2012-11-19 23.13.33

History of Rumba Dance


History of Rumba Dance

The history of Latin Rumba Dance that we see today in professional dance competitions has come a long way from its original roots, not only geographically but also culturally.

The name Rumba used generically covers a variety of dance styles (i.e., Bolero, Son, Guaracha, Danzon, Guagira, Naningo). Contributing to the Rumba dance are two groups: one Spanish and the other African. Even though the main growth is considered in Cuba, there were similar dance developments that took place in other countries in the early days of slavery.

Of course, the white slave owners were very fascinated by all this expressive emotion and they gradually managed to produce some more ‘toned down’ versions that were barely socially acceptable.  This brings us to the present where we find that it has been tempered down and polished to a much more elegant, refined and seemingly civilized tone that is popular and accepted as appropriate for high society anywhere.

Geographically….. the Rumba drum beats originally came from Africa.

Here are a few points about the history of Rumba dance technique that you might find interesting:

Unique Characteristic Of Rumba Dance

One thing unique about the history of Rumba dance in comparison to other dances is that it is not a ‘progressive’ dance.  The dancers don’t travel across the floor nearly as much as in other dances.  Rather, they stay pretty much in the same area of the floor. This is also known as a “spot dance”.

Another unique characteristic of Rumba dance is that the hands are a lot more important in visibly expressing the connection between the dancer and the music.  Rumba instructors spend considerable time training their student how to move their arms and hands properly.  And it tends to hold significant weight in grading by competition judges.

Another unique technique of the Rumba dance is that the feet do not come as high off the ground as they do in other dances.  The feet actually seem to be sliding through creating a slow drawn movement.  This is one of the aspects that give Rumba the graceful look rather than the ‘jump and jive’ or “staccato” look that some other dances have.

Latin hip motion and posture is very important in the Rumba dance.  Competitive judges grade posture, hip motion, expressiveness of hands, head movement, visual communication and connection between partners, and interpretation of the music.  These factors make the Rumba dance one of the more dramatic of the Latin dances.  The only dance that compares in some ways would be Argentine Tango.

Rumba Dance A Medium To Slow Tempo

Rumba music tends to be medium to slow tempo.  Although its roots are from Africa, the dance owes most of its vitality today to its Cuban influence.  It was in Cuba that Rumba was really perfected and popularized as a dance style.

Rumba never did ‘hit it big’ with the listening or dancing general public but it didn’t go away either.  There were and still are a very few singers known for their interpretations of Rumba song and dance.  One such singer is Celeste Mendoza.  You can see a few of her videos on YouTube.

To me, because I’m a dance instructor myself, the thing that I find most curious about the Rumba is how its history is ‘all over the place’.  You’ve got Cuban Rumba dance, the Guaguanco (a sub-style of Rumba), you’ve got Ballroom Rumba dance, the Bolero and the Son, and you’ve got international Rumba dance styles.  Any way you slice it though…..Rumba is a nice dance that’s fun to watch but would I spend time learning how to do it?  Absolutely!  In fact like Bachata, Rumba is an excellent dance to learn Latin Motion and moves to since it is slow enough and thus easier to grasp than Salsa.

Part of the problem that Rumba has had, I believe, is similar to the situation with Salsa I mentioned in one of my other articles.  Before Izzy Sanabria, Salsa didn’t have a clear image in the mind of the public.  It could use somebody who could put a brand on it….i.e…do something to make it more ‘obvious’ in the mind of the public….it would probably be then more popular. I think Rumba Dance is in the same situation.


Certified professional dance instructor/choreographer living in Newport News, VA Commutes to Richmond for over 15 years to teach. I enjoy helping people discover the power of dance in their lives. Regardless of your ability remember this, "anyone can learn to dance," and here's why you should say "Never": It can transform your life in ways you never thought possible. Introduce you to people you'd never meet and shape your confidence like never before.

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