No dance expresses sensuality, passion and flirtation better than Rumba. This 400-year-old Latin dance is one of the most popular ballroom dances around the world. Not surprisingly, it’s a common fixture in many dance studio classes — including ours.

The Rumba Defined

Rumba originally meant “party”. It took a life of its own and separated into two distinct camps: music and dance. Rumba, aside from confusing us with its spelling (Rumba and Rhumba are both accepted) can also mean a group of dances performed in the Afro-Cuban music genre like Columbia, Yambu, and Guaguanco. 

This kind of Rumba isn’t the topic of our discussion here. What we’re referring to is the other kind of Rumba: Ballroom Rumba. Its origin can be traced to the Cuban rhythm and dance called the Son. It emphasized sensuality and flirtation in its movements instead of overt sexual gestures.

Today, Ballroom Rumba has evolved into two distinct trends:

American Style 

The American style made its way to the U.S in the early 1900s and became a public phenomenon when the song “Peanut Vendor” became a hit in the country. Ballroom Rumba became so famous that the 1930s film “Rumba” solidified its hold in American culture and the arts. No one can deny its influence in American films even today. Who wouldn’t forget Patrick Swayze in the iconic film, Dirty Dancing? Look closely in one of its scenes and you’ll find him dancing Rumba to a naïve, bored, and young teenage girl portrayed by Jennifer Grey.

International Style

The International Style’s emphasis is on technique and precision, so it’s more challenging for beginners to master. Its music and dance is similar to what the older generation of Cubans called the Bolero-Son. This style of Rumba is considered the slowest among the other remaining competitive Latin dances in the world namely: Cha-Cha-Cha, Paso Doble, Salsa, Samba. However, don’t be fooled. Rumba can help develop your rhythm and timing in the other four Latin dances, so it’s a good idea to learn it first before transitioning to the other competitive dances.

When beginners ask us to teach Rumba, we often suggest that they first learn the American style before transitioning to International style. Whatever the case, we like to begin our lessons by focusing on the three most important elements of teaching ballroom dance:

1. Footwork

2. Timing, Rhythm and Refinement

3. Variation

Footwork Of The Rumba

Learning American Rumba is not difficult; it only requires patience and lots of practice to master. Here are its basic steps:

1. Start by keeping both feet together, facing your partner.

2. Step forward with your left foot.

3. Slide your right foot to the right in the opposite direction from your left foot. The distance should be shoulder-width in length.

4. Slide your left foot to join your right foot side by side.

5. Step your right foot back.

6. Slide your left foot back, opposite from your right foot. The distance should be shoulder-width in length.

7. Step your right foot to join with your left foot.

Timing, Rhythm & Refinement of Rumba

American Rumba is taught in a box step, with a slow-quick-quick pattern danced on the 1, 3, and 4 beats of a 4-beat measure.

Understanding timing and rhythm are actually much easier than refining the movement through correct form. We always tell beginners (and even advanced Rumba dancers) to keep these tips in mind:

  • The hips do the work in Rumba. One of the most difficult things you’ll master is the Cuban Motion, a technique that rolls the hips while dancing. It’s difficult to describe, much less perform, so it requires a highly-trained Rumba instructor to teach the technique correctly.
  • Always maintain eye contact with your partner.
  • The “leading” dance partner (often males) should remain confident throughout the entire dance.
  • The “following” dance partner (often females) must adjust to the “leading” partner’s movements even when he makes a mistake. This makes it easier for the “leading” partner to make the necessary corrections in the performance.

Learn the Rumba at Arthur Murray Dance Studios

Rumba is fun to dance, especially if you’re already proficient with its steps and movement. We like to spice things up by varying the songs and adding more detail to the dance so you won’t get bored. Once you’ve reached the advanced level, you can enter dance competitions to improve your skills — or to simply have fun. It’s your choice.

Anyone can learn Rumba. Age is not a factor, what’s more important is your level of commitment and determination to master the dance. The benefits of Rumba and other ballroom dances extend not just to the dance floor but to other areas of life as well. Many of our students have reported improved mental function (and clarity), improved balance and body awareness, weight loss, reduced stress, increased self-confidence, improved social skills, and stronger relationships after they started their ballroom dance lessons.

Arthur Murray Dance Studios are equipped with highly-trained dance instructors that teach Rumba in a fun and enriching environment. Call us and schedule a group or private Rumba lesson for you and your friends. Remember: Dancing waits for no one; the best time to dance is NOW.


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