As the slowest of the Latin dances, The Rumba is great for beginners to learn because once you have mastered the signature hip roll and the Cuban Motion of the relaxed, romantic Rumba grooves, you can easily move on to some of the speedier Latin dance styles.
International ballroom Rumba is quite different from its 16th century roots, where it started as the sexually aggressive frenetic dance of the black African slaves. The modern Rumba has evolved from the ‘Son’, which was a slower, more refined, version of the original and acceptable to older, conservative Cubans. Although attempts had been made to introduce the modified Rumba to America in the early 20th century, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it really took hold, simultaneously finding favour in Europe, where it was introduced by Monsieur Pierre and Doris Lavelle.
Being the slowest of the Latin dances, the Rumba’s gentle pace makes it easy for beginner dancers to master. The dancers part and then come together in a close embrace and rhythmically move their bodies in sync, which also makes it an ideal choice for a first dance at a wedding. With the focus on intimacy, the steps are compact and well suited to small dance floors. As well as precise footwork, the Rumba is based on the flirtatious Cuban Motion hip action, achieved by bending and straightening the knees rather than swivelling the hips. Although the steps have a quick-quick-slow movement on beats 2, 3 and 4, the dance is fluid without any static moments. It’s an expressive dance where flowing arms and longing gazes can help to fill in the breaks when the feet aren’t moving.
You can dance the Rumba to any slow song, typically with a laid-back 4/4 beat, but it works particularly well with ballads where the vocals can tell a love story to match the moves. Any song, new or old, can be used for a Rumba, which helps make it accessible to a wide range of people of any age and suitable for many occasions throughout their lives.
Rumba on screen
The Rumba was first introduced onto the silver screen with the eponymous 1935 film starring Carole Lombard and George Raft. Raft played a suave dancer in this superficial musical where the couple come together through the mutual love of dancing. Since then, Rumba has frequently appeared in films, including being featured heavily in both Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom, two of the best dance movies of all time. More recently, Rumba (2008) is a Belgian black comedy where two celebrated Latin dancers are thrown a curve ball in life with a nasty car accident. Full of visual gags and little dialogue, the film depicts the ups and downs of a marriage.
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