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5 Popular Latin American Dance Styles

When you hear the term ballroom dance, what styles of dance come to mind? Maybe you think of fancy dresses, sleek suits, and sexy moves. Latin American dance styles are all of that… plus MORE! Latin American dance styles are both alluring and captivating.

Salsa, Bachata, Tango, Cha Cha, and Rumba are all popular Latin American dance styles. So, grab a partner, and learn to dance!


Like many Latin dance styles, bachata is very sensual in nature. Bachata itself is a popular style of dance that originated in the Dominican Republic and is now a dance known worldwide. Being that it is danced all over the world, there are many variations of the style.

Bachata music has a slight accent in rhythm at every fourth count; this is when the pop should happen. The pop (tap) is a movement done in the opposite direction of the last step and changing the dance direction after every 4th count.

Hips are a large part of this exciting dance. The basics of this dance are a three-step combination with a Cuban help motion. There’s a hit tap on the fourth like in other Latin dances, such as salsa.

New Fusion Styles

The U.S., Europe, and Australia really kicked things up or not from the traditional style of Bachata. These styles are called on your fusion styles and are a mix of different dances. The different types are traditional, Dominican, modern, tango, and Barham styles.

Traditional Style

This was the first non-Caribbean style of bachata developed in the U.S. and Europe. It is based on the earlier Dominican bachata with its own twist.

Dominican Style

This is the original bachata dance style that comes from the Dominican republic. This style of music also originated from the Dominican Republic as well. Dominican style bachata is still the most popular style danced all over the Caribbean; however, the pace has become faster due to the music.

Modern Style

This style originated in Europe, and it is also known as bachata moderna. That style is the traditional style bachata with added dance techniques and styling from salsa, tango, zouk, and other dance styles. It takes you from the basic left to right spots, moving you to different directions and even adding in tango steps and occasional turns.

Tango Style

Tango style but Chartres is unheard of in the Dominican Republic, and however, it has gained quite the popularity with many foreign dancers outside of the Caribbean. It’s short sequences moving side to side, but mostly tango steps danced like tango. The pop count is used to add elaborated sensuality and very bland dance styles and the tango.

Ballroom Style

Ballroom dance has really taken bachata up a notch. The style was developed in the U.S. and Europe specifically for competition dance, and there are extreme hip movements and mini ballroom dance styles used.

Cha Cha 

The cha cha is one of the most frequently taught dances in dance schools worldwide. With compact steps based on some parts of the mambo and rumba, there are dips and turns and slides sure to give you a thrill… and, of course, a spin on the dance floor. 

This dance has roots going back to the Afro-Cuban community of Havana. When U.S. big bands visited the island and the popular clubs, they developed a unique blend, fusing the rumba music with American jazz. Today, we now know this style to be known as the rumba.

Like the rumba, the cha cha can trace its roots to the Afro-Cuban community in Havana. Big bands from the U.S. mainland made their way into the exciting clubs that populated the capital and developed a unique fusion of rumba music and American jazz that eventually became known as the mambo. 

A Famous Dance Teacher

When a famed dance teacher went to Cuba to learn these movements, he noticed that many performers added additional steps to the mambo. This famous dance teacher, Monsieur Pierre, returned to England and taught the other steps used as entirely different dance altogether. And so, the cha cha was born and became one of the most popular Latin dances in the world!

To do the cha cha, grab a partner, and notice the music is in 4/4 time. The steps are compact, with most movements being concentrated in the hips and pelvic, and it is a series of sliding steps while shifting your weight. Slide your left foot forward, keep your weight shifted on that food, keep your right foot stationary. Then shift your weight to your right foot, step back to the side left and shift your weight once again to the left foot, closing your right foot. Next, shit your weight to your right foot, move your left foot to the side and repeat steps.  


The rumba is a very sensual, slow, and sexy ballroom dance. It originated in African slave communities in Cuba during the sixteenth century. The original form of the rumba was a bit more aggressive and faster; the dance we know today is still full of passion and sizzle. It has influenced many popular Latin American dances, such as the cha cha. A slower version of the African slave dance turned a bit more conservative from the middle-class Cubans, refining the dance into the Son. The Son’s dance made its way to America in the early 1900s. Before long, the American Rumba was born, with its roots firmly planted in Latin and African culture.

To do this dance, grab your partner, face each other and step forward with your left foot. Next, slide your right foot to the right, opposite from your left foot. Slide your left foot to meet the right, then step back with your right foot. Slide your left foot back to the left, opposite your right foot, and step your right foot to meet the left foot. Repeat steps.


The tango is a very slow dance between two people. This slow sexy dance originated in Buenos Aires in the mid-1800s. With many cultures mixing together from Spain, Italy, Russia, Poland, and Portugal mingling with African slaves. Sharing their dance traditions, and creating a new one based on their cultures, an early form of tango was created. Today the dance is extremely popular in nightclubs and dance studios around the world.

For this dance, you will need a partner. The leading partner will step forward with his left foot for two counts, then step forward with the right foot for two counts. Next step forward with the left foot for one count followed by a slight forward step and to the side with the right foot, so both feet are then at an angle for one count. Close the left foot to your right foot for two counts. Once you progress through learning the tango, turns and embellishments can be made.


The Latin American dance of the Salsa holds its roots in Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Born in the 1960s, a new rhythm combined several different Latin Dances, including vibes from the cha cha, rumba, and the mambo. Though there are many different beliefs on its true origins, Salsa seems to have been developed by Cubans and Puerto Ricans living in New York in the 1960s.

This exotic dance was brought to popularity and made more mainstream with Desi Arnaz, Celia Cruz, Carmen Miranda, and Tito Puente. These famous Latin Americans helped to bring Latin Music into American homes, readying them for the new Salsa craze.

There are six different styles of Salsa that are danced worldwide. Other countries have evolved the Salsa into different styles, though it originated in New York. Salsa music is written with four beats per measure, and the full salsa dance step is performed in just two bars per eight beats. The first measure will be for the left foot, while the second measure is made for the right. There is a leader that is usually the man, and the follower, which is generally the woman. They start in a closed position, facing each other with the leader holding the follower’s right hand with his left resting his right hand on the woman’s back. Many of the movements in Salsa is based on the hips, legs, and feet. While dancing, you always want to keep yourself fluid and loose and pay close attention to the beats.

Latin American Dance Styles are Captivating & Exciting

Latin American Dance Styles are so popular. Latin dance is captivating and exciting, from dancing the salsa to the tango, rumba, and more. Many of these dances hold their roots in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia, and on the island of Hispanola.

Long before the many dances that we know today, Latin American styles originated from indigenous people across Latin American cultures. The unique and intricate dances these people were dancing were part of their heritage, dancing them at gatherings and rituals and being a vibrant culture. While those dances may have changed some, the spirit and soul of those dances have transcended into the Latin American dance styles we see today.

Arthur Murray Clermont – 5 Popular Latin American Dance Styles

Are you ready to spice up your life? Learn a Latin American dance style. We teach salsa, cha cha, rumba, merengue, tango, Bachata, and other popular ballroom dance styles such as the waltz and foxtrot, just to name a few. Bring your favorite dance partner (or borrow one of ours), dancing shoes, and get ready for a great time on the dance floor. We can’t wait to teach you some of these incredible dances. Contact us to sign up for a class! Your first one is free!