Spectators Guide to: Latin American

Originating from South America, with a few Spanish and American influences thrown in, the Latin American style is a thrilling and passionate ride that will always leave you wanting more. Like the ballroom, Latin American (or simply Latin) competitions, feature five dances, being the Samba, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, and the Jive.

Moving away from the more regimented hold of the Ballroom style, Latin dancers are free to express themselves through a variety of connections, whether it be a tight embrace or a longing look accross the dance floor. And its not just the hold that becomes more relaxed, with Latin costumes being a kelidiscope of colours and styles. Even the guys get to have some varity, usually wearing a costume that matches that of their partner.

Another aspect that makes this style unique is the way couples move around the floor. The Rumba, Cha Cha and Jive all are more or less danced on the spot, although more advanced choreography can traverse the floor in any direction, while the Paso and Samba travel around the floor, much as the ballroom dances do. So, with all that in mind, let’s see what we should focus on when watching this exciting style.

1.Technique: Still the most important part of any dance, here we are looking for things like accurate foot placements, and correct timing. Bad technique hampers everything the dancer is trying to achieve.

2.Leg Action: This is all about how you move your legs to create style and movement. Cha and Rumba feature straight legs, for example, while the jive is all about flexing knees and kick groups. 

3. Hips Hips Hips!: A defining feature of Latin is the hip action that characterises each dance. From the tic of Samba to the sensual roll of the Rumba, its all in the hips.

4. Lead and Follow The flashy nature of Latin lends itself to some showboating, and this is all good, but in the end, it’s still about two people moving together. A good partner is always aware of what the other requires to create the perfect moment.

5. Connectedness: More than just lead and follow, This can refer both to the physical connection between the two dancers, often needed to help perform some of the figures, and also the emotional connection that brings those figures to life.

The Dances

Cha Cha Cha: From Cuba, the Cha Cha Cha is a flirtatious and sassy dance. The characteristic 2-3 cha-cha-cha rhythm and figure-8 hip action is a defining feature of this dance, which also requires a sharp and straight leg action.

Samba: Taken from the brazillian samba and heavily modified for European dancefloors, the samba is fast and furious. It features a specific “ticking” hip action and a samba bounce.

Rumba: The dance of love, Rumba features the same basic action as the cha cha, only without the cha-cha-cha rhythm. Instead, it makes use of a sensual settling of the hips to create a languid and seductive dance.

Paso Doble: Definitely the most dramatic of the Latin dances, the Paso Doble tells the story of the bullfight, with the man as the Matador and his partner as the cape, or the bull. Paso is danced to a very specific piece of music, and builds up to certain highlights in the music that corresponds to dramatic lines and shapes from the dancers.

Jive: After the drama of the Paso, its time to party. The high energy jive comes from the days of rock n roll, and features fast, high leg actions and sharp kick groups. This one gets everyone fired up, so get ready for a good time.

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