Latin Dance

By: Erika, Gema, Amy, Betty, Brisia, and James

Latin dance is a general label also a term in partner dance competition jargon. Social latin dances include salsa, mambo, merengue, rumba, bachata, bomba, plena, and the argentine tango. There are many dances which were popular in the first part of the 20th century, but which are now of only historical interest.

History of Latin Dance

Indigenous peoples of South and Central America were developed what we have come to recognize today as Latin dances. Latin dances would be influenced by many different European and African styles, both in movement and in music.

Ritualistic Beginnings

  • Around the 16th century, explorers went back to Portugal and Spain with tales of native peoples performing intricate dances. When they were observed by European explorers the dances were already developed, suggesting a significant base.
  • European settlers began to colonize regions of South America, and absorbed the local dance traditions into a new version of the local culture. The Catholic settlers merged the native culture with their own, keeping the movements but adding Catholic stories to the dances.

Over the centuries, European folk dances and African tribal dances would mix with these indigenous roots to create modern Latin dancing.


Characteristics of Latin Dance

  • Salsa : It is a partner dance where the man leads and the woman follows. The music has 4 beats per measure but the dancers only take steps on 3 of the beats pausing for one beat. You could count it like step, step, step, pause
  • Merengue : two steps and two beats, like a simple march. You can count off “one, two, one, two” as you move. Partners face each other, moving their hips and bending their knees for the steps. Salsa and bachata are both in 4-4 time, which means more steps than there are in merengue.
  • Bachata : Is danced at a slower pace than salsa, Bachata shares characteristics with the Dominican merengue dance and with the Cuban and Puerto Rican favorite Salsa the three genres are often grouped together.


People tend to see latin or dance as just simple, plain, and boring entertainment. But in reality there is much more to learn about the dance. The dance has a background, story, or history that show us that dance plays an important part in every person’s life. This is the why learning about dance from other cultures/countries is so important and fun to see that the other side or close to us dance is a way to show emotions. Dancers teach and learn more than just movement techniques. It’s apparent that because of this form of expression,many cultures have a communicative way or story behind their traditional dances.