Dancing - moving the body in time to music
Classes in Ballroom & Latin American style dancing tuition, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire


Latin American
Ballroom Dance

Latin American Ballroom Dance styles include the cha-cha-cha, rumba, salsa, samba, meringue, bachata, paso doble, argentine tango and many more. The music for these dances originated in Cuba, Brazil and Mexico. The styles are earthy and sensuous, as well as energetic. They are couple dances , well-known for their sensual hip action, vivid storytelling and artistic flair.

There have been several movies about Latin American dancing from the famous or was it infamous Dirty Dancing to Shall We Dance and Dance With Me – for the latter the dancing was definitely the best part of the movie!

Most Latin American Dances are fairly easy to learn since the steps are fairly basic and once learnt cross many of the dance styles, though with different rhythms of course. These dances though often fast moving are also equated to a mediation, each dancer needing to listen intently to the non-verbal indications of the invitation and acceptance of a dance move. Can be stunning to dance and to watch!

Vibrant, happy, and often cheeky; the cha-cha-cha is light and bubbly in style making it a real fun dance recognised across the world. It can be danced to traditional Cuban music as well as many modern pop songs making it a popular dance for any level of dancer. It originated in Cuba in the 1940s and was a variant of the Mambo and Rumba. The name of the dance is derived from the noise of that dancers’ feet on the floor – the timing is 4/4 but the fourth beat is split into two so that you get five steps in four beats giving the 234&1 One, two cha-cha-cha action. Strictly speaking the dance should commence on the 2nd beat of the bar, though often in social dancing it will begin on the first beat.

The dance is made up of small, quick steps with rock motions; the hip action being achieved by the straightening and bending of opposite legs.

Often referred to as the Grandfather of Latin Dances, the rumba is romantic and sensual. It also originates from the 1920s Cuban styles and can be danced to many modern pieces of 4/4 music. It is very popular for first dance wedding choreography and is the slowest of the Latin style dances, telling a romantic story between the couple.

The basic rumba rhythm is slow, quick, quick with distinctive hip movements generated by the straightening and bending of the legs but controlled by smooth weight transfers to the feet through good technique. Eye contact between the dancers is essential for this dance, as is the stillness of the upper body.

Rumba figures include: Fan, Alemana, Hockeystick, Aidia, Hand to Hand, Shoulder to Shoulder and New York steps.

This dance was developed in the 19th Century and was considered the dance of joy at Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janiero. Ballroom Samba uses many of the Latin American dance styles but delivers its own unique image on the dance floor. It’s very lively and uses rapid steps taken on quarter beats or a rocking and swaying motion.

The look of the Samba dance is achieved through the Samba Bounce Action which is a gentle, rhythmic action felt through the knees and ankles of the dancers. It is quite difficult to master so that it looks natural, but is certainly worth the effort.

The basic rhythm is quick, quick, slow and includes fast three step weight changes with a slight knee lift. The basic figures for Samba are: Botafogos, Samba Walks, Voltas and Promenade Walks.

Originating in the 1940s in the Americas, Jive was influenced by Rock n Roll, Lindy Hop and Swing. The fastest of the Latin dances, it’s very energetic with lots of flicks and kicks. The ladies seem to get most of the moving steps whilst the gents can more or less stay where they are and still look good; however, although it may appear that the steps are not that complicated, and they’re not, the key is good leading and following. The arm and upper body work needs to be carefully controlled in order to give a good presentation of the dance. Perhaps one of the most important things for beginners is to learn to hear the drum beat in the music, it’s the drum that gives you the rhythm – well usually.

The basic Jive is made up of a 6 beat pattern with rocks and chasses. Some of the typical Jive figures are the Change of Place Left to Right, Fall Away Throwaway, Jive Walks, Whip, Chicken Walks, Stop n Go.
Paso Doble

A theatrical, dramatic dance based on the story of the Matador (the gent) and his cape (the lady) telling the story of a bullfight. The dance is based on Flamenco style and is both passionate and arrogant in delivery – this is serious, no smiles here but lots of intensity. The Paso Doble isn’t often danced socially, perhaps because of its intensity it is often felt more suited for the competition circuits, however it can still be fun to learn.
It’s a strong and powerful, progressive dance made up of strong forward walks with lots of expressive hand and arm movements. The apel, where the man strongly strikes his foot to the floor, is another classical piece of Paso Doble. It is a marching dance in 1-2 step style with several highlights or dramatic poses co-ordinated to the music. It’s a brisk dance usually played at around 60 beats per minute and perhaps the most famous piece of music you will hear for this dance is the Spanish Gypsy Dance – almost universally used and recognised.

Typical figures include: Sur Place, Separation, Attack, Huit and Grand Circle.

This is usually a club syle dance which can be totally improvised acording to the leader's wishes, although dancefloor etiquette dictates that the leader will also not lead anything which his follower would fine too difficult and will be sensitive to the follower's abilities.  The aim is to enjoy the dance and not make it a traumatic experience!

There are other variations of Salsa which can be danced in line or in a circle where the partners exchange during the dance.  There are two distinct styles of Salsa, the Cali, from Columbia, and the Cuban from Puerto Rico.  In all its variants, Salsa is now a popular social club dance and can be danced to many modern pieces of music with a 4 beat measure.

The most common basic steps in Salsa involved three weight changes, or steps, in each four-beat measure of music.  Each section has a total of 8 beats and the beat on which one does not step may contain a kick or flick, or weight can be held over till the next step is actually taken.  So after 6 weight changes in 8 beats the sequence is completed.

The basic steps are fairly simple to learn, however the lead and follow can be a tricker;  the lead dancer needs to be able to indicate to the follower what the next move is to be through the placement of arms or hands.  It is very much a case of offering an invitation which the follower will, hopefully, accept.
One of the advantages of Salsa is that it does not need to travel over the floor and can be danced in a small space, it does however range in tempo from 140 to 240 beats per minute so it can be quite fast moving.  However, as there are no set routines it is always very much a case of the leader interpreting the music and of communicating it clearly to the follower. Simple, done well often looks the best.

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