Many countries have a national dance that represents their culture. From the music to the costumes and the steps of the dance, the spectacle is often enticing to travellers, since it embodies the history and traditions of their chosen destination. Colour and sound come together in a mesmerising display.
Travellers can frequently experience these dances on all-inclusive holidays, where entertainment is sometimes included. Alternatively, you can seek out local haunts yourself.
Here are just a few of the locations in Latin America where dance has long played an instrumental role in the way of life.
Romantics will adore Mexico’s hat dance – Jarabe Tapatío – which has choreography that illustrates a man trying to seduce a woman. It was considered quite risqué in the early 20th century, leading to a ban, but the dance is actually pretty innocent when compared with a lot of music videos released by the stars today!
The dancers barely touch during the routine, making for a lively ritual where the woman initially denies the man’s advances. However, he wins her round, and the dance ends with them sharing a kiss behind the man’s sombrero. How lovely!
Many children learn this dance at school and travellers can often find performances as they move around Mexico, or even book a class to really get involved. You might have travelled here to lie on the best beach in Mexico, but don’t let that be the only experience you have.
When we think of Argentina we instantly think about a fiery, passionate culture. This fire is mirrored in the drama of the Argentine tango, a dance that originally took shape in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.
Although the full history of the tango was never written down, it is believed that the dance first came about when slavery was banned in1853. Free African slaves would come together to dance and have a good time.
Born out of a diverse society that combined both Argentine and African traditions, the tango eventually became popular across Argentina and around the world. The steps and style are very distinctive – the couple join hands in either an open or closed embrace (depending upon how closely they stand together), and they either follow a pattern where the man leads completely, or the woman has some influence over the steps and the direction the dance takes.
The dance can move quickly or slowly, with abrupt head turns and foot flicks or smooth movements.
Like Mexico’s hat dance, La Marinera is a popular Peruvian courtship dance that began in coastal regions to the north of the country. An elegant performance incorporates small skips and running steps, with some fast footwork thrown in as well.
Women usually have bare feet, which they reveal by hitching up elaborate dresses, while men perform in smart suits, shoes and a hat. Generally, the best place for travellers to see the marinera is at a dedicated festival, where the atmosphere is electric.
If you’re visiting one of these countries, why not book yourself into a class or head to an event to watch a performance?