Rhythmic characteristics of dance forms

Many dance forms are recognisable by their tempo, metre and characteristic rhythms. These rhythms also have an impact on the dance steps for each form.

Salsa

This is a picture of a couple doing the Salsa

Salsa is lively dance music with many different styles. It originated in Cuba and has African and Spanish influences. It is very popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York.

Salsa music:

  • has a time signature of 4/4
  • uses clave rhythms - usually played by claves - which provide the rhythmic foundation
  • has melodic and rhythmic syncopation
  • uses simple harmony based on repeated chord patterns, often in the minor key
  • uses call and response vocals in which the leader sings a line - the call and is answered by a chorus - the response
  • usually has a structure of simple melodies followed by coro, or improvised sections
  • uses lyrics of love and everyday life

The clave rhythm is a syncopated rhythm grouped in 3 + 2 or 2 + 3:

The clave rhythm is a syncopated rhythm grouped in 3 + 2 or 2 + 3.

Tango

Tango is a sensuous paired dance that originated in the 1880s in the slums and bars of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The tango can be identified by its rhythmic characteristics. It has:

  • four beats in a bar
  • a syncopated ostinato (repeated) rhythm
  • accented notes

Here are the two main rhythms found in a tango:

The two main rhythms found in tango.

Habenara

Habanera is a variation on the tango that comes from Cuba. It is based on a dotted rhythm, which also appears in some other tango influenced dances. The most well-known habanera is from George Bizet’s Carmen.

Merengue

Merengue was originally the national dance of the Dominican Republic and has African and Spanish influences. Its rhythmic characteristics include:

  • a fast 2/4 beat
  • catchy melodies and rhythms
  • syncopated rhythms played on a tambura (a double-headed drum)
Merengue was originally the national dance of the Dominican Republic and has African and Spanish influences.

Bossa nova

Bossa nova means ‘new trend’. It is a fusion of samba and jazz. Its rhythmic characteristics include:

  • a fast 4/4 or 2/4 beat
  • a rhythm with a ‘swaying’ feel

Here is a typical bossa nova rhythm:

A typical bossa nova rhythm.

Rumba

The rumba is a slow dance in 4/4 time. This rhythm is the foundation of the rumba and can be heard in accompaniments and melodies:

This rhythm is the foundation of the rumba and can be heard in accompaniments and melodies.

A well-known example of the rumba is the Jamaican Farewell.

Question

The clave rhythm can be found in which style?

Salsa