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Master How to Cumbia Dance Step by Step: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Monday, December 04, 2023

Blog | Salsaknox Dance Company | Knoxville, TN/Cumbia Dance/Master How to Cumbia Dance Step by Step: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Master How to Cumbia Dance Step by Step: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

by Waldo y Jacqui

Traditional Colombian dancers performing cumbia dance

Are you ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of cumbia dance? This ultimate beginner’s guide on how to cumbia dance step by step will take you on a journey through the heart and soul of this captivating Latin dance style.

From its rich Colombian roots to mastering the basic steps and enhancing your cumbia dance skills, this guide has it all. Let’s embark on this exciting adventure together!

Key Takeaways

  • ​Learn the fundamentals of cumbia dancing and its captivating rhythm & charm!
  • ​Discover how this unique Latin dance has evolved from a blend of cultures around the world.
  • ​Join an amazing dance studio or take online classes to experience all that cumbia has to offer!

The Foundations of Cumbia Dancing

dance cumbia | dance salsa | basic dance steps

Cumbia is a lively and engaging folk dance that originated in Colombia and has spread across Latin America. It has evolved over time, incorporating elements from other Latin American dance styles like salsa and merengue while maintaining its unique, unmistakable rhythm and charm.

Understanding the foundations of cumbia dancing equips you to better appreciate its beauty and impress on the dance floor.

Cumbia's Roots in Colombia

Cumbia’s intriguing origins trace back to the 17th century in Colombia, a blend of native Indigenous and African cultures. The dance was initially a courtship ritual, with pairs of men and women dancing together, showcasing their connection and compatibility.

Over time, the dance and music of cumbia evolved, influenced by the rhythms and melodies of African, American, and European cultures, resulting in the dynamic and diverse dance form we know and love today.

dance cumbia | left foot | salsa music

The Evolution of Cumbia Dance Styles

As cumbia dance spread beyond Colombia’s borders, it adapted to local influences and further evolved its unique style. Colombian singer Luis Carlos Meyer Castandet brought cumbia to Mexico in the 1940s, where it quickly gained popularity and transformed into the subgenre known as Mexican cumbia. Characterized by its upbeat tempo and catchy melodies, Mexican cumbia is often considered the queen of Latin dance in Mexico.

Cumbia also made its way to other Latin American countries like Peru, Chile, and Argentina, each adding their own flair and flavor to this captivating dance style.

If you want to learn how to dance a folk dance you can dance cumbia, you can learn it in a dance class the basic cumbia from Latin America, you start with the left foot going back, the right foot in place and the left foot forward

Cumbia's Influence on Modern Latin Dance

Cumbia’s impact on modern Latin dance is undeniable. Its footwork and rhythmic patterns have been incorporated into various dance styles such as:

  • ​Salsa
  • ​Bachata
  • ​Merengue
  • ​Mambo
  • ​And more

By learning cumbia, you’ll not only gain an appreciation for its rich history and cultural significance, but you’ll also develop a strong foundation for mastering other Latin dance styles.

Having acquainted yourself with cumbia’s history and influence, it’s time to learn the basic steps with this beginner’s guide.

Learn the Basic Steps of Cumbia Dance

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The key to dancing cumbia lies in mastering the basic steps, which include the back-break basic step, switching between right and left foot, and understanding rhythm and timing. Once you’ve grasped these fundamentals, you’ll be well on your way to dancing cumbia with confidence and style!

The Back-Break Basic Step

dance cumbia | left foot | learn how to dance | right foot | circular pattern

The back-break basic step is the foundation of cumbia dance. To execute this exhilarating four-count step, follow these instructions:

  • ​Shift your right foot behind your left at a 45-degree angle.
  • ​Take a small step in place with your left foot.
  • ​Move your right foot back to the starting position.

Start by stepping back with your right foot. Repeat the sequence on the other side with your left foot. Practice this step to the rhythm of the music, starting slowly and gradually increasing speed as you become more comfortable.

Switching Between Right and Left Foot

Alternating between right and left foot is key to maintaining the flow of your cumbia dance. As you perform the back-break basic step, smoothly transition from one foot to the other while keeping time with the music. This may take some practice, but with perseverance and patience, you’ll soon be able to switch feet seamlessly and dance cumbia effortlessly.

Rhythm and Timing in Cumbia Dance

Rhythm and timing significantly contribute to cumbia dance. To connect with the music and your partner, it’s necessary to build a sense of rhythm and dance harmoniously with the beat. Listen to authentic cumbia music and practice counting the beats to help you stay in time.

Remember, the key is to enjoy the process and have fun while learning the rhythm of this captivating dance style.

Partner Dancing in Cumbia

Couple practicing partner cumbia dance with hand connection

Dancing cumbia with a partner adds an extra layer of excitement and connection to the experience. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable dance, it’s essential to understand the roles of leader and follower, maintain a proper handhold, and mirror opposite foot movements.

We shall examine these aspects of partner dancing in cumbia.

Leader and Follower Roles

In cumbia dance, the leader’s role is to:

  • ​Initiate the movements
  • ​Guide the follower through the dance steps
  • ​Keep time and follow the rhythm of the music
  • ​Signal the partner about upcoming moves

The follower’s role, on the other hand, is to follow the leader’s lead and respond to their movements, creating a synchronized and harmonious dance partnership, always moving follower forward with each of the follower steps, ensuring the follower steps forward in unison with the leader steps as the leader steps forward.

Holding Hands and Maintaining Connection

A proper handhold and connection are central to a successful cumbia dance partnership. Here’s how to do it:

  • ​Start by facing your partner.
  • ​Link both of your hands together in the middle.
  • ​Ensure your grip is comfortable and secure, allowing for smooth transitions between dance moves.

Maintaining a strong connection with your partner is necessary for a seamless and enjoyable dance experience.

Mirroring Opposite Feet Movements

Mirroring opposite feet movements is imperative to maintain the flow of your cumbia dance. The leader should move their right foot back first. The follower should then step back with their left foot. This ensures that your feet movements flow in the same direction without unintentional collisions.

Practice mirroring your partner’s opposite feet movements to create a harmonious and synchronized dance experience.

Enhance Your Cumbia Dance Skills

Dancer incorporating hip dips and spins in cumbia dance

Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to add some flair to your cumbia dance. By incorporating the following techniques, you’ll elevate your dance skills and captivate your audience:

  • ​Hip dips
  • ​Spins
  • ​Mastering the cumbia turn
  • ​Incorporating styling tips

We’ll examine these exciting techniques!

Adding Hip Dips and Spins

Hip dips and spins can add excitement and variety to your cumbia dance routine. To incorporate hip dips, focus on moving your hips from side to side as you dance. For spins, follow these steps:

  • ​Start by facing your partner and stepping backward while holding hands.
  • ​Release hands and initiate the spin by pivoting on one foot while extending the other leg out to the side.
  • ​Use your arms to maintain balance and control during the spin.

Consistent practice of these moves will enhance your cumbia dance performance.

Mastering the Cumbia Turn

The cumbia turn, an advanced move, brings excitement and variety to your dance routine. To master this turn, follow these steps:

  • ​Start face-to-face with your partner.
  • ​Add a turn to your basic step pattern.
  • ​Practice the turn until you become comfortable with it.
  • ​Experiment with different styles and variations to find your unique expression.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

Styling Tips for Cumbia Dance

To improve your overall cumbia dance style, focus on your posture, footwork, and body movement. Here are some tips:

  • ​Maintain a straight spine and engage your core to support a stable posture.
  • ​Lift your chest slightly and relax your shoulders for a confident and upright posture.
  • ​Practice small, controlled steps and pay attention to the direction of your foot movements.

Lastly, embrace the lively and rhythmic nature of cumbia dance by incorporating hip dips, turns, and spins into your routine. With these styling tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a captivating cumbia dancer.

Choosing the Right Cumbia Music

Cumbia dance practice with traditional music instruments

Choosing the right cumbia music for practice is pivotal for honing your dance skills and musicality. Understanding the differences between traditional and modern cumbia music, recognizing the key instruments, and choosing recommended songs will help you find the perfect tunes to accompany your cumbia dance practice.

Traditional vs. Modern Cumbia Music

Traditional cumbia music typically features percussion, vocals, and gaita flutes, while modern cumbia music incorporates instruments like accordions, drums, guitars, and horn instruments. The rhythmic patterns in traditional cumbia also differ from those in modern cumbia, with traditional cumbia following a rhythmic pattern called the clave.

Consider these differences when choosing the right cumbia music to practice with, and experiment with both styles to find your preferred sound.

Key Instruments in Cumbia Music

The key instruments in cumbia music include:

  • ​Drums
  • ​Flutes
  • ​Maracas
  • ​Accordions

These instruments create the exciting, percussion-leaning double beat that characterizes cumbia music. The traditional gaita flute adds a melodic touch, while the accordion brings its rhythmic and vibrant tones.

Familiarizing yourself with these instruments will help you recognize and appreciate the unique sound of cumbia music.

Recommended Cumbia Songs for Practice

Here are some recommended cumbia songs to practice your dance skills and enhance your musicality:

  • ​“La Cumbia Cienaguera” by Los Corraleros de Majagual
  • ​“La Cumbia del Caribe” by Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto
  • ​“La Cumbia de los Pobres” by Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto

These songs will provide an authentic cumbia music experience, helping you to hone your dance skills and connect with the rhythm.

Joining a Dance Studio or Online Classes

Enhance your cumbia dance learning experience by joining a dance studio or online classes. Finding the right dance studio, exploring online resources, and connecting with the cumbia dance community will support your dance journey and help you develop your skills.

Finding the Right Dance Studio

When selecting a dance studio for cumbia classes, take into account the following factors:

  • ​The studio’s reputation
  • ​Teachers’ qualifications
  • ​The range of classes and styles offered
  • ​The learning environment

Additionally, prioritize safety and look for studios with proper safety measures in place to track outages and protect their clients.

Finding the right dance studio will provide a supportive and enjoyable environment to learn cumbia.

Online Cumbia Classes and Resources

Online cumbia classes and resources can complement your in-person learning or serve as a substitute for those with restricted access to dance studios. Platforms that offer online cumbia dance lessons include:

These platforms allow you to learn at your own pace and from the comfort of your home, offering personalized content and ads to enhance your learning experience.

Be sure to choose reputable sources that use cookies and data responsibly to protect against spam, fraud, and abuse when exploring online cumbia classes and resources.

Connecting with the Cumbia Dance Community

Engage with the cumbia dance community via:

  • ​Social media: Instagram, YouTube, TikTok
  • ​Dance events
  • ​Workshops
  • ​Meetup

By doing so, you’ll improve your engagement and site statistics.

Share your passion and perpetuate learning through these audience engagement and site platforms, while we deliver and maintain Google services to enhance your online presence.

By engaging with the cumbia dance community, you’ll find inspiration, support, and motivation to keep growing as a dancer.


In this ultimate beginner’s guide to cumbia dance, you’ve discovered the rich history of cumbia, learned the basic steps and partner dancing techniques, explored ways to enhance your dance skills, and delved into the world of cumbia music. With the right resources and a commitment to practice, you’ll soon be dancing cumbia with confidence and flair. So, what are you waiting for? Let the rhythm of cumbia guide your feet and embark on this exciting dance adventure today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is dancing cumbia hard?

Cumbia is a relatively simple Latin dance and one of the more beginner-friendly styles of dance, so it isn't too hard to learn how to master the steps with guidance and practice.

Is the cumbia a Mexican dance?

Yes, the cumbia is a Mexican dance and it is widely popular across Latin American countries. Its origin lies in Colombia, however, variations of this dance have been created and performed all over the world.

What is the significance of mirroring opposite feet movements in cumbia dance?

Mirroring opposite feet movements is essential for cumbia dance, ensuring smoothness, coordination, and synchronization with your partner - vital ingredients of a successful performance!

What are some popular cumbia songs for practice?

Get ready to dance! Popular cumbia songs for practice include "La Cumbia Cienaguera" by Los Corraleros de Majagual, "La Cumbia del Caribe" by Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, and "La Cumbia de los Pobres" by Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto. Let's get grooving!

How can I find cumbia dance events near me?

Explore online event directories, local dance studios and community centers, cumbia dance groups on social media, and Latin music festivals to find cumbia dance events near you!


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Hi, we are Waldo y Jacqui

Owners of SalsaKnox Dance Company

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