Learning the Rumba is a prerequisite for good Rhythm or Latin dancing. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will help develop latin body motion and sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control.

Teaching Elements:

  • Rumba Breaks–Smooth controlled rocks in all directions
  • Rumba Turns–Develop momentum control, weight off heels
  • Footwork–Teach smooth staccato interpretation
  • Control–Concentrate on acute & accurate sense of timing
  • Arm Styling–Accent complete freedom in all rhythmic sense of timing
  • Latin Posture–Brace towards partner for better presentation
  • Compare/Contrast–Waltz, Cha Cha, Mambo

History and Characteristics:

The Rumba was at the beginning of the Latin American dance crazes in North America. Its origin is in Cuba and shares its roots with Mambo and Salsa music which came later. A dance known as Rumba was danced starting in the 1890’s in Cuba. It was a highly sexually charged dance that was suppressed and restricted there because it was viewed as morally destructive and lewd. During the years of “prohibition” in the United States when alcohol use was prohibited, legions of American party-goers flocked to Cuba and were entertained there by cabarets often including a toned down version of Rumba danced as part of the entertainment.

The Cuban musicians also started exporting some of the music directly to the American public. Some of the rhythms of the Danzon and Son were blended into the Rumba rhythms and it was marketed to the western public as Rumba, with its exotic and risque connotations. This form of music caught on extensively by 1929 with Xavier Cugat as one of the most famous bandleaders from this era. This form of Rumba is sometimes referred to as Big Band Rumba and had quite a faster tempo than what is usually danced for Rumba today.

Even as this craze died down in the general public the dance community kept the Rumba alive and it ultimately developed into three main dance forms — the American Style Rumba, the American Style Bolero and the International Style Rumba developed in England — all of which are danced in professional competition in their respective divisions.

Rumba rhythms have found their way into Country Western, Blues, Rock & Roll and other popular forms of music. This proliferation of Rumba rhythm and the potentially compact nature of the dance make Rumba a very practical choice for anyone who wants to go out dancing.


The basic count in American Style Rumba is usually SQQ (Slow, Quick, Quick) starting on count 1 or sometimes as QQS starting on count 1. The basic count in International Style Rumba is QQS also but starting on count 2, a musical interpretation it shares with Mambo and Cha Cha.

American Style Rumba is first introduced as a “box step” and then later incorporating rocks forward, back and sideward while International Style Rumba starts with the rocking actions forward and back. American Style Rumba is usually danced at a slightly faster tempo than its International Style counterpart and with a more continuously rhythmical body action, especially at the earlier stages of learning. Modern Rumba is a sensuous dance that can be either danced as romantic and understated or as very showy and dramatic.

Bolero is a related dance and is danced at the slowest of these tempos and the music tends to be more melodic than rhythmical [see Bolero] giving it a highly romantic interpretation.

The distinctive hip movement of Rumba, called “Cuban Motion”, is one of the most important elements of this dance. Rumba can be utilized to develop this motion well and for this reason Rumba is an excellent foundation dance for anyone wanting to further develop any latin or rhythmical dance.

Rumba is always an adaptable and practical dance to know.  At the highest level this dance is in an extremely rhythmical and powerful one with strong partnership interaction. The mood can range from very strong and overtly sexy to sexy with romantic overtones.


Rumba music is usually written in 4/4 time and may be played over a wide variety of tempos. Often in Rumba music there may be an underlying pulsation of & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4.

The American Style Rumba is recommended to be danced at 32 to 36 bpm (bars per minute) and the International Style Rumba at the slower tempo of 26 to 27 bpm. This tempo difference helps give the two styles a very different feel.

Rumba Songs and Artists 

  • And I Love Her – The Beetles
  • It’s Now or Never – Elvis Presley
  • Besame Mucho – Xavier Cugat
  • Neon Moon – Brooks and Dunn
  • Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
  • Mummer’s Dance – Loreena McKennit