Danzon is the traditional dance of Cuba. It was created by Miguel Faílde Pérez in 1879 in Havana, Cuba and was originally conceived as a protest against the European dance styles favored by the aristocracy. It’s a form dance and involves several couples rather than just a single pair. Around 1910, the Danzon was combined with another style of Cuban dance, the Son. Originating from the eastern part of the island, the Son was a precursor to the Salsa.The music structure – A B A B A – consists of an introduction, A, just used for dancers to make acquaintance, flirt or stroll the dance floor. Then a dance section starts (B), to go back to the introduction and repeat the sequence again. The dance style is elegant yet extremely sensual and flavorful; it is danced off the beat and includes square figures
Son is derived from Cuba’s African and Spanish roots, and is the predecessor of what is now called salsa. Originally rural music that developed as an accompaniment to dancing, it became a popular in Cuba’s urban areas in the 20th century. Eventually, it was adapted to modern instrumentation and larger bands. Traditional Son instrumentation could include the tres (a type of guitar with three sets of closely spaced strings), standard guitars and various hand drums and other percussion instruments. Many sons also include parts for trumpets and other brass instruments, due to the influence of American jazz. Son, the dance, starts with the formal, closed embrace of the man and woman. The couple maintains a very upright frame, with quick flirtatious and sensual side-to-side movements of the shoulders, torso and hips accenting the underlying six count rhythm of the feet. Son is danced off the beat, so the couple moves on the half beat before one.
In a Rumba, the beat is very important. Danced originally to a drum beat, the Rumba is one of the oldest Cuban dances. There are several different kinds of Rumba (Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia) and each one has its own different beat. The oldest of these is the Yambu and it also has the slowest beat. When danced in pairs, the Rumba is about flirtation. The Columbia is traditionally done by a solo male dancer to a quick beat and has many complex steps.
The Mambo was created when American vacationers began coming to Havana in droves. It’s a combination of Danzon rhythms and the newly popular American Jazz, first envisioned by Orestes Lopez and Israel “Cachao” Lopez. The Mambo can be danced singularly or in pairs to varying tempos. The rhythm is very upbeat, similar to a swing dance. This dance was eventually transported to New York where it underwent further evolution. The word “Mambo” comes from the warriors’ song of the Congo (one of the most important African groups brought to Cuba as slaves during the colonial times) There are two forms of dancing Mambo: single and double tempo
Cha Cha Cha
In the 1950s, the Danzon and Mambo combined to create the Cha Cha Cha (also known as the Cha Cha It was later adopted and commercialized by ballroom dancers who for teaching purposes (for those unable to identify the beat)..). Its name comes from the staccato footsteps of the dancers. Unlike most dances, the Cha Cha Cha is danced offbeat and has a simple procession of foot movements– three quick steps, two slow steps, pause. Like the Mambo and the Rumba, the Cha Cha Cha is a very fluid dance with a lot of pelvic motion
A fun and lively dance that can be done by people regardless of their dancing abilities is the Comparsa or, as it’s more commonly known, the Conga Line. This dance originates in the Carnivals of Santiago de Cuba and involves people dancing in procession while a band playing both percussion and horn instruments follows. In a comparsa some people hold farolas, large and elaborately decorated processional items on long sticks that are usually carried at the front of the parade and twirled or spun by their carriers, in time to the music. The dancers and musicians typically wear brightly colored costumes, which adds to the playful atmosphere of the dance.