Dancing in Cuba: much more than salsa

Dancing in cuba

Everybody knows Cubans have music in their blood! Their Caribbean and African roots mix in a cultural explosion of rhythms and dances that few people could resistEspíritu Travel’s Explore Cuba trip offers a wonderful collage of experiences across Cuba. Need some incentive? Follow us in this article exploring the typical dances of this country. We are sure you will enjoy it.

Unraveling Cuba’s typical dances and rhythms

Even if most visitors only think in the salsa, there is so much more to dance while visiting the Pearl of the Caribbean. Every region has its own style and musical customs. Would you like to know more about it? Then continue with us.

The irresistible Rumba

The African people brought to Cuba by the Spaniards were mainly from the regions of Nigeria, Congo and Dahomey. They were brought as slaves but they managed to carry something with them: their culture. Until today there is a remarkable variety of African cultural elements in Cuba. That’s particularly distinctive in the Rumba.

The rumba is a set of rhythms and dances, played with special drums that naturally move the feet and the hearts of those who listen. The three types of Cuban rumba are the yambú, the columbia and the guaguancó. In the latter, the most famous and modern style, there is a unique passion and sensuality representing the conquest in a couple.

We invite you to assist to the Sundays of Rumba at the Callejón de Hamel in Havana. This paradise of Afro-Cuban art combines colors, music, poetry and dance in a little alley.

Dancing cuba

Intangible heritage: the Tumba Francesa

The Tumba francesa (French drum) combines unique dancing, singing and percussion styles. It’s one of the most antique and notable links of the music of Western Africa and the typical French dances of the 18th century. After the Haitian Revolution, many Haitian slaves were introduced to Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo provinces. The Tumba francesa, a manifestation of their stories and culture, grew and evolved in Cuba.

The catá, a big wooden made idiophone, defines the rhythm and the decorated tumbas (drums) follow it. Dancers and singers are mainly women in colonial dresses with African scarves, singing and dancing until noon. Due to its conserved technique to carve the instruments, the lyrics of the songs, the religious tradition and the elegance of the movements, the Tumba Francesa “La Caridad de Oriente” was declared Word Heritage by the UNESCO in 2003.

Cuba’s National Dance: El Danzón

Nowadays El Danzón is only performed in certain regions of Cuba, particularly Matanzas. Many people considered too old for modern times, but its beauty and significance hasn’t been lost.

It’s a couple dance, slow, with little movements but it is danced in a single brick, what resulted a scandal for the society of the 20th century.  El Danzón was created by Matanzas’s author Miguel Faílde Pérez in 1879 and it became a national fever. Later on, José Urfé add elements of the Son to the Danzón structure. This rhythm represents the triumph of the Cuban elements over the imposed European dancing styles.

If you like traditional dances, don’t miss the International Danzón Festival 2021 were elder and new generations promote the beauty and sensuality of this musical genre for Cuba and the World.

Dancing in cuba

The Son: Father of multiple rhythms

When we say Son you will probably remember the famous Compay Segundo and its Chan Chan: “De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané, llego a Cueto, voy para Mayarí”. El Son was originated in the Eastern region of Cuba and it is a fusion of the Spanish guitar with Afrocuban percussion. It arrived to Havana in 1909 and very soon jumped and succeeded internationally. Figures such as Miguel Matamoros, Ignacio Piñeiro and Arsenio Rodriguez conquest ears, hips and hearts with a totally new sonority.

The greatest sonero (son player) was Benny Moré, a Cuban author and singer who conquest the world with his voice and wonderful group, without having any musical studies. He was naturally gifted and has inspired multiple musicians not only in Cuba but internationally. The Festival de Música Popular Cubana Benny Moré, celebrated in Santa Isabel de las Lajas and Cienfuegos from December 14th to 17th is the best place to know more about the Cuban Son and about this unforgettable musician.

The Son is danced with figures and turns that have influenced the Casino, the Salsa and many other musical genres. Today big bands such as Adalberto Álvarez y su Son, Juego de Manos, Los Jóvenes Clásicos del Son and Issac Delgado keep it alive.

Casino: The famous ruedas de casino

Who hasn’t dreamed of being part of a huge Rueda de casino (Casino wheel). Dancing in a circle, the couples change constantly in a series of beautiful and sometimes funny figures, where the Main Singer shouts the name of the next turn: “Say no”, “Punish her”, Punish him”, “Put the vaccine” and more .

The name “Casino” came from the popular clubs called sports casinos in Havana where live groups used to play. Each club was famous and had its own dancing style, and soon “dancing casino” became an expression in the country.

If you are visiting Havana, you’ll find opportunities to practice your casino skills at the 1830 Club and the Casa de la Música.

The Salsa: all times favorite

Cubans dance Casino and Timba but, when people see them taking the dancing floor with sensuality and freedom of movements, they think: Salsa! The denomination Salsa was created in New York by the records “La Fania“, probably inspired by the Cuban song “Échenle salsita”. It was a catchy name to commercialize a rhythm combining Cuban, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Colombian roots.

In Cuba, the salsa loses that stylish hall movements seen in places around the world to become something alive, graceful and fun. You will find plenty of places to practice your moves. Check this article: Havana’s nightlife: a guide to find the best attractions.

Cuban dance

La Timba

The most recent typical Cuban dance is the Timba. It was developed in the 90th and mixes attractive waist movements with elements of Salsa, Casino and Rumba. The complex rhythm is also characterize by the active interaction between the Musical Group and the public. Whether you are in Havana or any other region of Cuba try to assist to a Timba concert. Groups such as Los Van Van, La Charanga Habanera and Bamboleo will make  your night extraordinary.

Do you know that the Mambo and the Cha-cha-chá popularized in México are actually Cuban. There is much to dance and much to learn from Cuba. Give it a try and come dancing. Start planning your trip to Cuba with Espíritu Travel.