For competitive dancing, the Latin dance styles are grouped into two main categories: American Rhythm and International Latin. The American Rhythm style consists of five dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero and Mambo. The International Latin style also consists of five dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, Jive, Paso Doble and Samba. When comparing the two styles, the most obvious difference is that each of them has some unique dances. However, all the dances in each style do differ from their counterparts, in subtle ways, mostly having to do with technique. You will find competitive events in each style. Socially, the following dances fall under the category of Latin and/or Rhythm:
Learning the Rumba is a prerequisite for good Latin dancing. The Cuban Motion is essential in most Latin dances. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive and precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing and muscular control.
The Cha-Cha adds fun to your dancing through its syncopated steps and many open movements. When you can dance many interesting combinations with ease, you and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating Latin rhythms which make this dance so fascinating. The energetic rhythm of the Cha-Cha encourages you to cut loose and let your personality show.
Swing/East Coast Swing
The Swing is a spot dance with a carefree relaxed style and is a dance easily mastered by most people. The various speeds are excellent training for quick footwork and good leading and following which will add comfort and ease in other rhythm dances. After mastering the patterns, both men and women will find Swing, a fun and exciting dance to learn and practice. Perhaps, the most uniquely American of all dances, the Swing brings forth a buoyant, carefree movement. It’s one of the dances that becomes contagious.
Merengue develops Cuban Motion and the ability togue is the simplest dance to learn. Its uncomplicated timing makes it easy to feel the music and adapt to any partner. It is the only Latin dance that combines one-step timing with Cuban Motion and therefore is a help to all Latin dances. The march type beat sharpens timing and coordination, and the proper use of the accent will develop a clearer interpretation of musical rhythm.
Jive is an international competitive Swing dance with elements of the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug. It is characterized by up-tempo, single-time music danced with triple steps done primarily on the toes, with very lively movement.
Hustle originated in the 1970s Disco Era and was popularized by John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Both the music and the dance swept the country like wildfire, and although the white suits and gold chains have faded away, the dance has stayed, giving us the fusion of Swing and Disco. Hustle is still one of the most popular nightclub dances across the country today.
Popular musical groups of today have revived interest in the musical styles from the original Lindy Hop Era and have fired the imagination and enthusiasm of a whole new generation of Lindy Hop dancers. However, the acrobatic style used for exhibitions is not the same as the quietly rhythmic Lindy enjoyed by most dancers on the ballroom floor.
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing is a stylized Swing dance, popular west of the Mississippi from Kansas to California. It is danced to slow or medium tempo Swing or Disco music and is characterized by slot movements, taps and shuffles, coaster steps, and push and pull action of the dancers.
Samba improves the flexibility of the body and helps achieve easy movement and lightness. The Samba rolling action teaches the body to be supple. To move lightly, quickly and smoothly without effort takes study, but only at the start. Although considered a good exercise, Samba should be danced smoothly and in a relaxed manner, giving the appearance of effortless movement. Sometimes called the South American Waltz, the Samba pulsates to a unique Latin rhythm.
Mambo is a fusion of Cuban and American dancing. The music is characterized by a stirring Afro-Cuban beat. Mambo is an exciting dance which allows you to develop your own feeling and expression. Because Mambo is such a fun dance, good Mambo dancers are always popular and in demand as partners. The wild exciting music and rhythmical body movements make the earthy Mambo irresistible.
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce” denoting a “spicy” and “hot” flavor to this popular dance style to a complex mix of many different rhythms. There are indications that the term ‘Salsa’ was coined by radio disc jockeys in Puerto Rico as early as the 1960s. Later associated with a New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians, Salsa is considered as the national music and dance of Puerto Rico. The fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz textures results in an aggressive high energy pulse which has become popular everywhere. Many of the patterns are closely related to those of the Mambo and Cha-Cha.
Jitterbug is also known as Single-Time Swing. It is usually done to faster Swing music and is a highly energetic and expressive dance. It could also be referred to as a toned down Lindy Hop. It is also a spot dance and highly useful on crowed dance floors.
Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba into 2/4 time and then eventually into 4/4 time. It is now present as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is a favorite of dancers, as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance.