Do you remember the first time you fell in love? How did you feel? Did you get that pit in the bottom of your stomach, did butterflies fly in and out? Did you get dizzy with their smell or become giddy just thinking about them? It's crazy how crazy we can get with love. It truly is a wonderful feeling.
Seeing that this is the month of love, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on one of the most romantic dances out there. If you're a dancer, you might have already called out your own lovely dance, but for those who don't know, I'm talking about the RUMBA. The Rumba, for me, is one of the most romantic dances out there. Anytime you hear a slow jam, you can take your partner in your arms and with a romantic gesture, get dancing out on the floor without a care in the world.
Right about now, you're probably thinking about the type of music you would dance to. Maybe you're into the romantic crooners of our time with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole or Mel Torme. Maybe you like the romantic stylings of Motown greats like The Commodores, Smokey Robinson or the Temptations. Possibly you love R&B legends like Luther Vandross, Barry White, Al Green or Teddy Pendergrass. Or my personal favorite Keith Sweat (that's one sexy guy, if I say so myself). If you're upset that I haven't mentioned one of the artists that you're thinking of, you have every right to be. There are just too many to mention.
As great as the music is, the dance is equally important. Dance has a rhythm and that rhythm when done correctly goes to a music source. That music source could be in your heart or from the drums beating outside your doorstep in the streets of Havana, Cuba. It doesn't matter where it comes from as long as you showcase that emotion with a gesture. There's even a documentary on Netflix called Dancing with the Birds that showcases the romantic mating dances birds have to woo their future partners.
But the biggest question is, where does the dance that we know of come from? Where does Rumba originate? That's what we're going to try to uncover today.
Let's get to it!
There's no debate on the origin of Rumba music. We can agree that it originated from Afro Cuban artists pounding the rhythm of their conga drums into the hearts and bodies of the listener. The dance, however, is where things get interesting. There are many theories on where the dance originated. Seeing that I'm the one writing to you now, I'll give you the version as I understand it.
Here we go! The history of RUMBA.
The dance Rumba, originated centuries ago in Africa by the tribesmen and women showcasing their version of the mating dance. Thrusting their hips and bodies to the beat of the music from the drums, they were imitating the mating dance of chickens. Yes chickens. To this day, you can see the Rumba in its raw form and watch how the bodies speak to one another. So then how did it get to the version we know fo today? I'm glad you asked.
The dance and rhythms migrated to Cuba where it became the popularized dance of the working class. Because of its sexual nature (two bodies gyrating together as one) it was banned by the dictator at the time for several years until Castro came in office and made it legal once again. The dance was popularized as many migrated to the east coast. There it grew traction as a social dance that was acceptable only in underground clubs and gatherings. An offshoot of the Rumba was showcased in the movie Dirty Dancing by its name Dirty Dancing.
In fact, it was more regulated when it passed through Europe. As it gained traction, the europeans modernized it with the style of dance they knew most, ballet. It gained a sense of elegance and direction that made more acceptable in public. That style of dancing merged with the down and dirty style of the states as it merged out to the west, eventually landing in the hands of influential dancers like Arthur Murray (who frequented Cuba with many of his instructors to learn the correct version of the dance from its source)
By then, it had turned into a social dance, danced widely by many and formed to the dance we know of today. To this day, Rumba is mostly known as being the dance of love because of it's origin, although any dance can be depicted that way. Rumba is one of my favorite dances to do with my wife. As a couple, there's nothing like holding her in my arms and showing her without words how I feel about her. To have her feel my body sway to the music and keep her close is exhilarating.
The great part about his dance is that it doesn't have to be one way. You can showcase any part of the dance you wish. If you want to make it elegant, you can. If you choose to showcase the raw nature of its social roots, you can. If you want it to be the romantic feeling between you and the one you love, you can. Or if you want to just have the feeling within yourself, regardless of who you're dancing with , perfect! There is no right way to experience it. That's the beauty of art. Its value is held only to that of the user and nobody else.
If you are thinking about a dance that could create a feeling like this in you, I hope you choose the rumba. I know I would.