Dance the Rumba

Passionate Ballroom Dance At Its Finest

Couple dancers ardently perform the latin american dance on a large professional stage
Aksonov / Getty Images

If you've ever watched ballroom dancers or seen "Dancing With the Stars," you have probably seen the Rumba in action. This theatrical dance tells a story of love and passion between a strong, male lover and a coy, teasing woman. Full of sensual movements, the Rumba is considered by many to be the sexiest of the ballroom dances. "Rumba" is a term that refers to a variety of dances or a "dance party." It is one of the most popular ballroom dances and is seen around the world at nightclubs, parties, weddings and dance competitions.

Rumba Dance Characteristics

The Rumba is a very slow, serious, romantic dance that exudes flirtation between the partners -- good chemistry makes the movements even more impactful. The dance is fun to watch, as many of its basic dance figures of the dance have a teasing theme in which the lady flirts with and then rejects her male partner, often with apparent sexual aggression. The Rumba spotlights the lady's rhythmic body movements and hip actions resulting in intense -- almost steamy -- scenes of passion.

History of Rumba

The Rumba is often referred to as the "grandfather of the Latin dances." Originating in Cuba, it first came to the United States in the early 1920s. The Rumba is the slowest of the five competition Latin and American dances.  Before the mambo, salsa and pachanga became popular, Rumba was also known as the style of music commonly heard in Cuba. Different styles of the Rumba have emerged in North America, Spain, Africa, and other destinations.

Rumba Action

The distinctive hip movement, called Cuban Motion, is a very important element of the Rumba. These hip movements and characteristic sways of the Rumba are generated by the bending and straightening of the knees. The intensity of the Rumba is increased by sharp eye contact that is maintained between the man and the woman.

The stillness of the upper body, while adding dramatic intensity, also emphasizes the strong, sensuous leg and foot movements.

The basic rhythm of the Rumba is quick-quick-slow with distinctive side-to-side hip movements. Hip movements are exaggerated, but are not generated by the hips -- they are simply a result of good foot, ankle, knee and leg action. When these weight transfers are well-controlled, the hips take care of themselves. Distinctive Rumba steps include the following:

  • Fan
  • Hockey Stick
  • Alemana Turn
  • Aida
  • Open Hip Twist
  • La Elenita
  • Fencing Line
  • Hip Rolls
  • El Paseo

Rumba Music and Rhythm

Rumba music is written with four beats to each measure, in 4/4 time. One full step is completed in two measures of music. The music tempo is usually about 104 to 108 beats per minute. Rumba rhythms, while once influenced by African-style music, have found their way into the country, blues, rock, and other popular music genres. The music is sometimes enhanced by homemade instruments from the kitchen such as pots, pans, and spoons for an authentic sound.