Though Cuba is considered the birthplace of the Rumba, there were similar dance developments which took place in other Caribbean islands and in Latin America generally.  The word “rumba” is a broad term used to apply to multiple music and dance forms.  Rumba is a blend of African slave rhythms and Spanish colonial culture and music.

With the colonization of the New World and a mixture of cultures coming together, a blend of rhythms and music began to occur.  In Cuba, the Spanish dances, music, and culture converged with the African slave rhythms to create new styles and rhythms.  Rumba was one of the dances to emerge in the 1800s from this convergence.

The native Rumba folk dance is essentially a sexual pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements and with a sensually aggressive attitude on the part of the man and a defensive attitude on the part of the woman.  The music is played with a staccato beat and the accompanying instruments include the maracas, the claves, marimbola, and the drums.

The Son, was the popular dance of middle class Cuba.  It is a modified, slower, and more refined version of the native Rumba.  Still slower is the Danzon, the dance of wealthy Cuban society.  Very small steps are taken, with the women producing a very subtle tilting of the hips by alternately bending and straightening the knees.

The American Rumba is a modified version of the Son.  The Rumba was first introduced to the U.S. in 1913; but it wasn’t until the late 1920s when Latin American music became popular in the States that interest in Rumba finally grew and continued in the 1930s and 1940s.


  • Sometimes called the “dance of love”, Rumba is distinguished by its romantic feel.
  • It is a nonprogressive dance (remaining in one part of the floor) and does not proceed around the room in line-of-dance.
  • Perhaps its most important characteristic is the continuous, flowing Cuban Motion, which gives Rumba its sensual look.
  • The footwork is generally “Ball Flat” throughout the dance. Ball Flat is a term indicating that the ball of the foot is the first part of the foot to come in contact with the floor and will receive the pressure from the weight change before the rest of the foot. The weight is then transferred to the Flat of the foot as the weight change is completed.
  • Rumba is one of 4 dances whose basic step is based on the “box”. (The other 3 are: Waltz, Foxtrot, and Samba.)