How to Dance Rumba

The Rumba is a slow and sassy dance filled with passion. It features several smooth moves that create an intimate display between two partners. Rumba dancing focuses on hip movements with six fairly simple steps that anyone can learn. Learn how to dance the rumba with this free video lesson series from Howcast!

History of the Rumba

The rumba first came onto the dance scene during the 19th century. It is a dance formed from the combination of African drumming and Spanish singing. The word rumba itself translates to party, which the dance is meant to embody.

Rumba dancing eventually began to adopt influences from the son dance, which was performed by middle-class Cubans. This new style of rumba dancing was less forceful and incorporated movements from the foxtrot. As a result, modern rumba is far different than the original iteration created in the slums of Cuba. It is a great dance for beginners to learn and is still popular today!

How to Rumba

The basic box step of the rumba is fairly simple. Things can get trickier when you add in hip movements and use of Cuban motion by alternating bent knees. However, the dance is not overly difficult to learn once you have the rhythm and steps down! Here’s what you need to know to nail the basics:

Body Position

Rumba dancing requires more room between dancers than some other close dances like the Argentine tango. To start, a man’s left hand should extend outward to meet with the woman’s right hand. The man’s right hand should be placed on the woman’s back below their left shoulder blade. A woman’s left hand should be higher than the man’s right hand and should rest on their right shoulder blade.

Counting

The rumba is danced to a 4/4 count and has three steps for every four beats. There is one slow step followed by two quick steps (Slow x1, Quick x2). Each slow step should last two beats, while the quicker steps will last just one.

Cuban Motion

The use of Cuban motion is important throughout the rumba. It can seem intimidating, but it is fairly straightforward to learn. To perform it, you simply need to alternate bent knees during your steps. As you switch knees, you should sway your hips to complete the movement that makes the rumba so iconic.

How to Do the Rumba Box Step

Now that you understand how to count the rumba and the basis of Cuban motion, you’ll need to put it all together to do the rumba! The easiest technique to start with is the rumba box step, which involves dancing in place. Here’s how to do the Rumba Box Step:

  • Leader steps forward with their left foot, follower steps backward with their right foot.
  • Leader steps forward and to the side with their right foot, follower mirrors by stepping backward and to the side with their left foot.
  • Leader closes by moving their left foot next to their right foot, follower does the same by moving their right foot next to their left foot. 
  • This completes half of the box. Remember to use Cuban motion and sway your hips during your steps! 
  • Leader now steps backward with their right foot, follower steps forward with their left foot. 
  • Leader steps backward and to the side with their left foot, follower mirrors by stepping forward and to the side with their right foot. 
  • Leader closes by moving their right foot next to their left foot, follower does the same by moving their left foot next to their left foot.

Start Rumba Dancing!

The guide above should get you started with perfecting the rumba in no time! For more advanced lessons and moves, check out the rest of our rumba video lesson series below. We’ll teach you everything from shoulder checks to cross body leads, partner breaks, and more!