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A guide to dance in Cuba

As a Latin island in the Caribbean famous for its grooves and smooth moves, Cuba is a nation rightfully proud of its dance heritage.

With music such a huge part of the country's culture, it's likely that you'll want to get stuck into some of the dances and quick-steps available in this stunning holiday destination. Cuba's dance legacy might be immense, but that doesn't mean knowing your salsa from your habanera needs to be a massive headache.

Check out our tips to get a head start on your dancing knowhow.


The rowdy rumba has its roots far back in the colonial era of Cuba, as far back as the 1890s in fact.

Its origins are said to stem from the leisure time of those working in the farms and fields of days gone by, who'd spend their Sundays bouncing and bopping around to local music.

The rumba is known for its highly improvisational style, which made it quite the done thing when jazz music arrived in Cuba in the early 20th century. Indeed, the music and the dancing style proved a perfect fusion, which continues to be enjoyed today.


As dances go, mambo is as sultry and sassy as it gets – big proud steps, strong shaking shoulders and commitment to the rhythm. It's a distinctly Cuban dance that blends the loud and proud trumpets and horns that make up so much of the island's music with sublime steps and attitude.

There's no wonder that the mambo has proved one of Cuba's biggest exports, taking the world by storm in its heyday and still remaining popular.


A slower dance than those listed so far, the habanera emphasises graceful, precise and delicate movements. They say a French influence had its hand in creating what is nonetheless one of Cuba's most traditional dances, which hails from the 19th century.

As one of the older of formal dances, the habanera led to the creation of the tango years later, and although that same distinct dance is enjoyed across Cuba, staunch traditionalists keep the habanera alive. Definitely check it out if you get the chance, for its precision as much as its beauty.

The Conga

Weddings across the world are always host to this classic floor-filler, where a lively tune gets trotted and kicked in time to around the room in a crazy and ever-growing snaking train of laughing people.

There's no denying that a conga line is at the heart of any tipsy shindig you might care to mention, yet it might surprise you to learn that its roots rest in sunny Cuba. In fact, even the most trendy nightclubs in the country still keep the rhythm of the conga strong, and as icebreakers go it's difficult to beat.


Slow, intimate and romantic, the bolero is another example of Cuban dance's more tender side. That said, it's also known as a fun dance to learn, partly as an excuse to get up close and personal with a special someone.

But also because the pacing of the steps changes and varies as the dance unfolds, much like the tentative forays into a new relationship that lead to outbursts of passion. It's one of the most expressive dances Cuba can offer, and even if you're not up to learning its steps, watching a performance is sure to provoke emotions.


This dance might not have originated in Cuba, but it's enjoyed in so many bars and nightclubs across the island that it's become a massive part of Cuban identity.

The merengue features easy yet lively steps that make it fun to learn, and it means that beginners can be trotting over the dancefloor with the best of them in no time.

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