Dance Culture in Cuba

With such a mix of backgrounds, Cuban culture expresses its diversity in many ways. One that is immediately evident when traveling on one of our Cuba photo tours is their music and dance. You may be surprised to find that some of the most famous dance forms originated on this Caribbean island. How many do you know?


Translated as “conversation with the gods” in the Kongo language, Mambo music was invented in the 1930s by Cuban musician Arsinio Rodríguez. The complex steps and rhythm of the dance was then made popular during the 1940s in Havana by Perez Prado. In the 40’s and 50’s the dance spread to Mexico and New York, the latter being where the dance was standardized into the modern ‘Mambo’ or ‘Salsa’ dance form.  


One of the most popular dance forms of today, the cha-cha-cha was developed in Cuba in the 1950s by composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín. This dance remains popular in the country, so you can be sure to encounter these danzón-inspired moves as you discover Cuba on our tour.


Not to be confused with the Spanish dance of the same name, Bolero is one of the oldest and most traditional dance forms in Cuba. If you’re interested in seeing this slow, passionate dance during your visit, be sure to check out dance competitions or even entertainment nights, as it is often performed by locals.

The Conga

As we all know, the Conga line is a fun dance, often started at parties when people are rowdiest, but did you know it’s from Cuba? This lively dance originated on the Cuban streets. It was so popular, in fact, that it was at one point adopted by politicians as a way to appeal to the masses. The dance is so lively that during the Machado dictatorship people in Havana were actually banned from dancing it as it would excite rival groups and lead to street fighting.

The Tango

You may encounter this dance as you spend time in Cuba. Commonly associated with Argentina and Uruguay, there are some who claim that the Tango actually originates from the Habanera, a traditional Cuban dance.


Although not native to Cuba, hip-hop has become widely popular among Cuban youth. When it first arrived in the country, many in government and even the community viewed it with suspicion, seeing it as a symbol of a capitalist United States. However, it has since been accepted, especially since the country began opening up to the world and as people began to modify the dance form into a more ‘Cuban’ style.

Photos by Andy Scaysbrook

dance in Cuba

dance in Cuba

dance in cuba

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