AfroCuban Rumba: Enhance your Salsa Dancing By Guest Writer Jennifer Gonzalez

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What exactly is Rumba?  Someone recently asked me that very question and although I have a vague understanding of the dance I felt that I needed to educate myself on that style of dance.  During my research I came upon Jennifer Gonzalez on Twitter and learned a great deal about Afro Cuban Rumba and its influence on salsa dancing. The article below is a guest piece written by her that explains the interesting connection between rumba and salsa.  I hope you enjoy the article!

John ;-)



AfroCuban Rumba: Enhance your Salsa Dancing by Guest Writer Jennifer Gonzalez

The number of people who have taken up salsa dancing in the last 10 years is pretty phenomenal. It seems each week more people are starting lessons at clubs and dance studios across the country. As people progress, they may learn harder turn patterns or even a different style (switch to on2 from on1 or try salsa casino). However, what many fail to do is to look back at the history of salsa – where it originated and the dances that came before it. By looking back, we can not only enrich our knowledge of the dance and music but also add a new dimension to our dancing.

AfroCuban Rumba is one style of dance that can give all dancers a greater appreciation of Cuban culture as well as new ways to move our bodies. While many are spending hours learning new shines, those who take up AfroCuban Rumba will learn new ways of moving their shoulders, chests, hips, and arms. AfroCuban Rumba is broken down into three separate dances: Yambú, Guaguancó, and Columbia.


Yambú is often described as the ‘old person dance’ as the music and movement is slower. It may be danced alone – most often by women or as a couple. In the clip below the couple enters the floor imitating a much older couple. Their dancing is slow and may involve flirtatious movement as well.


Dancers may progress to Guaguancó once they are able to dance to the slower rhythms of Yambú. The speed of the music is faster and the interaction between the couple is much more flirtatious. While dancing Guaguancó, the man will attempt to ‘vacunao’ the woman. Vacunao is taken from the Spanish word: la vacunación or vaccination. Basically, the man is attempting to impregnate the woman. This is demonstrated by the man flinging his hand, foot, knee, head, midsection, etc. towards the woman. She, in turn, will take her hand or skirt and cover her ‘area’ to stop this from happening. While you watch the clip below, you will want to notice how the woman keeps her eye on her partner at all times so that she can block the vacunao.


Columbia is the final form of AfroCuban rumba. Columbia is most-often danced as a solo by a man while he challenges another man to outdo his dancing. You might liken it to a breakdance battle as one attempts to out dance the other. Columbia is quite fast and may involve men balancing plates, candles, and other items while dancing. While historically women do not partake in this style of rumba more and more are attempting to give it a try although it is still seen as a very male-dominated dance. In the clip below you will see the men taking turns interpreting the music.

After exploring AfroCuban rumba some may ask, “Well how is that going to help me with my salsa?” As you become more comfortable with the movements and styling as well as learning to move to more complex music, you may find that your salsa dancing can move to the next level. You may hear the beat more clearly. You may hear the congas, the piano, the horns, or the clave in a totally different way and want to move your body to certain instruments rather than just staying with the 1-2-3, 5-6-7. One of my favorite clips is below and it shows how rumba can be incorporated into couples dancing salsa.

As always, we should allow the music to be our guide when it comes to dancing. Perhaps you may not incorporate rumba into a Tito Puente song, but, perhaps into an older Celia Cruz song and most definitely into something by Los Van Van.


Jennifer Gonzalez has been dancing salsa for the past 12 years and salsa rueda/casino for the past 10. She danced and taught with SAOCO DC for 4 years before having to focus her interests elsewhere due to kids, work, and life in general. She has also taught at the San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival for two years and independently throughout Northern Virginia. Jennifer dances LA Style on1 and salsa casino but prefers salsa casino. She has trained with Aramis Pazos in Washington DC in AfroCuban dance. She works full-time as a web content manager and in search engine optimization/social media marketing. In addition, Jennifer authors Salsa Casino in DC – a blog dedicated to sharing events, classes, and more that are happening in the Washington DC Metro area as well as teaching people about the Cuban history of dance. Additionally, she is a regular contributor to and The Examiner. When she is not dancing, thinking about dancing, or writing about dancing she spends time with her two children and husband.

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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