Rumba timing

From: psychohist@aol.com

To confuse things further, there are actually two accepted timings for American style rumba.

The Arthur Murray schools use slow, quick quick: 1-2, 3, 4. The basic movement is a box step. I've seen this called "square rumba" in England.

The Fred Astaire schools use quick quick slow: 1, 2, 3-4.

And, of course, the international style has the 'slow' spanning two bars: 2, 3, 4-1 (with the hip movement on 1). Victor Sylvester, being English, covered the international style in his book. Few published books cover the American style since the Murray and Astaire chains seem to like keeping their syllabi secret.

Warren Dew

From: Enio Cordoba

The Fred Astaire schools use quick quick slow: 1, 2, 3-4.

This is know as Guaracha. The oral history I been given is that the Fred's chain looking for a gimmick to get more people into their studios jumped on Guaracha in the fifties and called it the new Rumba. Musically the Murray version is correct for the typical "rumbas" played in competiton. Because Fred's owned USBCs they decided that QQS would be the rhythm of choice.

More from Enio Cordoba, this time about the perceived difficulty of breaking on 2:

The point seems to escape most that it has NOTHING to do with dancing correctly but teaching correctly. Would you go to a golf "pro" who taught you to drive with a putter or putt with a driver? It is not harder to teach somebody to "break" on two- it is nearly impossible to get somebody to START on two. How easy would it be to find words in a dictionary where the words were not alphabetical? To start a group on two all I have to do is tell them to count one two three and do a chasse to right on the 4 &. It's not the break that I focus the students on, it's the chasse action. After 2 minutes of just hitting the 4& 1. I add the left chasse on 4 & 1 then after 2 more minutes we add the forward break. After 8 minutes they are all dancing on time. Of course they must be able to find the one beat which is a helluva lot easier than finding the 2! The reason everybody has trouble breaking on the two is because they are focusing on the step with off beat. Take the emphasis off the break and focus on the cha cha. When someone walks in and is a blank slate, teaching A is no harder than teaching B. What makes you think a newbie reasons the rock step is the starting point? Teaching someone who learned from a lousy teacher is another story.

Rumba vs Bolero

Rumba, as taught in ballroom studios, is a slow dance. For instance, 'Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps', on the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack, is 102bpm. But the same song executed by Xavier Cugat is 132bpm, Cuban Pete claims to be 'the king of the rumba beat' at mambo tempo.

Here is a partial explanation of this confusion.

The word rumba comes from the spanish word rumbear which means to party. The rumba as we know it is more directly related to the bolero or even more directly to the Cuban danzon which was slow. If you see the movies of the '30s and '40s that featured rumba (I remember one with Carmen Miranda), you would be surprised to see how fast Rumba was. A Cuban musicologist once explained that there were actually 7 primary forms of rumba. Each one being not only different rhythmically but tempo wise. If memory serves me, Danzon, bolero, guajira, guaracha, son, rumba, and beguine. Many dance albums of the '50s and '60s list these rhythms after the song titles.

Arthur Murray watered down the rumba for the masses. In his or his wife's autobiography I remember the story explained how Arthur didn't believe HONKYS would ever want to move their hips (or could) like latinos therefore the box version was created. (Which just happened to fit his interrelated system of teaching.) [ Enio Cordoba ProDnzr@aol.com ]


I quote from the liner notes to Armando Garzon's "Boleros" CD on the Corason label:

<< Boleros took root in most of Latin America although with particular passion in Mexico and Puerto Rico where the most famous crooners became national heroes and demigods in Cuba too. Most notable were Rafael Hernandez from Puerto Rico, Agustin Lara and Alvaro Carrillo from Mexico.>>>

Boleros became particularly famous in the era of the trios (Los Panchos, Los Tres Ases, Julito Rodriguez y su Trio, etc.). Other famous interpreters were Benny Mor'e, Olga Guillot, Jose Antonio Mendez, and more recently Elena Burke, Luis Miguel, and Pablo Milanes. A Brazilian singer, Nana Caymmi, and the Chilean group Inti-Illimani are also well-known for performing boleros. [Daniella Thompson daniv@mail.telis.org ]

More about bolero:

From _Christopher Unborn_ by Carlos Fuentes:

...They never let her see anyone, talk to anyone, only hear bolero all day long through a loudspeaker system reaching all over the house, even the bathroom, even her pillow, listening to boleros so she would know she was dominating and not dominated by the world of the machos, only in bolero were women triumphant, punishing, inflicting pain, dominating, and beating down the whimpering macho who passed from his little mommy to his little Virgin, to his little whore, it's all in bolero, if you know how to make it fit, so that she would be told, subliminally, through loudspeakers...a man singing to her from the invisible heights of the romantic heaven of celebrity and love and security where it's women who have power and the men who are impotent:

_You_ are to blame
For _all_ my anguish
And _all_ my grief

These last words are an approximate translation of a very popular and commonly played bolero.

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Last modified on: Saturday, October 9, 1999.