- “Break the Walls” John Secada
- “No One” Alicia Keys