LATIN AND SWING BASIC STEP RHYTHM PATTERNS
Merengue: Quick Quick Quick Quick Quick Quick Quick Quick
This dance is very basic both rhythmically and in terms of the steps. It is often the favorite of beginning dancers for that reason. The music has a steady, repetitive quality. Dancing Merengue is like walking to music, stepping on every beat. Then you can do any moves such as turns, that the leader leads. This dance is also the National Dance of the Dominican Republic.
Salsa: Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow
You can begin the first quick on beat one or beat two of the musical measure in Salsa. It is a little more musically challenging to start the pattern on the second beat. Most Americans begin on beat one which is the accented beat of the musical measure and "easiest to find."
If an reader would like to watch a program that shows and explains the basic step.
Bachata: Quick Quick Quick Tap Quick Quick Quick Tap
This dance has become very popular since the early 2000’s. Dancers step on the first three beats of a four beat musical measure and they mark the fourth beat by touching the floor but not putting weight onto the step. Then they begin the next step on the same foot they tapped onto. So it would be for example, leaders step left, right, left and then tap on the right. Then it’ right, left, right and tap on the left foot, and repeat. There are steps that alter and play with the above pattern but that is the basic step rhythm.
Note: This video link: https://youtu.be/c2zXnvWdUFE shows segments of a Hispanic Heritage Month program by DIT at Florida Southern College. The rhythms of Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata were shown and demonstrated. Differences in the sound of the music for these dances was also explained. (For example, Merengue music generally pounds out a steady beat.) The program concluded with some dance instruction. This DanceInTime program is a nice way to honor Latin culture.
Mambo: Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow
This rhythm pattern is identical to Salsa.However, Mambo is always begun on the second beat of the measure. Technically, Salsa in considered a "street dance" with a flavorful, expressive style while Mambo is a ball room dance. In reality they are essentially the same dance.
Cha-Cha: One Two cha, cha, cha One Two cha, cha, cha One Two cha, cha, cha
What happens if you replace the "slow" in Mambo with the "cha, cha, cha?" The answer is that you get the Cha Cha rhythm. Cha Cha is done to slower music than Mambo, so there is time to fit in those three cha chas instead of the one "slow." So Cha Cha and Mambo are very closely related dances. Furthermore, like Mambo, Cha Cha begins on the second beat of the musical measure. That said, many Latin club dancers who don't have ballroom training, dance Cha Cha like a slowed version of Salsa. So they start on beat 1 and as with Mambo, they replace the Slow step with "Cha cha cha." Essentially, Cha Cha is a dance generated by slowing down Mambo or Salsa and inserting 3 steps instead of one slow step. All the Mambo or Salsa moves can be done in Cha Cha with the appropriate rhythm variation!
Rumba: Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick Slow Quick Quick
Rumba is the slowest of all the Latin Dances. It is sometimes referred to as the dance of love due to the somewhat romantic character of both the steps and the music.
Single Swing: Slow Slow Quick Quick
Triple Swing: Triple time (3 steps) Triple time Quick Quick
West Coast Swing: Quick Quick Triple time Triple time or…
Quick Quick Triple time Quick Quick Triple time
There are many forms of swing dancing. Single Swing is done to fast music, such as "Rock Around the Clock." Triple Swing is done to medium tempo music. Finally, West Coast Swing is done to the slowest swing music which has a "bluesy" sound.
Swing and the other dances listed here (which are Latin dances) are all "related" through their connection to Jazz.
Note: The "quicks" get one beat each and the "slows" get two beats in all patterns above.