Dancing to De-Stress with Street Latin

The human body is designed to move and we are inherently social creatures.  What better way to fuse these two intrinsic human qualities than with social dance.  Social dance with a latin ‘sabor’ (flavour).  Mobilising, thoughtful connections with ourselves and others can help us manage stress in our lives.  Origins of street Latin dances can help us understand the deep connections we humans have with music and dance and movement.  Cuban dance is one such story.

A brief look into the history of Cuban Salsa tells us this dance was born from oppression and creativity.  The Spaniards brought over ships of slaves mainly from tribes in west Africa.   Humans like most animals have a survival instinct.  Survival to these people was to hear the sounds and rhythms of the drums. The story goes that many slaves were dying during transportation.  The slave traders allowed drumming to minimise the deaths at sea.   In Cuban dance, Rumba, we see from one of the story of an elderly man who can barely walk hearing the music.  Upon hearing the drums is transported into the fluidity of dance and music.  In essence rhythms and music heals the immobile.

Creativity.  Use what you have and make the most of it.  The Cuban slaves heard the sounds of the Spanish guitar and verse.  There was the flamenco dance and the traditional religions and practices of the west Africans.   Through time the fusion of these cultures were used to raise the spirits of the people out of oppression.

To gain more insight of Cuban history of music and dance I highly recommend watching  “Roots of Rhythm” on YouTube.

Rumba is one of the first of these creative fusions of west Africa and Spanish flamenco.  The birth of Cuban Rumba

Closely followed by Son.  Here is a great history documentary of Son, “Origins of Son Cubano Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro” .  Here is an example of the dance style, Cuban Son Dancers – Santiago, Cuba.

In many western cultures cha cha cha has become synonymous as a prominent ballroom latin dance.  However, the origins are in Cuba.  The sound of the feet as they shuffled to the music was called cha cha cha.  Cuban Cha cha cha is a beautiful example of playfulness with a partner, Cuban Cha Cha Cha Demonstration.  This responsive dance gives dancers a way to connect and have fun with a partner through dance.   With social dance there is no need to have the technicality of the ballroom style.  It is casual, relaxed and informal.

The same goes with salsa.  The history of salsa music and dance is complex.  The prohibition of alcohol in USA in  the nineteen twenties and thirties open a tourist route to Cuba.  The influence of Cuban music and culture started to spread to USA and around the world.  Here is a concise history of how jazz started to fuse with traditional Cuban sounds, The history of Salsa music documented in 8 minutes

This is a very brief history of Cuban dance and music.  I wanted to give some context and respect to the history and culture of street latin dance.  This was focusing on one region, Cuba.  Merengue and bachata originate from The Dominican Republic,  Tango from Argentina, Samba from Brazil and of course salsa having similar but different stories in Columbia and Puetu Rico.

All these social dances have risen from oppressive contexts of slavery.  All have used music and dance/movement to help lift the spirits, keep communities alive and connected.  While these communities support inclusiveness there is also a generosity that is enmeshed with these dances and music.  The energy of these dances are uplifting, engaging and contagious.

As a therapist I am not only teaching street latin dance steps it is much more.  As per any relationship, a group  is no different.   As a professional counsellor it is my priority to facilitate a safe and therapeutic  environment for participants.  Participants  learn how to respectfully engage with each other and traditional music in a dance relationship.  Learning to communicate and respond with each other in street Latin dances.  Once the timing is developed, creativity and self expression is encouraged through the art of improvisation and playfulness.

These are all skills and tools that can be paralleled in our personal lives; our relationships with our spouses, partners, families and communities.  While we are no longer oppressed by slave traders of the past we do have modern burdens that create stress in our lives.  There are many degrees of stress and many ways that we are affected.  Managing stress is not as simple as telling someone to ‘relax’.   One of the many ways to manage stress is to connect with the body.  For many people the modern in vogue tool is with yoga and meditation.  Dance and Theatre are also other great tools to help manage stress, where people learn to connect with their bodies, others and focus on other activities, such as text and body movements.

While street Latin dancing may not be everyone’s idea of stress management it definitely has its merits.  It certainly has help many people in history manage stressful living conditions and it could also be helpful to many others into the future.

  • Maria Hull Noosa Counselling is running a 6 week Street Latin Dancing Course in Noosa.  Classes will commence
  • Friday 26th August at 6.30pm.
  • 6 week course costs $75
  • Venue: Tewantin Masonic Hall
  • For more info email

 RSVP

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