Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands and for decades it has been an inspiration to artists and musicians, whose impassioned arts inspire travellers to land on its shores to experience this last outpost of world communism.
Passion and romance are tightly woven into the people and culture of Cuba where music is a huge part of that, including everything from samba to jazz. Of course, with music comes dance.
Habanera is one of the most popular of the traditional Cuban dances. Its Spanish origins date back to the late 1800s, but the form we know today was creolised by French contradanza who drew from Afro-Latin rhythms. The dance is characterised by slow delicate movements, much unlike the other flamboyant forms that are popular in Cuba.
The name rumba comes from the word rumbo which means “party”.
Based on African musical traditions the Cuban Rumba is percussion based, and is similar to the dance of the Sara people of Nigeria.
It’s an energetic dance where the couple dance, coming extremely close to each other and then moving apart.
We’re all familiar with the conga line at parties which usually rears its ugly head when there’s much consumption of exotic cocktails, but this dance has a much more sober origin.
In the 19th Century African slaves were forced to work on Cuba’s plantations, and the way that they were chained together by shackles around the ankles meant that their movements were limited to short shuffles, as mimicked by the dance.
Tango is probably the most sensual dance in the world. Born out of traditional European dances like polka, waltz, and Mazurka, Tango came about when in the late 19th Century immigrants from Europe travelled to Buenos Aires in Argentina and became integrated into the melting pot of cultures that had settled here from all over South America.
These traditional dances became mixed with Cuban Habanera, and the word “Tango” was used to describe the different music and dancing styles from the countries of origin, such as Spanish “Tango Andaluza”.
It was seen very much as a courtship dance, so traditionally the distance between the partners is always determined by the female. Couples who are intimately close may dance with their torsos practically touching, whereas if you are dancing with a stranger it’s best to keep a polite distance.
In the early 20th Century the Tango returned to Paris, the cultural centre of the world. It was received with open arms by a society keen to learn something new, and from there it spread throughout the world.
Even if you have two left feet, you have to try these dances when you go to Cuba on holidays. Even just watching you’ll find that hidden sense of rhythm you never knew you had.
Catherine Halsey writes for a digital marketing agency on a range of subjects. This article links back to http://www.kuoni.co.uk/en/holiday/caribbean/cuba/pages/default.aspx