The Cha-cha-cha is the name of a Latin American dance of Cuban origin. It evolved from one of the three versions of the Mambo. The “Triple Mambo”, one of those versions, became very popular in the early 1950’s and was subsequently renamed the Cha cha. As music always dictates the dance, the triple or split-beat steps were inserted when a slower version of mambo music was being played. In 1952, visitors from England took this dance back to Europe and it has evolved, quite separately from the American version, into the International Cha Cha of today.
The Cha Cha is a non-progressive, lively, fun dance, which uses a “ball flat” foot action and keep the body over the feet. The legs and hips are used to produce a strong rhythmical movement that compliments the music. This dance has closed position as well as single handhold and double handhold movements. Because of this dance’s easy adaptation to modern music, the Cha Cha is probably the most popular of the Latin dances.
Samba is a Brazilian dance and musical genre originating in Africa. It is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance in 2/4 time danced under the Samba music. It is a free spirited, festive dance that was formalized and introduced into Europe in 1956. Samba is a progressive dance, traveling around the floor in a counter-clockwise direction. A variety of rhythms are used, some with a slight “bounce” action and others with a flatter hip action or “tic”. “Bounce” is the most distinguished action in samba.
Rumba arose in Havana in the 1890s. As a sexually-charged Afro-Cuban dance, rumba was often suppressed and restricted because it was viewed as dangerous and lewd. Later, Prohibition in the United States caused a flourishing of the relatively-tolerated cabaret rumba, as American tourists flocked to see crude sainetes (short plays) which featured racial stereotypes and generally, though not always, rumba. In the ballroom world, rumba is the slowest of the five competitive dances and is considered to be the “Dance of Love”. It is about 120 beats per minute which corresponds, both in music and in dance to what the Cubans of an older generation called the bolero-son. All social dances in Venezuela involve a hip-sway over the standing leg and, though this is scarcely noticeable in fast salsa, it is more pronounced in the slow ballroom rumba. In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is danced generally without any rise and fall. This style is authentic, as is the use of free arms in various figures. The basic figures derive from dance moves observed in Havana in the pre-revolutionary period, and have developed their own life since then. Competition figures are often complex, and this is where competition dance separates from social dance. Details can be obtained from the syllabi of dance teaching organizations and from standard texts.
Paso Doble originated in southern France and began gaining popularity in the United States in the 1930s. Because the dance developed in France, the steps of the Spanish Paso Doble actually have French names. In Spanish, “Paso Doble” means “two step” and refers to the marching nature of the steps. The dance consists of several dramatic poses that are coordinated with highlights in the music. The body is held upright with the feet always directly underneath the body. In the Paso Doble, dancers take strong steps forward with the heels, and incorporate artistic hand movements. The forward steps, or walks, should be strong and proud. The man should also incorporate apel’, a move in which he strongly stamps his foot, much like a matador strikes the ground in order to capture the attention of the bull. All moves of the Paso Doble should be sharp and quick, with the chest and head held high to represent arrogance and dignity.
A true “American Dance”, the Jive started out in the southwest of the U.S.A. and ran through a variety of names such as “The Cake Walk”, “Turkey Trot”, “Bunny Hop”, “Lindy Hop”, and “Jitterbug”. Essentially, the Jive is a cocktail of all those dances as well as East and West Coast Swings. During World War II, the American forces brought this dance to Britain, together with the popular orchestras of the day such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. Sometime after war;s end, the faster version stayed in Europe and became known as the Jive. It is a stationary dance, full of swing, kicks and ball changes. This dance should be lively, energetic and full of fun. Weight should be kept towards the balls of the feet so as to ensure a slight “bounce” effect and accents should be shown on the 2 and 4 beats.
Slow Waltz – Waltz is the slowest of ballroom dances. Its a dance that is characterized by the pendulum swing body action. Other general elements of ballroom technique important for Waltz are foot parallelism, rise and fall, contra body movement and sway.
Viennese Waltz – Couples whirl around the floor; first one way, then another. Grand and majestic, this fast version of the waltz originated in Austria.
Tango – The Tango, a sensual, dramatic dance made famous by Rudolph Valentino, originated in Buenos Aires and was stylized by the Gauchos in Argentina before making it to the United States. The Tango is known for flexing steps and posed pauses. Widely considered to be the “dancer’s dance,” it has become even more popular due to its presence in films like “The Scent Of A Woman” and “Evita”.
Foxtrot – The Foxtrot is one of the most deceiving dances. It looks very easy, but is one of the most difficult dances to do. The dance originated in 1913 when a vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox performed a little trot which appealed to the social dance teachers in New York and thus the Foxtrot was born. It has gone through many changes since that time, and is now comprised of more soft and fluid linear movements.
Quickstep – As the name implies, the Quickstep is a very quick and lively dance, comprised of hops, skips and kicks. The dance began as a quick version of Foxtrot mixed with the Charleston, and musical Jazz influences.
AMERICAN RHYTHM/International Latin
Cha-Cha – This “let yourself go” dance derived its heritage from two dances – the American Swing and the Cuban Mambo. This is a fun, fast Latin dance that can be performed to both Latin and contemporary music.
American Style Rumba is characterized by the Latin motion (hip sway) arising from a knee being bent, as opposed to the straight leg style used in International. Additionally, the same move in terms of footwork often goes by a different name in American versus International. …
Mambo – A Cuban bandleader named Perez Prado is credited with starting the Mambo dance craze in the mid-1950s. Prado took the rhythm of the dances performed by the sugar-cane cutters and syncopated it. This dance may be described as a riff or a Rumba with a break or emphasis on 2 and 4 in 4/4 time. The Mambo can be danced according to the individual dancer’s temperament. Conservative dancers can maintain a closed position, while more daring dancers can perform breakaway steps and completely separate themselves from each other.
Merengue – The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance. There is an old tale about a very brave and famous military officer who was wounded in battle and developed a limp. A celebration dance was given for the great hero returning from the war. Rather than embarrass their hero, who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present favored their leg as well, & thus the Merengue was born.
The Swing – The Swing started in the 20s along with the explosion of jazz music. Many different forms of the Swing exist, such as the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Jive, and the Shag. But all of them include turns and intricate hand movements.
West Coast Swing – The sexiest of the Swing style dances, West Coast partners coax and flirt in and out of each other’s arms. Natural Man is a West Coast Swing.