Destination dancing

Destination dancing
By admin

From the passion of the tango to the party vibe of the samba, Latin America is home to some of the world's most evocative dances.

A dance of passion: TANGO

An original association with brothels meant that the tango was once looked down upon by high society in Argentina, but with the passing of time, this most sultry of dances was fully embraced by its country of origin.
African culture was a strong influence in the early days of the tango.

After slavery was abolished in 1853, the tango came to refer to a meeting place where freed slaves and working slaves gathered to dance. It further evolved to reflect the diversity of music from the influx of poor immigrants during the late 18th century – men who were hoping to make enough money to bring their families over to join them. The separation from their wives during their stay in Argentina is a key element of the tango, which exudes passion, desperate longing and sexual innuendo.

The tango venues were also attended by young, poor men from Argentina who eventually took the dance back to the poorer districts of Buenos Aires, where it was introduced to lower class dance venues and brothels. As time elapsed and the music became a little more subdued, the tango was fully taken to heart by Argentina and the world.

Sample package: Clients can spend three days at the tango-themed Mansion Dandi Royal Hotel and learn the art of tango dancing, with classes held at the hotel. This Natural Focus Safaris city stay is priced from $320. For more information, visit

Let the good times roll: SALSA

It's a staple ingredient in all your favourite Mexican dishes, but salsa is far more than that. The non-edible version is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances that have combined to make what is now the world's favourite Latin dance.

While not a purely Cuban dance, Cuba can take the credit for salsa's origins. It was here that the contra-danze (country dance), brought by the French who fled from Haiti, began to mix itself with rumbas of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia and Yamb√∫). Added to this was the s√≥n of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour and African drum beats. And thus, the salsa was born. 

New York created the term salsa and today there are many different styles of this versatile dance. And you'll find people dancing it not just in Cuba but all over Latin America – from Bolivia to Colombia to Peru.

Sample package: Salsa dancing lessons are a feature of G Adventures' 10-day Colombia Cultural Journey, which is priced from $2399. For more information, visit

Let's get ready to: RUMBA

The word rumba comes from the verb rumbear which means going to parties, dancing and having a good time. Although the main growth of this dance occurred in Cuba, similar developments took place in other Caribbean islands and in Latin America generally. 

The rumba influence came in the 16th century with the black slaves who were imported from Africa. The native rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements, with a sensually aggressive attitude on the part of the man and a defensive attitude on the part of the woman.

Its fascinating rhythms and bodily expressions make this one of the most popular Latin ballroom dances. The music is played with a staccato beat, in keeping with the vigorous and expressive movements of the dancers. Accompanying instruments include the maracas, the claves, the marimbola and the drums.

Sample package: Clients can catch the locals doing the rumba in bars and clubs around Havana, during a 12-day Viva Cuba itinerary offered by Gecko's Adventures. Prices start from $1390. For more information, visit

Time to party: SAMBA

Every February, Brazil's capital Rio de Janeiro goes wild with street festivals, fancy dress balls and samba dance competitions. It's called Carnival and it's been going on for centuries, originally being a pre-Lent celebration. Samba has long been a dance performed during the country's street festivals and celebrations, and is a symbol of Brazil's national identity.

The dance originated in Bahia, with its roots in both Brazil and Africa, via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. The modern samba emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Popular culture helped create awareness of the dance, such as in 1933 when Fred Astaire and Dolores Del Rio danced it in the movie Flying Down to Rio.

There are countless samba schools in Brazil – and more than 100 in Rio alone. They're as popular as the country's football team – and they spend the entire year leading up to Carnival perfecting their moves for the big parade.

Sample package: Tempo Holidays has a five-day Rio Carnival Extravaganza 2013 package, departing in February and priced from $1862. It includes a ticket for a seat in section nine of the Sambodromo Grandstand while accommodation is at the Savoy Othon Hotel. For more information, visit

Light and frothy: MERENGUE

It's believed that the national dance of the Dominican Republic, the merengue, may have taken its name from the dessert made of sugar and egg whites, perhaps because of the light and frothy character of the dance, or perhaps because of its short, precise rhythms.

Merengue has existed since the early years of the Dominican Republic (in Haiti there is a similar dance called the meringue). By the middle of the nineteenth century, the merengue was highly popular in the Dominican Republic – and it's now used on every dancing occasion. The dance is also very popular throughout the Caribbean and South America. Tempos vary a great deal and the Dominicans enjoy a sharp quickening in pace towards the latter part of the dance. 

There's another dance in the Dominican Republic that's just as popular as the merengue – the bachata. It developed from a variety of different rhythms including merengue, and is a relative of bolero, which in Latin culture is traditionally romantic music.

Sample package: Clients can arrange merengue and bachata classes in Cuba through Travel Projects. It also offers the 14-day dance group tour – Cuba, which combines Latin dance lessons with sightseeing. Prices start from $1775. For more information, visit

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