The History of Dance in Cuba

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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.


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."


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



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 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.



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.



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.