Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—
rumba is a slow, sensuous, romantic dance with much flirtation. It
is said to have originated in Cuba with strong influence from the
African slaves. The native rumba was essentially a sex pantomime and
was danced very fast. Many figures have a “tease and run” action
in which the lady first flirts with and then rejects the man. The
slow Latin beat, the rhythmic body and hip action, and the steamy
tease-and-run figures make for a “Dance of Love.”
Quinn and Joan Sawyer are credited with introducing the first form of
rumba to the United States in 1913. It continued to develop
primarily in New York throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. Movies
such as “In Gay Madrid” with music by Xavier Cugat did much to
popularize rumba and latin music in general. In 1935 there was even
a movie made called “Rumba” starring George Raft and Carol
Lombard, which of course was a musical in which the hero wins the
love of the heiress through their mutual love of dancing.
much controversy, the recognized expert in rumba, Monsieur Pierre
Margolie and his partner Doris Lavelle, established the “official”
figures and version of doing the rumba in 1955 – at least for
is said that rumba was the basis from which most of the other latin
dances originated. You can think of bolero as a slow form of rumba.
Mambo is just a fast form of rumba. Salsa is just the modern name for
mambo. Cha is simply the triple form of Mambo.
dancing the rumba, dancers have time to do the “Latin Hip Action.”
This is done by smoothly taking a step and then “settling” weight
onto the foot with a rolling action. Use the inside edge of the ball
of your foot when taking the step and, as you take weight, straighten
the knee and lower your body into the leg. Keep most weight on the
ball of the foot – do not put much, if any, weight onto the heel of
the foot. Another way to say this is that every step in Rumba is
taken “ball-flat.” There are no “heel leads” in rumba. Note
that a common mistake is to “push the hips out” instead of
“settling weight into the leg.” The sure sign of doing it wrong
is if your shoulders tilt. An indicator of doing it correctly is if
the shoulders remain even with floor through all steps.
first see this Latin Hip and think it looks wonderful but then for
one reason or another say it is not for them and then dance without
it. Unless you have a medical limitation with your legs and or hips
-- you really should add latin motion to your rumba to fully enjoy
this. Stand up straight and then simply settle all your weight onto
one foot, while keeping the leg straight. Bend the knee of the free
leg. Note how your hip “bulges” to the side and note that this
was not the result of “pushing” or “bending” to get it there
-- it simply happened because of your “settling.” Now shift your
weight onto the other foot straightening that leg and bending the
knee of the new free leg. Note how this hip now “bulges."
shifting weight side to side and you will get the feel of your hips
bulging from side to side as you settle your weight with each step.
Now try getting the same action but with a forward step or a back
step. You can also add a little hip “rolling” action as well, to
really get a smooth feel to the latin motion.
BASIC — Step side on the third step.
Full Basic is a Fwd, Rec, Side, - ; Bk, Rec, Side, - ; Note that
the third step of each measure is a side step. Many just step in
place or move backwards or even forward but not sideways. If you
correctly go sideways on those third steps you will not only be able
to do the latin motion better (and thus be more sensual -- see last
month), but you will flow better into many of the other figures in
rumba such as New Yorkers, Fence Lines, Spot Turns, Hand to Hands,
etc. -- all of which move sideways.
WALK — XIF, Side, XIF, -; but with rumba styling.
figure most often starts with the crossing step in front and goes
XIF, Side, XIF, - ; However, if the Crab Walks are extended into
another measure you would continue by going Side, XIF, Side, -; In
rumba, hip motion is more emphasized and so the side step here is of
normal size to allow the latin motion to occur. You can "twist"
a little on the crossing steps.
CUCARACHA — Step side with partial weight
little foot rotation, recover, close (QQS).
between partial weight
and full weight is very very slight. In fact, if you are able (you
have to be quick) you can do a cucaracha with full weight. After
all, if you are going to smash that cockroach you aren't going to do
it partially are you?
weight is recommended
because of speed. The rock side and recover must be done very
quickly and some dancers tend to linger and lunge if they take full
weight, which means they must rush the closing step and often are off
balance for the following figure.
you are taught only to
"press" and take partial weight, then some dancers will
take NO weight and simply point to the side and wait, and then
hopefully do the closing step. That's not correct either.
explanation I like best is not to
concentrate so much on weight taking, but rather on the Latin Motion.
The way that I teach Latin Motion is to lower body weight onto one
leg, which results in the hip bulge, and then to shift weight to the
other foot without rising and falling. Keep the weight bearing leg
straight and the free knee bent. When taking steps, lead with inside
edge of the foot. This should result in a "rolling of hips"
action as you shift weight from one side to the other.
then becomes a Side
(shift weight), Recover (shift back), Close, -;
motion (shifting of weight
causing hip movement) and timing (speed) is most important -- not so
much whether you have taken partial or full weight on the side step.
BODY — Most all of the lady’s turn is on step 5.
is a two-measure figure of six steps (QQS; QQS;). The first measure
is just the first half of a Basic except that the man turns left a
little to open up. He then rocks back, then recovers turning
left-face, and then steps side to finish. The lady will step forward
and then again forward while turning left-face almost one-half turn,
and then finishes by stepping side.
BASIC — Like doing a Shoulder to Shoulder into a Cross Body.
like a Shoulder to Shoulder, which means turn slightly to sidecar and
rock forward, recover, and then step side with a left-face turn. The
man then finishes just like the last measure of a Cross Body (XIB,
recover turning left-face, side, - ;). However, the lady rocks
forward into the man, and then recovers back to do her turn before
finishing with a side step. Remember to do “ball flat” steps and
use latin motion hips.
TWISTS — There are three levels of complexity.
Hip Twist: Man rocks FORWARD, recover, CLOSE. Lady should step
forward towards man's right foot on step 3 — man can lead this by
drawing the lady into the middle of his body (i.e. the belt buckle)
instead of leaving the joined lead hands to his left side. This
allows the ending position to be more like an "L" instead
of a "T." The Hip Twist itself should be a "hip"
twist where most of the lady's turn is in the lower half of the body
— not the entire body.
Hip Twist: Man rocks SIDE, recover, CLOSE. As man rocks side, he must
turn his upper body towards lady while she is rocking behind. The
lady closes on her third step to FACE man and THEN on the "and"
count twists the lower part of the body. Keep firm
low lead hands to give the lady resistance to help her twist.
Hip Twist: Man rocks with a XIF, recover, XIB. As the man steps
forward, crossing a little in front, he opens the lady all the way to
face wall and she steps back. As the man steps back, crossing a
little behind, the lady steps forward outside partner on his right
side and on the "and" count does her hip twist. Steps 1 &
3 for the man are both pressing steps with the body weight not fully
TURN VERSUS ALEMANA
TURN — During the turn, the lady does a spot turn under the joined
lead hands while man does a back basic on the diagonal
basic Underarm Turn is a one-measure rumba figure that usually
follows a forward basic (rock fwd, rec, close, - ;). The Underarm
Turn is simply a spot turn for the lady under the joined lead hands.
(XLIF turning right-face, rec turning right-face to face the man,
side, - ;). The key point on the second measure is for the man to
turn slightly to the right so that he rocks back (on his right foot)
towards the diagonal (instead of straight to center of hall) and thus
stays with the lady when she turns instead of pulling away.
— During the turn, the lady circles under with three forward steps
while man does a back basic on the diagonal.
Alemana is exactly the same as doing a forward Half Basic to an
Underarm Turn except the lady uses a different technique to turn
under during the second measure. Instead of doing a basketball
turning action (i.e. Spot Turn), the lady will step forward and touch
three times tracing a circle (or a triangle) under the joined lead
hands. The lady has more control and can easily add a little more arm
work and latin motion. Don’t forget eye contact with partner.
ALEMANAS — This can be done in a "basic" way by simply
doing a Half Basic; Underarm Turn; Reverse Underarm Turn; and
Underarm Turn; but it can be more.
make Three Alemanas more advanced, change the Underarm Turns to true
Alemana's by having the lady do a step/turn with touch, step/turn
with touch, step (either forward or side depending on the following
figure). In an Underarm Turn the lady does more of a "basketball
turn" type of action. More specifically, if the lady considers
the man as the "12 o'clock position", then she should step
first to "1 o'clock" then to "7 o'clock" then to
"11 o'clock". The final modification to make this a true
advanced figure is to overturn the first Alemana. The man's footwork
is the same but the lady turns an extra 1/2 right-face to wrap up in
front of the man. Then on the third measure, the man must rock side,
recover, side; while the lady crosses in front/turn with touch,
side/turn with touch, forward and side (i.e. she overturns her
reverse Alemana). The last measure is a normal Alemana turn ending.
THREES — Think of the lady’s last four steps as similar to
overturning the last four steps of an Alemana Turn from a fan
Three Threes is like doing an Open Hip Twist overturned to tandem;
swivel, swivel, lady spin left full; then a Sweetheart; and finally
the man does a back basic while lady does a step/turn, step/turn,
real problem is in the last four steps of the figure --- the last
step of the third measure and the three steps of the fourth measure.
Starting in tandem position to the wall with ladies' right foot free,
the lady must do the following:
Step forward right swiveling RF to face COH, (the last
step of measure 3)
Step forward left swiveling RF to face Wall, (first step
of measure 4)
Step forward right swiveling RF to face COH,
Step forward left back to partner.
swivel is a one half turn and is done in one quick beat. That’s a
lot of swiveling done one after the other very quickly. No wonder
many lose their balance, timing, or patience.
can get practice with the body mechanics of this by doing the last
steps of the phase 4 Alemana From a Fan, a two-measure figure. Look
at what the lady does here:
Step forward right swiveling RF to face DLC, (last step of
Step forward left swiveling RF to face DRW, (first step of
Step forward right swiveling RF to face COH,
Step side left with partner.
for the very last step, the last four steps of these two figures are
very similar. In the Alemana the lady can use the joined lead hands
as a reference point to help with balance. If the lady can learn to
do this part of the Alemana independently, without that hand, then
doing the last steps of Three Threes becomes easier.
try this: When swiveling on the right foot, thrust the left foot
forward and keep it pointed to the wall as you turn. This gives you a
balance and reference point. When swiveling on the left foot, collect
the right foot in a brushing action.
the man, the last four steps of Three Threes are close left, rock
back on right, recover left, forward right (sqqs), which are
relatively easy. Men do not touch the lady in any way till the very
end. The lady is totally free and on her own for the quick swivels,
and when she does well she is a wonder to behold.
originally prepared these Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA);
reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, October
2010 thru February 2011.