The 5 Latin Dances in DanceSport

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Latin dances typically bring to mind suave moves, extravagant costumes and pinpoint accuracy and/or speed for the fast dances. But “Latin dance” is only a general label, with several specific dances under this big umbrella. Well, we figured now’s a good time to run a little Latin content on our site, as we ran an interview with Dominic Lor last week, who is a Malaysian rising star who’s currently pursuing his dreams at Ballet Manila as a second company artist. Coincidentally, he is also a Latin dancer, and not gonna lie, he continues to inspire this week’s topic, where we will be focusing on the 5 Latin dances that are involved in DanceSport.

(*Note: To read Dominic’s full interview with us, click here.)

A little about DanceSport: The World DanceSport Federation coined the term “DanceSport” in the early 1980s, and today it is representative of competitive ballroom and Latin dancing, compared to social dancing. DanceSport is usually categorised into two: Standard and Latin (Latin-American). There are 5 dances in each category.

1. Samba

The Samba in Latin dance is different from the original Brazilian Samba dance, though it retains certain elements. A lively rhythmical dance, the Samba has a very specific hip action, different again from any other Latin dances. According to, “a dancer must give it a happy, flirtatious and exuberant interpretation” to ensure the real characterisation of Samba. Danced to music in 2/4 or 4/4 time, it also employs several different rhythmic patterns, with cross-rhythms a common feature. Check out a Samba dance video below:

2. Cha-Cha-Cha

Otherwise known informally as just the cha-cha, the Cha-cha-cha originated from Cuba, and is danced to the music of the same name composed by composer and violinist Enrique Jorrin. Essentially, it is of the same rhythm and style of the Mambo dance, but it is characterised by a quick set of 3 consecutive steps. In fact, Cha-cha-cha is named after the shuffling of feet when performing these 3 steps. It is also typically counted as “2, 3, cha-cha-cha”, with the cha-cha-cha beats being 4-&-1. Check out a Cha-cha-cha dance video below:

3. Rumba

The slowest among all of the competitive international Latin dance styles, Rumba is sassy, smooth and sensual. A romantic dance, Rumba focuses on hip movements as well as a connection with the partner. The basic Rumba dance step pattern is executed in a box step, and the Rumba in particular is characterised by a quick-quick-slow pattern, in which the slow step takes 2 beats to execute. Just like the Cha-cha-cha, Rumba has its roots in Cuba. Check out a Rumba dance video below:

4. Paso Doble

Meaning “double-step” in Spanish, Paso Doble is also danced to the music of the same name. A dance with a dramatic flair, the Paso Doble is inspired by the bullfighting culture of the Spanish and the Portuguese. In fact, some bullfights have their own style of Paso Doble before the fight! In the Latin dance style, there are breaks or “highlights” at certain positions in the song, where dancers strike a dramatic pose and hold it till the “highlight” is over. The Paso Doble is a challenging dance as all the movements are sharp and quick, and it also takes up a lot of space, perhaps due to its dramatic nature. Check out a Paso Doble dance video below:

5. Jive

If the Rumba was the slowest out of 5 of the Latin dances, Jive is the quickest one – there’s no way you can’t tell that a pair is dancing Jive with all the nimble kicks, flicks and high energy levels. Although it is grouped under Latin dances, Jive is danced to Western music, and it also has its origins from African-Americans. Jive is largely considered a lively, uninhibited version of the jitterbug, and Jive’s basic patterns have a lot in common with the East Coast swing. Basic Jive steps consist of 2 triple steps and a rock step. Check out a Jive dance video below:

There are of course, many other Latin dances, especially danced socially, but these 5 are the competitive ones. Personally, my favourite would either be the Paso Doble (figures – I had to choose the most challenging one) or the Jive, but frankly speaking, I’m already out of breath looking at the Jive! What’s your favourite one? Tell us in the comments below!


Yiing Zhi

Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.

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