Rumba: The Cuban dance of romance

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By Byron Barksdale

Cuba has long been associated with creative, exciting, lively dances that reveal the African and Spanish historical influences of Cuba. While anyone can “dance Cuban” in Miami or Los Angeles clubs, there is nothing more exhilarating than dancing Cuban dances to the beat of the professionals playing guiros and the maracas under the stars at the world-famous Tropicana in Habana. The Tropicana show is a Cuban-style Cirque de Soleil-type performance. After the show and a short break, the entire Tropicana stage opens up for the guests to dance into the early hours of the morning.

If you are familiar with the popular USA show, “Dancing with Stars,” you may have seen performances of highly choreographed versions of Cuban rumba, mambo, cha-cha or merengue. In Cuban nightclubs and cabarets, dances are simple, sultry and founded upon the famous “Cuban motion” of the knees, not the hips. There is no twisting of the hips in true Cuban motion, rather the alternate bending and straightening of the knees, causes the same side (ipsilateral) hip to drop or rise along with properly timed shifting of the body weight from side to side. The ball of the foot contacts the floor first, then the flat of the foot follows to the floor. Feet are not shuffled. An often-used analogy to “Cuban motion” is how one usually steps along a sandy beach … the beach walker is “digging into the sand” with the inside of the ball of the feet before the flat of the feet contact the sand.

The rumba is a slow, romantic dance threaded with a “flirtatious tease-and-run” theme between the female and male dancing partners. A Nebraska barnyard analogy of the rumba is the flirtations between a “hen and rooster”… roosters being very much a part of the culture and artwork of Cuba. Rumba, like most Cuban dances, is basically about putting feminine vivacity and sexuality into the limelight with the male partner simply doing his part to “show off his girl.” Rumba is danced in 4:4 time with four beats to each measure. The music tempo is 104 beats per minute. The basic rhythm is “quick, quick, slow” at the beginning of the “second” beat or 2 3 4 (1), 2 3 4 (1), with steps two and three both being “quick” and step four is held through the first (1) beat as “slow,” then repeat the rhythm with the rumba dance routine of your choice.

Rumba lessons can be taken in Lincoln and Omaha, Neb. There are numerous books, VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs that can be borrowed or purchased that “walk you through” exciting Cuban dances, including the Rumba: The Cuban dance of romance!

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