Learn all about the Rumba!

What is the Rumba (also occasionally spelled as “Rhumba”)?

The rumba is a slow, sexy type of ballroom dance that originated in the African slave communities in sixteenth-century Cuba. Although its original incarnation was faster and more aggressive, it remains a sizzling, passionate dance that has influenced many popular Latin American dance moves, including the cha-cha.

History of the Rumba

Although mistakenly assumed to refer to a specific type of dance, the rumba is actually a term to collectively describe a variety of dances of Afro-Cuban origin. The earliest roots of the rumba extend back to the 16th century when slaves brought into Cuba from Africa introduced the sexually aggressive moves to the local culture. The original rumba forms scandalized much of conservative, middle-class Cuba, and eventually the more refined, slower version also known as the Son evolved.

The Son made its way to the United States in the early 1900s and soon became known as the American Rumba. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that the rumba became popular in the mainstream when the rumba-influenced song “The Peanut Vendor” became a radio hit and launched the dance into the national consciousness. The 1935 film “Rumba,” starring George Raft and Carole Lombard, etched the dance permanently into American pop culture.

Great Rumba Dance Songs

“Bella Maria de Mi Alma”, Mambo Kings soundtrack
“Wonderful Tonight,” Eric Clapton
“Falling into You,” Celine Dion
“Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green
“When You Say Nothing At All,” Alison Krause

Rumba in the Movies

“Flying Down to Rio” (1933)
“Rumba” (1935)
“Dance with Me” (1998)
“Shall We Dance” (Original Japanese film, 1996; U.S. remake, 2004)
“Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School” (2005)
“Rumba” (2008)

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