Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rumba - the most useful dance to learn. Some history

Continuing my series of blogs about current social dances, their origins, etc....

The rumba is my default social dance, a box step in 4/4 time, that while primarily a slow Latin dance, can be done to many different styles and tempos of music. It will be the dance you use more than any other when you go dancing.

 Some background and a brief rumba history!

Rumba's two primary sources are Spanish and African, and it developed primarily in Cuba.
The "rumba influence" came in the 16th century with African slaves. The native Rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced fast with exaggerated hip movements, the man's sensually aggressive attitude countered by a defensive one on the part of the woman.

As recently as the second world war, the "Son," a modified, slower and more refined version of the native Rumba. Very small steps are taken, with the women producing a very subtle tilting of the hips, alternately bending and straightening the knees.

The American Rumba is a modified version of the "Son", and while the first serious attempt to introduce the Rumba to the United States was by Lew Quinn and Joan Sawyer in 1913, real interest in Latin music didn't begin until the late 1920's when Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra that specialized in Latin American music.

In 1935, George Raft played the part of a suave dancer in the movie "Rumba", a light weight musical where the hero finally wins the heiress (Carol Lombard) through a mutual love of dancing.

In Europe, the introduction of Latin American dancing (Rumba in particular) owed much to the enthusiasm and interpretive ability of Monsieur Pierre (London's leading teacher in this dance form). In the 1930's he and his partner, Doris Lavelle, demonstrated and popularized Latin American dancing. Pierre and Lavelle introduced the true "Cuban Rumba" which was eventually established, after much contention, as the official version in 1955.

Rumba is the heart and soul of Latin American dance and music, and it's fascinating rhythms and bodily expressions make the Rumba one of the most popular ballroom dances.

Peter Jones
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