How to Become a Good Dancer, Part 12 – The Rumba

It’s been a while since I’ve shared an excerpt from Arthur Murray’s book How to Become a Good Dancer. I particularly like what he wrote in the history of the dances because it is nice to understand where the dances we learn come from. Now remember, when Arthur Murray references the Rumba it is coming from his book that was revised in 1947! Crazy, right? The cool part is that the origination has not changed, but how Rumba has evolved has. Enjoy the Rumba:



The Rumba originated in Cuba. It was introduced to Americans about 15 years ago and has been steadily increasing in popularity.

The one essentially different characteristic of the Rumba is the Rumba Motion. When you dance the Waltz, the Samba, the Fox Trot, you place your weight on each step that you take. But in Rumba, you take each step without placing your weight on that step. Once you learn the Rumba Motion, your dancing will have a typical Cuban Style. The motion is what makes the Rumba different from any other dance. It must be learned and practiced; it cannot be “faked”!

Facts About Rumba

Americans refer to all Cuban music as “Rumba.” But there are more variations of tempo and style in the Rumba than in the Fox Trot. Here is a brief description of some varieties in Rumba tempo.

The very slow Rumbas are called Bolero, Canción Bolero or Bolero Son. The last one has a fast ending. The Danzón is a quiet medium tempo, and the steps that fit the music are conservative in style. Then there is the Danzonette—similar to the Danzón—but the music is shorter and has more life. The Guajero—a slow to medium tempo. The Son Montuno, which is medium with a fast ending. The Guaracha, usually played very fast, and the Montuno, also fast.

The instruments used for Rumba music are distinctive and easy to recognize. The Maracas are dried gourds, filled with buckshot. They are shaken like rattles and they add excitement to the music. Another Rumba instrument is called the Bongo. It is made of two small drums, fastened together and held between the knees, drummed upon with the fingers.

Then there are the Clavas, which are two pieces of hard wood, about six inches long and about an inch thick. These give a sharp, reverberating sound when struck together.

But a dancer who has mastered a pattern of steps and has practiced them in Rumba style does not have to be concerned with the names of tempos. He can fit his steps to any Rumba music. When he hears the Maracas, he can dance with true confidence that comes with knowledge.

For any of you that have learned the Rumba, you now know it is the root of all of your Latin dances. Developing your components, style, and technique all begin with this dance. Learning other dances that weren’t even around back then are possible by learning the basics of the Rumba. One thing that really holds true to what Arthur Murray said is that “The motion cannot be faked!” I tell you what, if you want to learn Cuban Motion in Cha Cha and Mambo, It’s best to learn it in Rumba first.

If you want to be a good dancer, learning the Rumba is a must! Many people might say, “I don’t listen to Latin music, I don’t go Latin Dancing.” That might be true, however, Rumba isn’t just for Latin music. You can dance it to many oldies, contemporary, and country music. I hope you enjoyed some of the facts about the Rumba and what better reason do you need to start dancing it now! Don’t forget to give yourself a refresher on Part 10 and Part 11 of “How to Become a Good Dancer”.

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