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Jenny and Toby


American Style Rhythm

Ballroom Rumba is a sensual dance done to romantic music. But it didn't start out that way. The Rumba comes from Cuba, where it is a folkloric dance performed to fiery orchestra of percussion. One form of Cuban Rumba is something of a mating dance where the man plays the part of a rooster and the woman, the coquettish hen. It's fast and furious, not at all like the Rumba performed in ballrooms.

Ballroom Rumba actually comes from a Cuban form called "son" ("sound"), a slower, less eroticized music and dance form. Though sources are incomplete about the dance's development, we know that one of the first big son hit in the U.S., "The Peanut Vendor," sparked a craze in the 1930's for what Americans called "Rumba" music. We also know that the Rumba first began to be standardized as a ballroom dance in the mid 1940's.

The Rumba's distinguishing features are a romantic feel and a languorous beat. Perhaps most important to the character of the dance is its "Cuban Motion"; a rolling action of the hips that gives it its sensual look. The look is achieved by smoothly flexing and straightening the knee. The music is in 4/4 time, with a sensual feel, and the tempo is 28-31 bars per minute.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.