The five Latin dances are very distinct from each other, each having a complex and sometimes mysterious history. These dances were performed up until the middle of the 20th century only as folk dances, until they were developed into what we now know as International Latin by incorporating technique from Classical Ballet. The result today is something completely distinct from the original, yet it is important to keep the flavour of the history of each dance in order to embody the music and properly portray the characteristics of each dance. This article will cover those characteristics which you should be incorporating into your dancing.
Cha Cha is meant to be cheeky, teasing, flirty, and playful, and traditional Cha Cha music has a mix of fun and sophistication to it. The typical image portrayed is a couple out on a first or second date (or maybe he sees her on the street, and decides to go talk to her). Usually, the lady shows off her moves to catch the man's eye, and the man responds accordingly. Throughout the dance, the couple continues to learn about each other in a playful manner, continually challenging each other.
Check out this video of Stefano and Dasha dancing a Cha Cha, and try to see the story they portray.
Samba is all about partying all night long. The feeling is that you are on vacation in Brazil during Carnival, drinking, making love, and having a great time all around. In a sense, Samba is not as deep as Cha Cha, since there is really only one emotion that is portrayed throughout, but that emotion needs to be strong. Overall, Samba needs to be exciting - a continuous celebration of life.
Check out this video of Maruzio and Andra dancing a Samba, and notice how they pull the entire audience into the fun they are having while dancing.
Rumba is known as the dance of love, but there are different kinds of love. Sometimes, the Rumba can be sexy, showing the couples journey to the bedroom or through a fantasy. Sometimes, Rumba can have a tragic sort of love, like Romeo and Juliet. Other times still, Rumba can represent a tenderness between two people that just fit. As many types of love as there are in the world, that many types of Rumbas can be expressed in dance.
Check out this video of Slavik and Karina dancing a Rumba, and try to figure out what story they are trying to tell.
Paso Doble has the most straight forward character of any of the dances. The dance represents the bullfight. While the man is the matador in this story, the lady has many roles. She is never the bull, but can be the cape, the shadow of the matador, or a flamenco dancer.
Check out this video of Michael and Joanna dancing a Paso Doble, and notice how her role changes throughout the dance.
The Characteristic of Jive is very similar to Samba in that it depicts partying and an all around good time, but because the music is so different, the type of party you're at feels a lot different. As opposed to being out on a parade drinking all day, Jive usually has more of a feeling of a couple going out for a night on the town and letting loose.
Check out this video of Riccardo and Yulia dancing a Jive, and notice the chemistry between them even as they show their excitement on the floor.