Latin American, often just referred to as Latin, are a group of dances chiefly originating from Southern and Central America. There are many more Latin dances than there are Modern Ballroom. For the purpose of international competition, the Latin dances consist of the Cha ChaJivePaso Doble, Rumba, and Samba. The social Latin dances, often referred to as “Street Latin”, include Salsa, Mambo, Merengue, Bachata, Bomba, Plena, and the Argentine Tango, to name a few.

Nearly all the Latin American styles developed from local folk dances, and many tell a story as the dance unfolds. Originating in Spain, the Paso Doble is the exception to the geographical rule of the Latin American dances, but is the best example of this story-telling principle. The modern Latin American dances are the result of many generations of cross-fertilisation between South American, European, and African cultures.

Because of their folk dance roots, all the Latin dances are full of a dynamism that gives the floor a party-like atmosphere and makes them fun to dance. It also gives rise to the sharing of some common themes and elements. Cha Cha and Rumba both have the Cuban split-bar timing of 2, 3, 4 & 1, for example. This trait can also be seen in Salsa, with the added element of alternate timings in styles such as L.A. Salsa.

The hold for the Latin dances is more relaxed than the Modern Ballroom dances and also moves between a “closed” and “open” variant. The loose and changing nature of the Latin hold puts the emphasis on the leader’s arms and hands to provide the communication to their follower. However, it is this very quality that produces the turns, extensions and style of Latin American dancing.