Latin America is a place with many culturally enriched dances. Stemming from Mexico, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Latin American dances infuse cultural flavour with technical skill to bring exciting performances to audiences worldwide. Modern Latin American dance consists of a wide variety of styles that were formed in separate cities and countries. Some of the dances have been standardised with internationally agreed techniques, rhythms and tempos. The dances generally fall into two categories - the International and American Style. The International Latin Style dances are often performed competitively due to its highly disciplined and technical traits. The dance styles in this category include the Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble and Jive. The Cha Cha, originally known as Cha Cha Cha, is one of the staples of international Latin dance competitions. The dance is characterized by three quick steps forward and two slower steps backwards - “one, two, cha-cha-cha, three, four, cha-cha-cha.” While maintaining minimal upper-torso movement, dancers sway their hips and straighten their knees on half beats. The slowest of the Latin dances is the Rumba. Considered to be the most romantic of the Latin dances, the Rumba emphasizes movement of the body rather than the feet and is full of emotion and interaction between partners. Each dancer tries to entice the other with side-to-side hip movements and twisted steps. Danced to a basic pattern of two quick side steps and a slow forward step, the Rumba is adaptable to many musical forms that accommodate a quick-quick-slow rhythm. In Brazil, Samba is a popular Latin dance at street festivals and celebrations like the Brazilian Carnival. Set to music with African rhythms, this joyful and lively dance is characterized by rapidly moving hips and quick transfers of weight. Although it is usually performed solo in the Brazilian culture, ballroom versions have been developed where partners dance with bounce and hip rolling motions. The fastest of the Latin dances is the Jive. This happy and extremely energetic dance incorporates plenty of knee-lifting, bending, kicking, flicking and rocking of the hips. Latin American dances are taught in academies all around the world. Through dancing, people of different ages and backgrounds can stay physically fit while building new friendships. Consistent dance practice brings numerous health and social benefits.
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