As the name suggests, the Latin American Dances in ballroom dancing originate chiefly from South and Central America. While the term “ball” is most appropriate for the Modern dances, perhaps “dance party” is better for the Latin dances. With a heavy emphasis on the rhythm of the music, Latin dances are dynamic and fun. The International Latin Dances for competitive dancing consist of the Cha Cha Cha, the Jive, the Paso Doble, the Rumba, and the Samba.
The hold for the Latin dances is more relaxed than the Modern dances, with some space between the couples’ bodies. This lack of contact at the hips, however, puts the emphasis on the man’s arms and hands to provide the lead for his lady. While the Samba and the Paso Doble travel around the room, the Rumba, Cha Cha and Jive basically stay in the one spot, and rely on turns and extensions to create the feeling of movement.
Cha Cha Cha
The cheeky Cha Cha Cha is very similar in style and moves to the Rumba, but the addition of the “quick-quick-slow” steps over beats 4 and 1 gives this dance a playfulness that the serious Rumba lacks. Danced at a slightly faster tempo, and with the addition of these quick steps, the Cha Cha Cha is a vibrant, fun dance, popular with both social and competitive dancers alike. If you have a good grasp of the Rumba, the Cha Cha Cha is easily picked up.
As music got faster in the early 20th century, so did the dancing! In the 1920s, dances like the Charleston became fashionable to match the jazzy tones of the current music, and once the big bands of the 1930s got going, swing was in! The Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug and the Boogie-Woogie all paved the way for ballroom Jive. With its rock steps and away-and-back-again movement between the couple, this dance is a fun, fast ride!
“Paso Doble” means “two-step” in Spanish, and there is a Spanish flavour to the whole dance. Representing a bull-fight, the man is a matador and the woman his cape. The moves can be showy, but the basic steps follow a 1-2 1-2 marching rhythm that can be easily picked up and enjoyed on a social floor. Long-Steps does not currently teach the Paso Doble, but watch this space – we’re working on it.
Long-Steps does not currently offer instruction in Paso Doble.
Rumba is the slowest and most sensual of the Latin dances. Taking its cue from a Cuban folklore dance, it has developed into its own style for the ballroom scene but retains the emphasis on courtship and love between the couple on the floor. The timing can be tricky for beginners, as the main step is danced on beat 2, rather than beat 1, of the bar, but once this rhythm is picked up it flows naturally with the beat of the Latin music.
Party time! Originating from the music and dancing of African slaves in Brazil, and continuing to the present day in Rio at carnivals, the Samba is the dance of celebration and joy. It has been adapted for the ballroom floor, but with its flashy moves and characteristic “bounce” in the rhythm, it has lost none of its festive feel. Some of the steps can be difficult at first, but the key to this one is to relax and have fun!