What’s Latin dance?

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Latin dance includes social and ballroom styles. Traditional Latin dances include salsa, samba, merengue, and more, while ballroom Latin comprises five styles. Argentine tango is distinct from other Argentine forms. Salsa originated in the Caribbean and is a partner dance. Mambo originated in Cuba and has evolved in the US. Tango originated in Argentina and has many different styles.

Latin dance can refer to two distinct groups of dance, either social Latin dance or ballroom Latin dance. Social or traditional forms of Latin dance include things like samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, cumbia, rumba, cha-cha-cha, bolera, and many more. Formal ballroom Latin dance, on the other hand, comprises only five styles: cha-cha-cha, jive, paso doble, rumba and samba. It should be noted that neither jive nor cha-cha-cha are of Latin origin, and for this reason the dance style is sometimes referred to as Latin American dance or international Latin dance.

There are hundreds of traditional Latin folk dance styles in Latin America, and to list or describe them all would be a monumental undertaking. Some styles have become very popular, however, and are danced frequently in clubs throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in Latin America. One famous style, Argentine tango, is not notably a folk dance form, and so although it is usually included as a Latin dance form, it is distinct from other Argentine forms such as the gato, zamba, chacarera, and escondido.

Salsa is perhaps the best known Latin dance style. It originated in the Caribbean and as a result combines European and African styles in an innovative way. In general, salsa is a partner dance, but there are also solo styles and group styles. Salsa dancing probably originated in Cuba or Puerto Rico and made its way to North America through the Puerto Rican immigrant community in New York City. It is a relatively new form of Latin dance, which arose in the 1950s and grew out of the modern mambo style.

Contemporary salsa dance derives its steps from traditional Cuban son, but influence also comes from a number of other styles. The cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, popa, mozambique, abakua, changui, palo monte, and guaracha all play into the salsa. The basic form of salsa dancing is a three-step over four beats, with the fourth beat providing the opportunity for a kick, tap, or pause. One of the three main steps also takes a little longer than the other two, making it a pause step. A step cycle lasts six steps over eight beats, and any number of interesting moves can be spread over a step cycle.

Mambo is another Latin dance form, originating in Cuba, that has been popular since its inception in the late 1940s to fit the mambo music of the 1930s. The original mambo is very different from the break-on-two dance that characterizes modern mambo in the United States. Mambo was originally brought to the United States by Perez Prado, and in the 1970s the style changed to include a two-step break.

Tango is probably the most iconic form of Latin dance and there are many different forms of dance. It originated in Argentina, in Buenos Aires and Uruguay, around 1890. It quickly took over the dance scene in Argentina and in the early 20th century it took Europe by storm, with a tango craze that it spread from France to England and Germany, and finally to the United States. There are many different tango styles, danced to a number of different musical styles, including tango, vals and milonga.

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