Types of Cuban Rhythms: Rumba

I feel like that the word “rumba” is associated with salsa, the Caribbean, dancing, party… but no one really knows what it is. I know I didn’t know it until I started dancing salsa 5 years ago (already…?!).

So, yeah, it is a party, but it is also a type of dance and music within Cuban salsa; one of the most traditional parts of it, actually. It is believed that the rhythm was born of the mix of the African slaves’ rhythms with the Spanish flamenco. It started being a traditional afrocuban dance that was used was a fertility dance. It was also danced by lower class workers to imitate (mock) Spanish conquerors’ dancing style, but with a Cuban “flavour”. There are three types of rumba: guaguancó (Habana), Columbia and yambú (Matanzas).

  • Guaguancó

Originally from La Habana and the most known outside Cuba, with a faster rhythm than most. It is a dance about seduction and “conquest”. Generally the man is the one who has to conquest the woman. However, the woman’s dance is sensual, flirty and has to seduce the man without letting him get too close.In guaguancó, the man tries to “captivate” the woman with hip movements, called “vacunao”. It can be danced with a handkerchief or with hands movements. The woman rejects the man’s advancements by putting the handkerchief (or the hand) at front. If the man is faster, though, it is said that “he has got her pregnant”.

  • Columbia

This type of rumba is originally from Matanzas and generally only danced by men. It is a rural rhythm and one of its characteristics is the “llorao”. This consists on exclamations or laments in between singing. In terms of the dance, the dancer first greets the percussion people and after he tends to maintain a straight position of legs and shoulders, since they often carry a glass or a bottle on top of their head.

  • Yambú:

It is also from Matanzas and it is one of the oldest and urban forms of rumba. Just like the guaguancó, it is danced by men and women, but “vacunao” is not a thing in this one and the rhythm is more paused. In this dance, the woman is the protagonist and she does flirty and sensual movements to captivate the man.

Even though rumba has a specific rhythm and specific songs with guaguancó, Columbia or iamb rhythms, it doesn’t mean that it is only danced with these rhythms or songs. What I love most about Cuban salsa is that is free, there are no choreographies. It is a conversation between dancers.

What do you mean a conversation? Wasn’t this a dance?!

Yep, but if you suddenly hear rumba’s rhythm in between a song, you can dance to it. If your partner understands, he will answer the same way. 

Now, if by any chance, you go out dancing and someone does “vacunao” to you, at least you know what it is. You’re welcome 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.