The 5 Latin American dances in DanceSport competitions include
the Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. These spicy hot
dances have diverse but unique origins, with steps and figures that
are standardized into internationally agreed techniques, rhythms,
The Cha Cha has its origins in the religious ritual
dances of West Africa and is related to the Mambo and Guajiro. Many
believe that the name is derived from the sound of the feet in the
chasse, which is included in many of the steps. It first gained
popularity during the 1950s and was made popular by the live bands
at the time including musicians like Tito Puente, Xavier Cugat,
and Prez Prado. Much of today's popular music includes the Cha Cha
rhythm, making the dance easily adaptable for the social dance club
The Samba originated from Brazil around the 19th
century when it was known as "Zemba Queca". It was first popularized
by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first film together,
"Flying Down to Rio" and then Carmen Miranda, particularly the film,
"That Night in Rio". During the 1950s, Princess Margaret played
a leading role in popularizing the dance in British society during
her flamboyant demonstrations of the dance at events.
The Rumba originated from Cuba, where African slaves
imported to the country introduced dances that emphasized movements
of the body rather than feet. The rural form of the Rumba in Cuba
was described as a pantomime of barnyard animals, and was an exhibition
rather than a participation dance. It was introduced into the USA
in the 1930s as a composite of this rural Rumba with the Guaracha,
the Cuban Bolero. The British dance teacher Pierre Lavelle visited
Havanna in 1947 and brought back to Britain many steps and rhythmic
interpretations. The dance continues to be an audience favorite.
The name "Paso Doble" in Spanish means "Two Step"
and refers to the marching nature of the steps. The dance first
became popular amongst the upper classes of Paris in the 1930s,
with its dramatic and theatrical poses. The Paso Doble portrays
a Bullfight with the man as the Torero and the woman, his cape.
The dance has an interesting history and has been
called many different names. It was first performed competitively
during the 1880s and known as the Cakewalk because the prize was
frequently a cake. During the 1920s, dances such as the Foxtrot,
Charleston, Black Bottom, and various other steps combined to form
the Lindy Hop, named after Charles Lindbergh who made the first
solo non-stop transatlantic flight that year, because of the amount
of time the dancers appeared to spend in the air. In the 1930s,
the dance at the Savoy in Harlem was described by Cab Calloway as
like the frenzy of jittering bugs, so it soon became known as the
Jitterbug. Now called the Jive, it is an energetic dance that is
particularly popular with youths and young adults.
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