Facts on Latin Dance – About its History and Influences

Ages ago, before we started calling Latin dance steps such as Tango or Rumba, people who lived in Central and South America started to cultivate the dances that we have come to appreciate as Latin dance - about all of these dances started as early rituals. These were eventually developed according to additional influences from Europe and African. New styles of music and new cultures brought with it new movements, and dance become more formalised into the dances that we know and love.

European and African influences

The European influences were largely due to the seafarers from Europe who observed the local Inca and Aztec dances and further developed them. After the colonisation of South America there was a lot of assimilation of dances, and the European styles merged with the native cultural dances. The local dances usually dealt with basic aspects such as hunting or harvesting, while the European influences incorporated all these movements, but with added detail and stories. Eventually the European dances and African tribal dances would also mix with these dances to form the dances that we know today as Latin Dance.

European dance initially prohibited dance partners from different sexes to dance together or to touch during dancing. Most of the indigenous dances were group dances, but these soon influenced the European dance styles to bring male and female together to dance as a couple. This optimised not only the dancer’s appreciation of music, but also brought forth social opportunity which was not easily afforded back then.

Later, the importance of the story diminished and the dances became more about the act of dance, the steps and the rhythmic movements. The European influences brought a certain refinement to the native Latin-American dances and the smaller steps made the actions less vigorous. When the refinement of the small steps was combined with the energetic beat of African drumming, it became the ultimate definition of Latin dance.

African influences are still prevalent in these dances today, and these influences originate mostly from the influence of African slaves brought to the Americas by the settlers. The Latin influences are more prevalent in the South of American countries than the north. Obviously some dances were also practiced more often in different regions, and some dances were more common in rural areas, others in the urban landscape. Different regional musical styles lead to the birth of new dance genres, and these often consisted of the combination of two or more dances. Of course the dances changed over time and morphed into the individual steps that now make up the unique aspects of all the dances.

If you want to learn to dance this interesting and passionate type of dance, head for your local Arthur Murray dance studio! There you can perfect your Latin dance in about the same time it will take to learn to do the Mambo!