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How to dance Cumbia: best tips for beginners (with videos)

This seductive dance form, known as Cumbia, has its origins in Colombia and has become a mainstay of the nightlife in several South American countries. If you've ever had the chance to visit a disco or club, it's not difficult to find a dancer performing the well-known moves

Fortunately, the dance itself is quite easy to learn. You will learn here the fundamental moves, a little history of Cumbia, and how to dance it with a partner. Let’s dig into it.

A brief history of Cumbia

Experts claim that the Bantu word kumbe, which means "to dance," is where the term "Cumbia" originates.

There aren't any precise historical records about it, since there aren't many other folk dances around the globe. All we know is that in the 1800s, in the lovely seaside town of San Basilia, Colombia, Cumbia began to emerge and gain popularity.

A brief history of Cumbia

One definition of Cumbia is "a harmonic fusion of African and Colombian traditions." The latter originated with Africans who were taken to Latin America as slaves by the Spanish.

The 1940s saw a major surge for Cumbia after famed Colombian vocalist Luis Carlos Meyer Castandet introduced the dance form to Mexico. There, it swiftly attracted the public's attention and shot to superstardom. In fact, the dance was so well-liked that it spread throughout many other South American nations, from Peru to Argentina.

In Cumbia, the music is just as significant as the dancing. Many people believe the upbeat melody to be the "mother of all Latin music" since it has the power to generate such vigor. If you want an idea of the sound, compare it to a fusion of salsa and samba.

The music is performed by special musical groups known as "conjunto de cumbia" (or cumbiamba). A cumbiamba may entice you to a feast of sounds, from more traditional instruments like Colombian flutes and maracas to more "mainstream" ones like guitars and bass guitars.

A brief history of Cumbia

How to dance Cumbia by yourself

Begin by placing your feet together

Salsa also uses its fundamental step. The neutral stance is to stand with your feet close together. You may wave your skirt while holding it in one or both hands.

Alternately, you can roll your arms inward in a circle close to your body, between your shoulders and hips, by bending both arms at the elbows. Women might raise their wrists slightly to add a feminine touch.

With your right foot, take a step back (count 1)

As you take a step back, rotate your left foot such that your right foot curls a bit to the side and behind your left. Your right toe should be parallel to your left foot's back heel. Keep enough space between your two feet. They shouldn't be in contact with one other.

Use your left foot to take a position (count 2)

Simply place your left foot in position. Be eager and grin flirtatiously while dancing.

Put your right foot in neutral position forward (count 3)

Step forward with your toes in a neutral stance by lifting your heel (both left and right feet side by side), to shift your weight from left to right.

Await a beat, then move your weight (count 4)

Take a beat to breathe on the final count. Then, switch your weight to your left foot from your right foot. To give your movement a bit more flair, wiggle your hips a little.

Repeat the process on the other side. The first time you do it, it could seem a little odd, just like any other dance. However, the steps will seem more natural as you practice.

As you become used to the pattern, start off slowly and then gradually pick up the pace. You're ready to hit the club when you're no longer thinking about the steps and your feet feel like they have their own minds.

The count would be:

- One: when your right foot moves back.
- Two: when your left foot stays put.
- Three: when your right foot advances.
- Four: when you reach neutral.

How to dance Cumbia with a partner

Decide who will lead and who will follow before you begin dancing Cumbia with a partner. This technique is designed to keep the two of you on time.

Each partner must step on the other's foot. The follower will begin on the right foot, whereas the leader will begin on the left. You will alternate your feet as you move through the dance.

Put your partner in front of you

Hold hands gently while you stand facing one another, roughly 2 feet (0.6 m) apart. You can do the fundamental movements with your partner while standing shoulder to shoulder, either while gripping one another's waists and extending your free arms or without making contact.

At the same time, take a step back both of you

The follower will take a step back with his or her left foot when the leader takes a step back with their right. Release your partner's hand and extend your free arm while you do this.

While the follower extends his or her left arm, the leader will release his/her respective arms. As both partners move back and come shoulder-to-shoulder, an area becomes available.

You and your partner come back to the neutral position

Now that they are face-to-face, both partners will step back to neutral with the same foot. Hold hands once more while moving your free arm toward your partner.

Take a breath, then proceed the other way

When you are once again face-to-face, pause briefly. Repeat the motion while stepping back with your opposite foot first (the follower's right and the leader's left) and keep moving from side to side.

The count will be:

- One: when you both take a step back.
- Two: when you place your opposite foot.
- Three: when you bring your other foot forward.
- Four: when you step back together.
- Five: when you move your other foot back.
- Six: when you place your opposite foot.
- Seven: when you bring your foot forward.
- Eight: when you step back together.

Additional Turn

You may add spins, turns, dips, and other maneuvers to spice things up and add excitement to your performance. The turn is the one that is the easiest to learn right away. In this case, the count would be:

- One: step aside from one another. The leader on his right foot and the following on her left. Don't let go of each other's hands, as you would normally do.
- Two: release your hands. The leader releases the follower's right hand and turns while guiding with their left hand.
- Three: taking the turn. The leader steps forward on his or her right foot, softly dragging the follower behind. The follower places his or her right foot on the ground and then turns that foot. Nearly at the same time, the leader raises the follower's right arm and hand to start the turn.
- Four: complete the turn. The leader completes the turn by stepping forward and to the side with his or her left foot, bringing the follower to a neutral position.

How to dance Cumbia - Conclusion

For beginners, learning how to dance Cumbia is not that tough, especially if you have prior dancing training. However, even if you have never danced before or believe you are not particularly good at it, Cumbia is still quite simple to learn.

To learn the fundamental Cumbia steps and proceed to more difficult moves, it won't take more than a few hours.

Please visit our blog area if you liked this post and want to read more advices about dancing and general information about the music business.

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Thanks for reading,
CalypsoRoom Team



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Written by CalypsoRoom Editorial Team
The CalypsoRoom Editorial Team is a skilled and diverse group of writers, researchers, and industry specialists who have access to Calypso's data and information in order to give you broad knowledge about the music industry as well as helpful advice to help you manage your music and dancing career.

Updated January 2023


How to dance Cumbia: best tips for beginners (with videos)

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