What Is Latin Dancing?

Latin dancing in Brooklyn

Latin Dance Classes in Brooklyn. Ray and Stephanie dancing salsa.

Do you offer Latin dance lessons?  I’m asked this question all the time. When I answer yes.  Many students then  ask what it is Latin dancing? They know they like it and want to learn it, but aren’t sure what is.  Why is jive one of the five dances in Latin dance competitions,  while Argentine tango isn’t?  That’s another question I often hear.  So, here’s a break down.

There are generally two different meanings.  There is social Latin dancing, and there’s formal ballroom/Latin dancing.  Formal Latin dancing has five dances: cha-cha, jive, paso doble, rumba and samba.  When you see an international Latin or American Latin dance competition, these are the dances they are doing.

Then there’s social Latin dancing.  This is what most people are doing in a dance clubs, what you hear on Spanish radio stations, and what most students want to learn.  These are dances that originated in Latin American  and Caribbean countries.  Salsa, bachata, merengue, cha-cha, rumba, and samba are the most popular.  There are many many others.  Popularity depends on where you are.   In the Dominic Republic, bachata and merengue are more popular than salsa.  In Cuba, salsa is way more popular than bachata.  But over all, salsa is the most popular and bachata comes in 2nd.  This is right now.  Ten years ago, bachata was not as popular.  And ten years from now, something else might become popular. In certain parts of Mexico, cumbia is very popular.

It might seem weird, but Argentine tango is not classified as a” Latin dance.”  Here are some reasons why.  It’s not danced in place and it doesn’t have hip motion like the other above mentioned dances.  Argentine tango moves around the room like a ballroom dance and has no hip motion.  It’s more like a ballroom dance, but isn’t.  It has its own classification.   So why is Jive, which is American, one or the five Latin dances in formal competitions?  Well, It’s danced in place,  has lots of hip motion, and kind of looks more like the other Latin dances, and less like a ballroom dance.  The people who organize these competitions wanted to have five dances make up the competition, and wanted an American dance to be one of them, so they choose jive.