Rumba is a good dance for beginning dancers. Rumba is considered the sexiest of the Latin dances. Like the tango, the couples dance very closely and use a lot of body language to express emotion between them. Beginning dancers can experience the closeness of partner dancing while advanced rumba dancers can master the art of body language. The rumba originated from Afro-Cuban folk rhythms and became popular in the 1930's. It was imported from Cuba by Arthur Murray, who hired Cuban dancers to train his instructors. A variation called the Bolero is much slower and more dramatic. The steps are reminiscent of the waltz, but danced slowly and sensuously in a Latin rhythm. Danced in 4/4 time, the basic step is quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow.
Cha Cha is an exciting, syncopated Latin dance that originated in the 1950's at the Palladium, New York City by area dance instructors who danced the triple Mambo. The beat is very slow and the dance gets its name and character from its distinct triple repetitive foot rhythm. Considered a flirty dance, it is a favorite among many dancers to this day.
Samba is a Brazilian dance with Mardi Gras flavor. This dance incorporates the jumping actions of African dance tempered with the more sensual movements of ballroom dance to create the festive style that exists today.
Salsa is similar to mambo in that both have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are quite different form those of mambo.
Mambo was developed in Cuba from the influx of American influence into the rumba. American GI's danced swing moves to rumba music that was sped up, and the Cubans said they "danced like mambos." A mambo is a voodoo priestess. The mambo is the predecessor of cha cha, and many of the same steps in the latter dance can be done to the mambo rhythm. Considered a little more difficult than cha cha, mambo's timing somtimes confuses the beginner. However, once learned, the mambo is a favorite of the dance enthusiast. This dance is many times confused with the salsa, which is indistinguishable with regard to steps.