Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cuban Rumbas - Guaguancó, Yambú, & Columbia Styles

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents general information about Rumba dances as well as information & video examples of the three different types of Cuban Rumba dances: Guaguancó, Yambú, and Columbia.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Rumba is a family of percussive rhythms, song and dance that originated in Cuba as a combination of the musical traditions. The name derives from the Cuban Spanish word rumbo which means "party" or "spree". It is secular, with no religious connections.[2] People of African descent in Havana and Matanzas originally used the word rumba as a synonym for party.[3] Olavo Alén states that over time, "rumba ceased to be simply another word for party and took on the meaning both of a defined Cuban musical genre and also of a very specific form of dance."[4] The term spread in the 1930s and 1940s to the faster popular music of Cuba (the "Peanut Vendor" was a classic), where it was used as a catch-all term, rather like salsa today. Also, the term is used in the international Latin-American dance syllabus, but in reference to a slower dance based on the bolero-son. Ballroom rumba, or rhumba, is essentially son* as opposed to the older folkloric rumba. Similarly, the African style of pop music called African Rumba or soukous is also son-based....
"The Son cubano is a style of music that originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity in the 1930s. Son combines the structure and elements of Spanish canción and the Spanish guitar with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu origin. The Cuban son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music: its derivatives and fusions, especially salsa, have spread across the world.[1]

The word son (one of the words that translates to English 'rhythm' from Spanish) has also come to be used for other traditional rural musical styles of Spanish-speaking countries."
"The three main forms of rumba today are yambú, and Columbia. The differences between them are in the choreography and the pace.

Guaguancó is a couple dance of sexual competition between the male and female. The female seductively moves her upper and lower body in contrary motion, and holding the ends of her skirt, “opens” and “closes” it in rhythm with the music. The male tries to distract her with fancy (often counter-metric) steps, accented by the quinto, until he is in position to surprise her with a single thrust of his pelvis. This erotic movement is called the vacunao (‘vaccination’ or ‘injection’), a gesture derived from yuka and makuta, symbolizing sexual penetration. The vacunao can also be expressed with a sudden gesture of the hand or foot. The quinto often accents the vacunao, usually as the resolution to a phrase spanning more than one cycle of clave. The female reacts to the vacunao by quickly turning away, bringing the ends of her skirts together, or covering her groin area with her hand (botao), symbolically blocking the “injection.” A male dancer rarely succeeds in surprising his partner. The dance is performed with good-natured humor.[16]

...Yambú is a couple dance like guaguancó but much slower. Vacunao is not used; the phrase en el yambú no se vacuna, "in yambú there is no vaccination", is commonly heard during yambú performances.

Columbia is a fast and highly acrobatic solo male dance."

This dance form is an example of a partnered dance. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.

Editor: Mark Stephens
Rumba is one of the most erotic and sensual of all the Latin dance styles due to its slow rhythms and hip movements that create intense bodily expressions. Rumba is related to Afro-Cuban music, which was introduced to Cuba by African slaves in the sixteenth century. It is also influenced by the music brought to Cuba by Spanish Colonizers. There are several different types of Rumba that have evolved over the years

Early American Rumba:
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a type of Rumba that is characterised by a fast tempo was introduced in to the American dance salons. The tempo is actually nearly twice as fast as the Ballroom Rumba styles...

Many of American Rumba’s dance moves are similar in form to Cha-cha-cha figures. It is thought that perhaps Cha-cha-cha developed from Rumba...

Cuban Rumba:
Cuban Rumba originated in the nineteenth century in the Cuban provinces of Havana and Matanzas. It is entirely different to the Ballroom Rumba and its explicit sexual overtones resulted in its suppression and restriction in many areas, as it was considered indecent and even dangerous. It developed in rural areas, and is still danced today in rural and more urban areas, particularly in areas of large black communities. There are three main types of Cuban Rumba – Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia:

Rumba Yambu is the slowest of the Rumba styles, and also the oldest, and often involves movements that feign frailty.

Rumba Guaguanco is faster than Yambu and consists of more complex rhythms. It is a flirtatious dance that involves a dance move called the ‘vacunao’, whereby the man’s movements are aggressive and sensually provocative, and the woman’s are defensive. Both Yambu and Guaguanco originated from the suburbs of big cities.

Rumba Columbia is fast and energetic. It is a solo dance that has a 6/8 beat and originated in the more rural areas of Cuba. Creative and acrobatic movements allow the dancer (traditionally male) to demonstrate displays of agility and strength. Humorous overtones also expresses the dancer’s confidence.
Editor: Nichola Manning"

FEATURED VIDEOS: Rumba Guaguancó

Example #1: Del complejo de la Rumba: Guaguancó

Minou Spits Uploaded on Nov 7, 2009

Mercedes and Yasser (two members of the viaDanza, salsa dance holidays to Cuba team) are performing the rumba at our great location where we have the hottest salsa party in Havana.
Club Salseando Chevere
This is part of the lessons of viaDanza.

Example #2: Rumba Guaguancó - "El Solar de los 6" - Cultura de Cuba - viaDanza Tanzreisen

cannon0815, Uploaded on May 15, 2011


Example #1: Yambu Stg de Cuba 1.3 (from

DjembeFi, Uploaded on May 24, 2007

Yambu, Cuba style. Yambu is a style of rumba caracterised by slow dance, imitating old's people dance movements. Visit for more photos and videos.
The dancing begins at 6:40 in this video.

Example #2: Rumba Yambú - "El Solar de los 6" - Cultura de Cuba - viaDanza Tanzreisen

cannon0815, Uploaded on May 27, 2011

Example #1: Wilmer — rumba columbia

Андрей Логинов, Published on Mar 4, 2012

Example #2: El Palenque Habana- Rumba columbia (Sabado de la Rumba) 2012, CFNC, Rumberos de cuba

salsa4water, Published on Sep 7, 2012

Filmed in Sabado de la Rumba in summer 2012, Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. . The group playing are Rumberos de cuba, arguably the best rumba group in cuba of the moment. Featuring among many random dancers, professional dancers from conjunto folklorico, the director (the older last male dancer) of conjunto folklorico and non-professional (but trying hard) Sam from Salsa4water Glasgow before being manned off the stage by a 5 year old. ENJOY!

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all the dancers, singers, and musicians and thanks to the publishers of these featured YouTube videos.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. It occurs to me that the "work work" dance movement that is performed by the African American R&B group The Contours in performances of their 1962 hit "Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)" is a form of the ‘vacunao’ movement in Rumba Guaguancó. Click for a video of The Contours performing that song and that dance movement & other dances).

    Also, I wonder if the king of Pop music Michael Jackson got his hand over his private parts movement from Rumba Guaguancó.

  2. I don't mean to imply that these African American singers connected their performance of those particular movements to those Rumba related dance movements. Perhaps those responses to percussive music are part of our "African DNA".

  3. I shouldn't facetiously use terms such as "African DNA". I really don't believe that there is such a thing as racial or ethnic DNA.

    But I do believe that aesthetic preferences such as the preference for percussive music and dance movements that reflect that preference are shared throughout Africa and African Diaspora people because of socialized values for those types of music and dances.

  4. The Wikipedia page which is quoted above indicates that Rumba is a secular dance. Yet, it seems to me that some of the people dancing the Rumba Columbia in the video given as Example #2 of that section began with and at least in one case ended with a gesture that indicated a spiritual acknowledgement and praise. (As an example, view the dancer beginning at 8:43 of that video).

    And I wouldn't be surprised if other dance steps incorporated into the Rumba dance have their source in orisha dances such as dances for Shango (Chango).

    Click for a pancocojams post that provides information about and dance videos of Shango to compare them with the dances in this video .