Origin and history
The term “Latin dances” includes all of the dances from Latin America with a few exceptions. This term can be referred to:
- Ballroom dance
- Folk dance
Latin dance has three influences in its form:
- Native American
Latin dance dates back to the 15th century when European people began to conquer American territory. The mixture of European and indigenous dance moves created the beginnings of Latin dances.
- Natives have a tradition to describe their daily activities in the forms of dance moves including hunting, astronomy, and agriculture.
- Europeans utilized the tradition of natives to create their own dance styles. Europeans were impressed by a large number of people dancing together in a precise manner at a precise time.
- African influences were even stronger and deeper. In the 16th century when the African slaves came to Europe, they brought something new with themselves. People from Africa were very innovative, they put an accent on the upper part of the body (the torso) and lower parts (the feet). Using the mixture of different body parts, they performed very difficult actions (fast rotation, variation in dynamics, ripples of the body). African dance moves have the sense of releasing and relieving the body to feel absolute freedom. So they brought uniqueness, beauty, and sensuality to Latin dances.
Types of Latin Dances
There are so many dance styles from different parts of the world that were integrated into Latin dance. The result is that today we have multiple Latin dances.
And now we’re going to go through every single dance to help you make a decision and start practicing one.
Mambo comes from Cuba. Its typical dance moves are three-beat step to move forward and then backward while the dancers shift weight from one foot to the other. Of course, one partner dances backward while the other move forward.
However, there is one more move and it may just be the most interesting one-the hip-swaying action.
2. Cha Cha Cha
Originated in Cuba, Cha cha cha is almost identical with Mambo in style. The name of the style represents the sound that dancers hear while they’re dancing. Just like with Mambo, shifting weight between feet is very characteristic for this dance, but the dancers do it quickly and the three-beat step looks more rapid.
Rumba also has its roots in Cuba. The Rumba has three steps too:
- Two quick steps
- Third slower step
Though Rumba has quick steps, the ballroom rumba has slower moves, very romantic and sentimental step. The focus is on hip movements.
This type of Latin dance has roots in the Dominican Republic, which is named after Bachata guitar music. This dance has a four-beat pattern.
- Three steps by the side
The dancers move side to side. This dance includes pronounced hip movements which are the essence of Bachata. Overall, this dance is quite experimental and very creative.
It’s more about moving the body in harmony, with rhythm, and with a style. It offers the freedom for the dancers to create their own style.
The origins of the Merengue music and dance is the Dominican Republic. Generally, this dance is considered easy to learn, so if you’re a newbie interested in Latin dances, you won’t have troubles learning this dance. The basic step is:
- Go to the front
- Go to the back
- Go to the right
A couple who dances steps into the inside edge of the foot. They together transfer the weight from one foot to another by rolling the foot.
6. Paso Doble
This dance originates from Spain. The meaning of the Spanish word for it is “double step”. It is all about the dance between two persons. However, it’s a very complex dance and you’ll need a lot of energy to learn how to dance it.
The dance is described as the conquest between matador and his bull. It is a very tense dance and you have to play it with a lot of passion. The dance itself is very dramatic and theatrical. Many moves are borrowed by the Flamenco. Paso Doble requires a very energetic performance.
The Salsa dance from the Caribbean and as you already know, it’s a couple’s dance. Salsa consists of four-beat steps:
- Two quick steps
- A slow step with a pause
While these are the two basic steps, dance partners usually add something new to this dance (ex. turns).
Samba dance and music has roots in Brazil and it can be both for couples and individuals alike.
The passionate Samba dance represents the mixture of different dance styles. The speed of the dance depends on the music. As you probably already know, Samba has a major role in Carnival events.
The seductive Tango dance appeared in the 20th century in Buenos Aires. Tango came a long way from its very controversial beginnings (due to its ”indecent” positions) to being considered the most beautiful dance in the world.
Here’s a lesser known fact: Through the history of development, the Tango represented grief, passion, nationalistic pride, pessimism… it’s based on:
- Sensual moves
- Flexed knees
- A highly focused connection between partners
This dance first appeared in the U.S. and it was very popular among African Americans. It’s about the ballroom dance, it’s very fast-paced followed by some very complex moves.