Salsa & Latin dance

What is Latin Dance?

Latin dance is a general term used in partner dance competition jargon. It refers to types of Ballroom and Folk dancing (with few exceptions) that originated in Latin America.
The types of Latin dances in the International Dancesport Scene consist of the Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive of United States origin.
There are also Social Latin dances (Street Latin) that include Salsa, Mambo, Merengue, Rumba, Bachata, Bomba, Plena and Argentine Tango.
Latin dance is mainly derived from three styles: Native American, European, and African influences.  The roots of Latin dance are deep and geographically embedded because it dates back to the fifteenth century when indigenous dances were first recorded by Europeans.

After the Europeans brought home the Aztec/Inca influences in the sixteenth century, they incorporated their own styles to the dance. Since the Aztec/Inca dances were performed in a group, many of the European dances were performed by a male and female. This was a new practice because European dances prohibited male and female dance partners from touching each other. The benefits of such dance style allowed musical appreciation and social integration, which became the form of Latin dance. However, “much of the storytelling element disappeared from the genre as the focus moved toward the rhythm and steps", Hanson explains. The movement evolved differently because it brought a certain element of daintiness to the Aztec dances since the steps were smaller and the movements were less forceful. Combining African styles along with the Native and European influences is what truly makes Latin dance unique.
 
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The movement and rhythms of African influences left a permanent mark in Latin dance. When the African slaves entered Europe in the 1500s, they brought styles such as basic, simple movements (putting emphasis on the upper body, torso, or feet) and intricate movements like the coordination of different body parts and complex actions such as “fast rotation, ripples of the body, and contraction and release, as well as variations in dynamics, levels, and use of space.

The difference between the African and European styles was that it included bent knees and a downward focus (grounded to the earth) rather than a straight-backed upward focus like the Europeans, and whole-foot steps than toes and heels. Such influences of African roots allowed the beauty and uniqueness of Latin dance.

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