About the dances – Cumbia

Often in classes participants ask me to explain a little bit around the context of some of the famous dances we use at Zumba Northwood. People often ask us ‘what are we actually dancing in a Zumba Class’, ‘what makes a Merengue Track really a Merengue?’ and ‘why  is Cumbia different from Salsa?’ So we thought it would be useful to share a little more on the dances on our website and there’s nowhere better to start that than the world famous Cumbia.

Why is Cumbia one of the main dances you will always find in a Zumba class?
Easy one! Zumba creator Beto Perez brought Zumba to America in 2001. However, Beto is originally from Cali in Colombia and Cumbia is a Columbian folk dance. Cumbia is often associated with a tropical or creole flavour to the music.

It is nice to feel home sometimes, isn’it?

Why is Cumbia a “One-Sided” dance?
Cumbia is a one-sided dance – the steps involve movements on the same leg for many beats of the music and only after a short pause do we swap to the other leg. These shuffling steps are attributed to African slaves who wore leg irons and chains during the eighteenth century. Cumbia steps were performed by workers in the sugar cane fields who were bound together in a line by one ankle. In this way, Cumbia is a very one-sided dance!

Those legs don’t ache that much now, do they?

What is all that about Hats and Skirts?
One of our favourite songs is ‘El burrito’ which I use for my warm ups. It is a slow but fun song which also represents exactly what Cumbia is all about – Courtship. The slave courtship rite was traditionally performed with music played by pairs of men and women. Women playfully waved their long skirts while holding a candle, and men danced behind the women with one hand behind their back and the other hand either holding a hat, putting it on, or taking it off. Male dancers also carried a red handkerchief which they wrapped around their necks, waved in circles in the air, or held out for the women to hold.

I might remember to bring my red handkerchief next time!

What is “Techno Cumbia”?
As an interval training class, Zumba Fitness uses switches in pace to help maximise the workout. Traditionally Cumbia has quite a slow beat. However, because of the popularity of the Cumbia tracks “Techno Cumbia” was born. Techno Cumbia utilises the same one-side steps, but with a high tempo rhythm.  My favourite Techno Cumbia song I love to dance with my class is definitely “Pa’ la discoteca a bailar”.

Check out some of the Cumbia moves with Zumba Educational Specialist Donna Giffen:

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