Latin American and Ballroom Dances
Tootsie Olan is a NYC-based choreographer (www.tootsieolan.com) who captures the electricity of contemporary funk/jazz and translates it onto television, musical theatre and concert stages. For more information on Tootsie's projects and The Dance Workshop, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is seven Latin dances that add a lot of spice into the world. The Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Merengue, Salsa, Mambo, Samba, and Tango.These are sometimes danced with both hands holding some with one hand held and also at times no hold at all. The professional Ballroom dancers will add grace and elegant mystery by gliding very smoothly around the dance floor. The ladies role is to follow and never try to lead. She must be sensitive to a gentleman's body language and direction. Gentleman is to lead his dance partner. He must know the music in and out in order to make his direction clear. And how to move with each new beat of the music.
Terms and Choreographs: Open Hold- A hold in which the two people are slightly apart. Practice Hold - This allows one to go over the steps before taking a close and open hold. Also know as the double-hand hold. Preparation Step - Starting foot, also new movement. In place/On the spot - Known as marking time. Promenade - Female and male face in the same direction and dance in that direction. Normal Position - Female and male face each other. Side by Side - Dancers face the same way and proceed in that direction. Competition Dancing - Choreographed and special extraordinary evening dresses are worn by the ladies. Men wear something extravagant as well, so their look and style of dance is noticed by the judges. Social Dancing - Simpler footsteps are most often used. More of a free form.
Cha Cha Cha: A brisk and lively Latin flavor. Its growth began in Cuba and is considered the more popular dance. Traditionally Cuban dancers danced on a dust floor and feet made a shuffling sound. Which later became the Cha Cha Cha beat. (With the help of musicians). A couple facing each other will stay in one place, taking tiny ball flat steps, firmly with the foot. Then suddenly change direction. While moving and swinging the hips forward, also using very strong legs, knees along with the feet according to the rhythm, in three-step chasses. Squeezed into two beats adding rocking steps, traveling forward or backwards, turning or dancing on the spot. Tempo is rather quick, music has a bongo drum beat, followed by the lighter tones of maracas. Four beats to every bar. Each bar (and each hip movement) is saying cha cha cha (two beats); foot steps (two beats). Five steps altogether come out of the four beats. The actual step pattern does not change.
Rumba: A soft and sensuous Latin flavor and is referred to as the dance of love. A fertility dance also known as "Queen of Latin America". Inspired from three continents. 1. Chile's national folk dance Cueca. 2. Spains Bolero. 3. Africa and their original ritual dance, from the earlier years. Moving into modern times and becoming Britain's official dance most recognized. Similar movements as in the Cha Cha Cha, but much slower and smoother. Each first step starts on the bar's second beat. Swinging the hips and transferring weight to the side. At times men to the right and ladies to the left. Naturally the male begins on the left foot, gently turning to the left. Hips move nice and easy, rolling smoothly over the leg. Soft shoulders and expressive hand gestures are used. Similar movements as in the Cha Cha Cha, but many slower and smaller steps are taken. Rhythm is consistent. Originally danced in a square/box pattern.The lady is the focus. She uses certain gestures to attract her partner. Its soft and sensuous rhythm made it acceptable.
Merengue: An old ritual dance. Originating from the Dominican Republic. Also know and the lady's dance. Starting out in nightclubs. An old belief started way back, that a general with a bad leg first performed this dance by limping across the dance floor. This limp has been refined, but is still a part of the Merengue. Dancers have mastered the straight posture and dropping of the shoulders with a nice line, from women who carried buckets of water, as well as baskets of laundry on top of their heads many many years ago. Proper balance and poise came out of that everyday task. The music differs in variety. Tempo can be slow and suddenly change to fast. Merengue is also danced to pop music. One could enjoy a more free style form that makes it a lot of fun. Marking time is more commonly used. Moving on the ball of the foot, but keeping it lightly flat to a 2/4 rhythm. Double handhold is used in many of the Merengue variations, along with basic steps changing in different directions and creating interesting shapes.
Salsa: Very Spicy! A new sound was born in the 50's. The bongo drums and the maracas that Cuban artists brought over mesmerized American's. Cuban's were just as mystified by the American sound of jazz. Trumpets and Trombones were also used in Puerto Rican bands as well as a form of jazz. Salsa belongs to the Cha Cha Cha/ Rumba and Mambo family. Turning in one's own space is Salsa. The turn could be small, depending on the space and how crowded the dance floor gets. It has four beats to every bar. Tempo could get a bit busy. Carefully listening to the music, it will get easier to separate the beat and the maracas. Footwork is mostly done with a ball flat; a small but very sharp hip swing is all one needs. Arms and hands - the double hold with strong elbows held rather wide. It will make turns and passing over each other's heads easier. Free arms - are placed close to the body, elbows are bent. Everyone has fun with this particular dance.
Mambo: The mother of various Latin Dances/ Exciting and Lively. Part of the Cha Cha Cha/ Rumba family. Mambo having no real meaning to the word. Sound grew from sugar can cutters used performing out in the fields. Although referred to as Voodoo Princess -a word taking from Haitian Creole. It became very popular. Europe, Asia and America loved it. The movies helped its growth, along with music and people traveling. Footwork is on the ball of the foot, due to very small steps used. Arms are more curved, while hips are moving freely (with less emphasis there). Legs moving fast, due to the quick tempo. Music has four beats to every bar. Three steps are taking during each four beats on the bar of the music. People enjoy this dance moving on the same spot. Using a lot of rocking movements. Feet apart or together. It is a personal preference, and both choices are correct.
Samba: Brought to NorthEast Brazil by African Salves to the State of Bahia. Is mistakenly the dance of Brazil. February Rio de Janeiro celebrates the Carnival. Samba captures the spirit of the Latin culture.The dancers, who are on floats, wear beautiful costumes. Carmen Miranda was responsible for bringing attention to it. Ballroom dancing created a style for competition. Allowing male and female to dance together. Years ago it was not proper, especially for the ladies. Carnival and Samba - also know as the Maxixe. In a promenade position. With a light bouncing in the knees. The "Walks" are danced. Whisk or crosses are soloing turns on the same spot, moving forward towards a partner or away from them. Music has two beats to every bar. Tempo compliments this street dance, along with the Samba bounce. Footwork is a ball flat, with the exception of steps taken between beats. Arms - dancing the one hand hold, your free arm is extended with a slight curve, hand held palm facing downwards around the waist. Both older and younger generations are attracted to this exotic and expressive Latin flavor.
Tango: Argentina Originated from an Afro Latin festival dances (The Milonga). But became the language and an expression for the people of Buenos Aires. It was even considered a religion. Banned because it was considered erotic. Europe and US gave it class, London and France especially. They also pushed it into ballroom dancing. A free style was enjoyed and danced a lot around the First World War. Today the figure most commonly used is the Promenade. Music has four beats to each bar. It is mostly danced in normal hold. A couple travels slow, moving in an anti clockwise direction. Shoulders of both the male and female are parallel to each other. Very dreamy, smooth and precise body language is projected. Adding frequent turns, swivels, hooks and leg flicks. Strong eye contact during the swivels. At times the female will turn her head to the right, looking down and over their shoulder. Her body tilts forward, body straight. The male leads with a strong body, leaning forward and his weight is over the foot. He holds his partner with strong, but motionless arms. Leading the female, gently turning his body. The female turns, flicks and hooks her leg. This dance is designed especially for the female. She is the Queen.