The Origin & History of the Rumba Dance

Dance, like any art form, is often made richer and easier to appreciate when we know the history behind it.

Today, we’ll look at the rumba, also known as ballroom rumba or rhumba, one of the staples of dance competition, a form of ballroom dance that can trace its history back centuries and even today encompasses a variety of dances. 

The Origin of the Rumba

Like many forms of dance, it can be difficult to identify a single point of origin for the rumba; the dance seen today can trace its roots back as far as the dances of 16th-century enslaved Africans in Cuba and the Spanish and African influences, which created that early rumba, extend back even further.

We could also point to the Cuban dance the Son, a popular middle-class dance that was directly modified into what came to be known as the American style rumba, as the origin.

The term “rumba” was applied as a label for Latin music in the 1910s, but we don’t see the explosive popularity of rumba music and its related dances until the 1930s, with the record-breaking success of the album “El Manisero” by Don Azpiazu and the Havana Casino Orchestra. 

Over this same period of time, what’s now called American style rumba arose under band directors and dancers adapting the Son, with it exploding into popularity and familiarity with a wider audience than the earlier versions of the dance in 1935, with the release of the film

Rumba: How It’s Evolved Over the Years

By the time rumba dance was canonized in 1955, there were two distinct styles recognized: the American style adapted for an American audience from the bolero-son, a box step dance taught with a slow-quick-quick pattern, and international style, which is more similar to the cha-cha-cha with a quick-quick-slow pattern.

Dance teacher Monsieur Pierre developed the international pattern by comparing the American style to then-contemporary Cuban dance. 

Today, international-style rumba is one of the five Latin dances in social dance and international ballroom dancing competitions, alongside the pasodoble, samba, cha-cha-cha, and jive.

There are still notable differences between international ballroom rumba and social rumba seen in Cuba, such as hip sways, use of arms, and the speed of the music and dance. 

Learn How To Do The Rumba

By understanding the history of the rumba, you’re able to better appreciate it as a performance art — but there’s no better way to enjoy a performance than by learning to do it yourself!

Dancing is a wonderful hobby, an excellent form of exercise, an exciting competitive sport, a path to emotional well-being, and more — you just need to take the first step.

At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we’ll teach you to perform the rumba with grace and confidence, whether you’re starting from zero or working to take your performance to the next level. We look forward to helping you explore it in full.

Learn to dance the rumba at Fred Astaire Dance Studios today. Call our Carmel office at 317-846-323 to discuss your options and goals.