Cha Cha is a Latin American dance of Cuban origin, derived from a version of Cuban Mambo called Chasse’ Mambo (chasse means “to chase”), reportedly getting its name from the sound of women’s shoes shuffling across the floor. In traditional American Rhythm style, Latin hip movement is achieved through the alternate bending and straightening action of the knees. Video example.
In my opinion the most romantic of all the dances, Rumba is a non-progressive dance distinguished by its romantic feel and sensual hip action. The word Rumba describes a family of percussive rhythms, song and dance that originated in Cuba as a combination of the musical traditions of Africans brought to Cuba as slaves and Spanish colonizers. Video example. Video example.
Samba is a lively, rhythmical party dance that originated on Brazilian plantations, and was introduced to the US in the late 20s via the Broadway musical “Street Carnival”. The dance borrows movements from Afro-Brazilian traditional dances such as those used in candomblé rituals and the chamadas of capoeira angola. Video example.
Mambo developed from the Cuban dance Danzon, and was greatly influenced by Cuban Haitians and American Jazz. Mambo is a fast and spicy dance characterized by strong Cuban Motion, staccato movement and expression of rhythm through the body. The dancer holds count on “1” and breaks on “2”. Video example.
Another romantic Latin dance, Bolero was originally a Spanish dance with Moroccan roots. Often called the “cuban dance of love”. Contemporary Bolero music is slow and dreamy, usually with Spanish vocals and soft percussion. This dance is quite different from the other American Rhythm dances in that it not only requires cuban motion but rises and falls such as found in waltz. Video example.
Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, where it originated in the early 1800s. There are legends about a limping war hero who had to step with a limp to one side while dancing because of wounds, and polite public imitated him. Video example.
Today’s salsa dancing is a rich blend of Latin-American and Western influences, namely from Puerto Rico, Colombia, and other dances such as Western and Ballroom dancing. Salsa traces a 90 year history in which there are a multiple evolutionary paths, sometimes split due to political and social influences. The basic step of all styles of salsa involves three weight changes (or steps) in each four-beat measure. As a salsa dancer changes weight the upper body remains level and nearly unaffected by the weight changes. Caught in the middle are the hips which end up moving quite a bit—the famous “Cuban hip movement.”