The term rumba may refer to a variety of unrelated music styles. Originally, "rumba" was used as a synonym for "party" in northern Cuba, and by the late 19th century it was used to denote the complex of secular music styles known as Cuban rumba. Since the early 20th century the term has been used in different countries to refer to distinct styles of music and dance, most of which are only tangentially related to the original Cuban rumba, if at all. The vague etymological origin of the term rumba, as well as its interchangeable use with guaracha in settings such as bufo theatre, is largely responsible for such worldwide polysemy of the term. In addition, "rumba" was the primary marketing term for Cuban music in North America, as well as West and Central Africa, during much of the 20th century, before the rise of mambo, pachanga and salsa.
Rumba (or “ballroom-rumba”), is one of the ballroom dances which occurs in social dance and in international competitions. It is the slowest of the five competitive International Latin dances: the Paso Doble, the Samba, the Cha Cha, and the Jive being the others. This ballroom Rumba was derived from a Cuban rhythm and dance called the Bolero-Son; the international style was derived from studies of dance in Cuba in the pre-revolutionary period which was then popularized by the descendants of African slaves of Cuba. Its tantalizing rhythm first invaded the United Sates in the early 1930s, and has remained one of the most popular social dances. The Rumba is characterized by a smooth, subtle hip motion and a heavy walking step.
In the US, the term "rhumba" (anglicised version of rumba), began to be used during the 1920s to refer to ballroom music with Afro-Cuban music themes, particularly in the context of big band music. This music was mostly inspired by son cubano, while being rhythmically and instrumentally unrelated to Cuban rumba. By the 1930s, with the release of "The Peanut Vendor", the genre had become highly-successful and well-defined. The rhumba dance that developed on the East Coast of the United States was based on the bolero-son. The first rumba competition took place in the Savoy Ballroom in 1930. Nowadays, two different styles of ballroom rumba coexist: American-style and International-style.
Of the three styles of Rumba that were introduced to the United States, the Bolero-Rumba, the Son-Rumba and the Guaracha-Rumba, only the Bolero-Rumba (shortened to Bolero) and the Son-Rumba (shortened to Rumba) have survived the test of time.
By the end of the 20th century, rhumba was also danced to pop music and jazz bands as seen in TV shows like Dancing with the Stars.
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