What is the Rumba?
The romantic rumba is characterized by swaying, sensual movements, and has a decidedly complicated background, owing its very existence to partnerships between unlikely influences.
Origins of the Rumba
The dance originated in 16th-century Cuba, where it began evolving out of the dancing traditions and styles of African slaves. It was also built around the tradition of the “Cuban Box”, more commonly known as the rumba box, which dictates the six-step sequence that makes up its footwork.
The Cuban rumba, with its combination of Spanish and African roots, spent the next few centuries traveling throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, ultimately becoming a very common form of romantic and artistic expression. But it wasn’t until the roaring twenties that the rumba arrived in the United States. Band leaders introduced rumba moves to their bilingual audiences, and it spread to Europe too, taking London’s dance halls and living rooms by storm in the 1930’s.
Today, the rumba is a common category at ballroom dance competitions, where it’s one of five internationally recognized Latin dances. But it never shed its origins as a social dance, and multiple generations still sway through rumba patterns for fun, tracing a six-step box in gymnasiums, backyards, clubs, and beaches throughout the world.
Music of the Rumba
Slow melodies and powerful vocals are trademarks in the typical rumba dancer’s soundtrack. Dancers abide by 4/4 timing, so rumba music needs to have four even beats, placing the accent on the bar’s first beat. The music should complement the sensual nature of the footwork, while making it easier for partners to stay on the same rhythm and find a pace that works for them.
Characteristics of the Rumba
“Cuban motion” is one nickname for the rhythmic swaying characteristic of the Rumba. By design, each fluid, sensual movement highlights the interactions between dancing partners and conveys a sense of flirtation. All in all, the human body’s own rhythms, curves, and expressions are on full display during a rumba performance, making the rumba an intimate dance that celebrates life and freedom alongside love and desire.