What is Rumba? An Overview of the Cuban Dance and Its Transformation

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Introduction to Rumba

The vibrant rhythms of dance can still be found in certain parts of Africa, although these dances have been influenced by contact with diverse cultures and races. One such dance is the Rural Rumba, which originates from rural areas. It whimsically portrays the movements of barnyard animals and is primarily performed as an exhibition rather than a dance for active participation.

In traditional Ballroom form, both the Cuban Son and the Cuban Bolero are moderate-tempo dances. The Guaracha, on the other hand, is known for its fast and cheerful tempo. During the Second World War, the Rumba underwent a transformation, evolving into a slower and more refined version for the Cuban middle class known as the “Son.”

The American Rumba, a modified version of the Cuban Son, arrived in the United States in 1913. It was not until ten years later, when band leader Emil Coleman imported Rumba musicians and dancers to New York, that genuine interest began to develop. The growing American tourism to Latin America in 1929 further contributed to the increased fascination with Latin music. In 1935, the movie “Rumba” featuring George Raft and Carole Lombard captivated audiences with its unique style and captivating musical rhythms, thereby solidifying the popularity of Rumba among Ballroom Dance enthusiasts.

The Cuban style Rumba, known as the International Style, is characterized by forward and backward steps. Conversely, the American style Rumba, classified as the American Style, is danced in a box pattern where the key element is the expressive hip motion known as “Cuban motion.” This discreet and expressive movement involves the bending and straightening of the legs, along with carefully timed weight changes. Today, the American Rumba stands as one of the most popular Ballroom dances.

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