The History of Dance in Cuba

By Matt Becht
The History of Dance in Cuba

Modern Cuban dance styles emerged when European settlers and African slaves came to Cuba in the 16th century. African and Europeans fused traditional dances to form a distinct and unified Cuban culture.

Habanera

Named after its 19th century birthplace in Havana, the slow and graceful habanera dance has roots in English contradanza performed in ballrooms. The opera "Carmen" has a number called "habanera."

Danzón

The danzón, introduced in the late 1870s, became the official dance of Cuba and contains off the beat and slow, but flirtatious, steps.

Rumba

An example of rumba dancing

Slightly faster than the danzón, the rumba emerged during the 1920s as a frantically paced dance for its time.

Son

Son began in the 1930s with rural Cubans who danced close together and off beat while accentuating hip movement. It later influenced mambo, cha-cha and salsa dancing.

Mambo

An example of mambo dancing

This up-tempo dance became popular during the 1940s among North American vacationers to Cuba. Mambo utilizes the same diamond pattern of foot movements as the rumba.

Cha-Cha

An offshoot from the mambo, the cha-cha of the 1950s uses off the beat steps in 4/4 time with exaggerated hip movement and foot shuffling.

About the Author

Matt Becht is a freelance filmmaker from Cleveland, Ohio. Becht’s college curriculum included courses in English composition, creative writing, and scriptwriting. He began writing professionally in 2009, and has been published in eHow, Trails.com, Travels.com and Golflink.com. Becht holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.