How to dance guacharaca

Everything you need to know about Cumbia

Cumbia is Colombia’s national dance, one of its most representative rhythms and the source and inspiration behind much of the […]

Cumbia is Colombia’s national dance, one of its most representative rhythms and the source and inspiration behind much of the country’s popular music. Cumbia has been with Colombia from the beginning but, thanks to bands like Bomba Estereo, it’s once again emerging onto the international stage. Here’s everything you need to know:

Where did cumbia come from? 

Cumbia, just like Colombia, is a blend between European, African and indigenous cultures. It was born on Colombia’s Caribbean coast where it was originally an African courtship dance that evolved with the addition of African, European and indigenous instruments and indigenous dance steps. 

What does it involve?

To dance cumbia you need one of two musical ensembles – a conjunto de cumbia (also known as a cumbiamba) or a conjunto de gaitas. The cumbia ensemble has five instruments; the caña de millo (millet cane) or pito, which is a type of clarinet, the tambor mayor (a drum held between the legs, played with both hands) the llamador (a drum balanced on the knee, played with one hand) the bombo (a two-headed drum played with two sticks) and a rattle, usually the guache (a tubular rattle filled with seeds) or maracas. The gaitas ensemble has two gaitas (duct flutes) – the gaita hembra and the gaita macho – alongside a

How do you dance it?

Cumbia really should be danced at night, with couples dancing in a circle around seated musicians. The woman makes shuffling steps while the man moves in a sort of zig-zag around her. At night, women hold bundles of candles wrapped in colored handkerchiefs in their right hands. Nowadays traditional cumbia is only really performed at carnivals and candles are not used during the day, although the handkerchiefs remain. Learn here how to dance like a Colombian.

What has it influenced?

Cumbia influenced vallenato, another Caribbean coastal genre, which has a similar beat with vocals, an accordion, a drum and a guacharaca (notched gourd scraper) Centuries later cumbia influenced musica tropical, which began with the dance band arrangement of African-Colombian music in the 1940s. Groups including La Sonora Dinamita, Los Corraleros de Majagual and Los Graduados had a lot of success and helped spread musica tropical to Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Currently, artists including Carlos Vives, Fonseca and Cabas have all been influenced by cumbia and some Colombian cities, such as Medellin, are seeing a resurgence in large, ballroom-style cumbia gatherings.

When it’s a question of dancing to the world’s hottest beats, the answer is Colombia. Please feel free to share this article on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any of your social networks.


You may also enjoy:

The Sound of Music: Traditional Colombian Instruments

Colombia: Land of a thousand rhythms 

Colombian artists to watch

africabeatbomba estereobombocabascana de millocandlescaribbeanCarlos VivesColombia's national danceconjunto de cumbiaconjunto de gaitascumbiaeuropefonsecaguachehandkerchiefindigenousla sonora dinamitallamadorlos corraleros de majaguallos graduadosMusicpitoporrotambor mayorvallenato

Artículos recomendados [DCRP_shortcode image="1" excerpt="1" date="0" postsperpage="10" columns="1"]

The favorite dances and rhythms of Colombian people

Latinos are known for being great dancers. Colombians are no exception. Salsa and cumbia are part of their DNA. Social condition and cultural expression, traditional or contemporary dancing is an art of living.


Cali is known as the capital of salsa. This Latin dance known all around the world is often associated with Cuba or Puerto Rico. Yet we underestimate the Colombian influence in the rhythms of salsa. The winners of the World Salsa Federation in Miami are often Colombians. For a Colombian, it is unthinkable not to know how to dance a few steps of salsa or at least have a certain sense of the rhythm.

Salsa choke

The salsa choke is born from a traditional salsa and an urban sound. It appears on the Pacific coast and is inspired by African rhythms. It’s more than just a modernized salsa, it’s a new salsa with more style and more flavor. From experimentation to well-known dance, salsa choke arrives quickly in Cali which welcomes it with open arms. The first songs that made this new genre known were ChichokiLa tusa or Bien pegaito. The expansion of this urban genre is still based on the few artists who have already tamed it.


The slaves, formerly prisoners of their chains and balls attached to their feet, danced to the rhythms of percussions. Born from African rhythms and marked by Spanish colonial style, cumbia is today the national dance, dance of love. It’s in the 1940’s that cumbia modernized and spread throughout Latin America. It is part of the intangible heritage of Colombia and still animates the nightlife of the country with the thousands rhythms.


Initially native from the Dominican Republic, merengue is today a musical style known throughout Latin America. Merengue is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at Unesco in November 2016. Stringed instruments, güira and percussions are what builds the melodious rhythms of this dance close to salsa. These three elements are the synthesis of the Dominican culture: European, aboriginal and African.


The champeta is a dance strongly inspired by the African rhythms born on the Caribbean coast. This musical genre is a social phenomenon in the streets of Cartagena de Indias, the pearl of the Caribbean. The champeta is danced alone or in couple. It involves a sensual movement of the body that represents a form of seduction.


The music vallenata or the vallenato, today very Caribbean, has actually appeared on the peninsula of Guajira. Its strong European influences are manifested in particular by the presence of accordion, brought by the German settlers in Riohacha, and always a presence of the Spanish culture. The indigenous guacharaca and African percussions recall the traditional rhythms of Colombian dances. Today the vallenato is popular in all countries of Latin America. In 2015, it is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Unesco.

Come to discover Colombia, its landscapes, its inhabitants and especially its world-famous rhythms. Dance is more than cultural, in Colombia it is an art of living.

Contact a Travel Agent now

Design the trip of your dreams today with one of our country experts:

  • Création de votre itinéraire en – de 24h
  • Devis Gratuits et sans engagements
  • Une large gamme d’expériences et de logements
Discutez avec un Conseiller

Traditional dances of Colombia

The green country of Colombia is located in the northwest of the South American continent. The Colombians themselves do not really like the Russian or English pronunciation (“colAmbia”) and are asked to call their homeland “Colombia”. But no matter what language you call it, the word “Colombian” brings to mind festive music, bright outfits and dancing smiling people. In the last article, we talked about the traditional dances of Chile. Let's talk about Colombia today.

Colombia is not only a country of endemic animals, a variety of birds and outlandish plants. Colombia's musical heritage is no less diverse, for a number of reasons. This is a country where the roots of Indian, African and European dance cultures are mixed. Clear drum rhythms came from Africa, more advanced choreography and beautiful clothes came from Europe, the Indian population brought the energy of the place and the sounds of a flute from a millet stalk. All this has been mixed and developed for centuries depending on the region of the country, which can be conditionally distinguished into three: the Caribbean coast, the Pacific coast and the hinterland with the foothills of the Andes. From region to region, musical traditions can change so much that it seems like they are completely different countries. A prime example of Colombia's current cultural mix is ​​singer Shakira, who combines Colombian roots with Middle Eastern blood and European relatives and is the country's national hero.

In 1930, Antonio José Restrepo published the Antioquia Songbook, where he indicated a great variety of musical styles and dance styles in Colombia: galeron, carrumba, chucho, buyerengue, mapale, bamboo, paseo, son and others. Now folklore dances can be seen at holidays or at performances of street artists on Sunday evenings.

To understand a culture, it is necessary to speak the same language. Sign up for a Spanish course or go study Spanish in Spain and Latin America.


It has African roots and comes from the Caribbean coast of the country. In the original, it is performed to the clapping of the palms and the drum rhythm. The choreography follows the movements of the mapale fish, beating in the air: short steps, quick, energetic chest movements. In general, it resembles the basic movements from modern reggaeton, only at an even more hectic pace. Women's movements are slightly softer and more erotic. It is performed by two rows of dancers: male and female. Mapale, like many dances in general, had the meaning of choosing a partner. It is performed by men bare-chested and wearing light-coloured trousers, while the women are dressed in Indian grass skirts.


Came from the Atlantic coast and has perhaps the strongest African roots. This is a ritual dance performed only by women to the sound of drums, clapping and singing of the choir. However, the sound of the music is no longer as African as in Mapala. Buyerenge symbolizes the onset of the adult period in a girl's life. It is performed by young girls holding the body straight and making slow movements, coordinated and symmetrical. The girl's legs are kept inseparably from the floor, connecting her knees together and slightly bending them. The movements of the hips are smooth and rhythmic, as are the swings of the wide hem of the skirt, imitating the movements of the wings of a butterfly or ocean waves. All movements are calm, solemn.


The dance originated on the Pacific coast, bringing together the African heritage of the colonial era. This is a couples dance in which a man fights for the attention of a woman, trying to invite her to dance. The business of the lady is to politely and evasively refuse, at least not to give up immediately. The dancers are most often dressed in white. Both dancers have a handkerchief in their hands. The man plays it, circling and dancing around his partner, intensifying the effect with gestures, sighs and turns. The lady remains cool to the courtship of the gentleman and tries to deviate from him, gently circling and waving the hem of her skirt. In essence, this dance-game is very similar to the Cuban rumba, however, the curulao is much smoother.


The history of this dance stretches from the end of the 19th century. Bambuco was traditionally performed in the regions of the Colombian Andes (Cauco, Boyaca, Santander del Norte, Nariño). Each region had its own variation, but in the beginning of the 20th century, professional choreographers tried to single out a single dance pattern that can now be seen at the holidays. The key figures of bamboo (flirting, courtship, kissing) show the process of conquering a girl by a man. At 1960s Bamboo Suit Officially Adopted:
- corset and wide-brimmed skirt with floral patterns and lace for a woman, a flower in her head;
- hat, white / striped shirt and poncho for a man. A man can play with a scarf, and a woman can take a hat from a gentleman.

A tipple dance is performed - a Colombian type of guitar and an Indian flute. The rhythms of babmbuko are free and fun. Popular at the summer festivals of San Pedro and San Juan.


An ancient dance that originated in the eastern regions of Yano and Colombo from the Spanish fandango and, oddly enough, the European waltz. Choropo performed at family holidays. Back in the 17th century. The church tried to ban the choropo, but it is still danced today. Women's costume - a short and puffy skirt, similar to an exotic flower and sandals. Harp and maracas sound in choropo.

The meaning of the dance is the same flirting. When performing horopo, the body of the dancers remains almost motionless, while the legs beat out a clear and fast rhythm. An incredible number of turns are taken from the waltz. There are many varieties of horopo: central, eastern, guayan, yyanero, kirpa and others.


Despite the abundance and variety of folklore dances in Colombia, the most popular and famous is the cumbia. Cumbia is a mix of Spanish and African music that originated on the Atlantic coast, in the region of the Madalena River (Bolivar, Cordoba, Sucre, Atlantico and Magdalena regions). Gradually, the dance spread throughout the northern coast and further to the countries of South America. Now it can be found in Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Mexico.

Double dance: a man is courting a lady, holding one hand behind his back, and in the other - a hat, trying to invite the lady for a walk. The movements of men and women are different. Initially, the dance was born at the Fiesta de la Candelaria candle festival, so in the original, folklore version of the dance, women hold lighted candles with one hand, and hold the hem of their skirt with the other. With the same candles, you can protect yourself from the "courtship" of a persistent gentleman. The lady's movements are softer, smoother and more restrained, she glides with short steps, while the man spins around the partner, attracting her attention in every possible way, including making faces and bullying her. Women's costume: a wide-brimmed skirt and a blouse that can fall off the shoulder. The men are traditionally dressed in white with a red scarf around their necks.

Drums, maracas and local bagpipes were originally among the instruments, but later an accordion brought from Europe joined them, and the cumbia acquired its familiar sound today. The rhythm of the music is syncopated.

Cumbia is very popular and is still danced even now in nightclubs. Of course, the costume and choreography have changed. And to such an extent that people perform salsa steps to the tune of cumbia, but nevertheless you can easily hear this tune in a disco.

Salsa caleña (salsa colombiana)

In terms of steps and sound, Cubano is so different from the salsa we are used to that you might think that this is a completely different dance. In salsa kalenya, you will hear less percussion and more wind instruments, namely trumpets, which gives the orchestra a slightly old-fashioned sound.

The style was born in the 30s. 20th century and has been actively developed since the mid-50s, when the annual Feeria de Cali festival opened in Cali, which is still ongoing. While the poor danced the rumba, swing and rock and roll broke into the more affluent circles. Over time, the styles began to mix, they were supplemented by the rhythms of boogaloo (two-beat rhythm) and pachanga (or charanga - after the orchestra that performed the pachanga), in which special attention was paid to footwork. Pop stars from the South American continent such as Hector Lavoe and Celia Cruz came to the festival in Cali, bringing something new. Nowhere did salsa dance so much as in Cali. As a result, in the 80s. the city receives the title of "salsa capital of the world" and holds it to this day. There are many salsa schools in Cali, and it seems that the whole city does nothing but dance.

The dance itself is characterized by complex and fast footwork at a very energetic pace with complex figures and acrobatic lifts. The dance is suitable for both solo performances and large groups (which is most loved in Colombia). The Colombians themselves will dance this version of salsa in a simple disco.

Salsa choke (chichoke)

Another type of salsa, which originated quite recently, in 2008 in the Aguablanca region in the east of Cali, but, nevertheless, gained popularity among young people. Similar in rhythm to salsaton, the dance involves moving the leg and hip twice to each side with coordinated hand movements. This step is very similar to the movements in bachata, but with twice the speed. The dance is rather single or collective than a pair dance, and is quite suitable for discos.


However, salsa choque should not be confused with another dance with an almost identical name Choque (different spelling). Simply “choque” is a modern variation of a dance known in the 70s as Bumps, where the dancers hit each other with their hips (this movement can be found in the Brazilian forro and in other directions). However, the modern Colombian choque is performed to rhythmic reggaeton music and is a rather indecent version of Bumps: the partner hits the hips, knees, arms, shoulders and even the head on the buttocks of the rhythmically moving partner. The dance is street and quite provocative.


A very popular genre of romantic song in Colombia, which replaces bachata for Colombians. However, many of the tracks known as bachata actually come from the Colombian vayenato (or "vallenato", as you can hear in Russian as often as possible), and you will be surprised to hear familiar melodies in a slightly different rhythm.

Less percussion, more percussion instruments. The main instruments are caja (percussion), guacharaca (cross-cut reed pipe) and, of course, the accordion. Vaienato is a little more syncopated than bachata. In principle, movements from bachata can also be performed under vaienato, but still this genre has its own choreography.

Partners stand almost embracing and take two small steps to the right and two small steps to the left. The partner tightly hugs the gentleman with his right hand around the neck. At the same time, oddly enough, bachata, which involves less close contact, is considered more indecent in the cities of Colombia than vayenato. Colombians from big cities themselves say that they are passionate people, but modest enough to dance bachata in public. But the hot climate of the coasts is conducive to greater freedom: there, in discos, they prefer bachata, salsa and reggaeton.

Vaienato or “song of the valley” (from Spanish valle – valley) can be both slow, telling about love for the lady of the heart with a detailed description of her, and fast, incendiary. Singer Carlos Vives is considered a classic of the present time in this genre.


And finally. Zumba is not exactly a dance, it is rather a dance-sport direction that was born completely by accident in 1999. Alberto Perez, a fitness instructor, originally from that same Colombian city of Cali, worked in Miami and forgot to bring a music disc to one of his workouts. I had to make do with a playlist from my own player. Clients liked the idea, and gradually fitness to hot Latin rhythms gained popularity not only in Miami, but also in half of the globe. Since 2001, the Zumba Empire has become official and has grown. For a fee, you can train and become a Zumba instructor, as well as get access to the official Zumba choreography on the site. The rhythms used are energetic, but very different: cumbia, reggaeton, salsa, bachata, i.e. all spectrum of latin dances. An accidental mistake brought Beto Perez world fame, fun and useful workouts for millions of people, and Colombians a great pride in their compatriot.

Text: Alla Anikina

from cumbia to joropo 🥇

Colombia is a country with a huge folklore that covers different styles. Here you will find the characteristics of the main dances of the territory, divided by region. We also indicate in which departments the most popular practices are practiced.

Below you have an index with all the items we are going to cover in this article.


    The musicians are placed in the center, on the stage. This is dance in pair . The woman puts her left hand on her waist, grabbing the end of her skirt, and in her right hand she holds a lit candle.

    While men perform more acrobatic and expressive movements, women move in short steps and in an upright position. Her wardrobe consists of a colorful skirt skirt , a blouse, a bouquet of flowers on her head and colored necklaces.

    The man is dressed in white. Pants have gathered in the back called cabbage , He has a shirt around his neck and wears a decorated chest. They tie a red scarf around their necks and wear a hat on their heads.

    Some of the most outstanding kumbia color skirt , Tropitating , canoe , Passed and Columbia Darling , the latter is interpreted in the following video:

    , more one named Gaita. In addition, there are some, such as Puya, a dance of the nineteenth century, which have acquired elements of cumbia.


    It is represented by the descendants of the Maroons, former slave rebels who lived at large in Palenque de San Basilio, in Mahat, Bolivar.

    Bullerengue dance only women who sing at the same time. Its origin is African, where it was part of the acts of initiation carried out by young people.

    Traditionally, it was passed down orally from generation to generation. It has a marked rhythm played by two drums: ringing and cheerful or feminine.

    Women move in an upright position and take small steps that may resemble those in a cumbia. This is festive and cheerful music.

    I have mapped

    This dance of African influences was common around the Magdalena River. Mapalé, the name of the dance, also means the fish caught in this part.

    It was presented at night to celebrate fishing. However, over time it has been modified to reach the present, in which it has a strong sexual character ,

    It happens as a couple. The men perform exhibition poses while the women move erotically. The steps are short, the rhythm is moving and clapping.

    The costumes are fresh and bright as it is a warm area. On the one hand, women wear short skirts that accentuate their movements. On the other hand, men usually go shirtless.


    This folk dance is accompanied by two percussion instruments (box and guacharaca) and an accordion. You can add others such as guitar or bagpipes.

    It is presented as a pair. Depending on the vallenato, it is practiced more stuck or divided. There are no strict rules here: the movements depend on the dancers. We find five different rhythms or musical parts:

    • meringue
    • Walk
    • Puya
    • There are
    • Tambora

    This dance is so important that it has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is distributed throughout Colombia and even in other countries such as Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina.


    This is typical for the departments of Córdoba, Bolívar, Atlantico and Sucre. It is also very popular in the city of Medellin in Antioquia, where important festivals are held.

    This is the native dance of , African rhythms were added little by little, and then wind instruments of military bands. It has four by four strokes.

    In principle it was an individual approach, although nowadays it is considered ballroom dancing as a couple. There is no set choreography, but circular movements are performed. One of the most famous songs0206 Window ,


    This natural region is also known as the Eastern Plains. It is a large plain where important rivers meet, such as the Meta or the Vichada, which flow into the Orinoco, which serves as a border.


    This Ilanera dance is also popular in Venezuela. It has important influences from Spanish fandango . Its name comes from the Arabic word xarop which means syrup ,

    Begins to develop in the eighteenth century. It dances like a couple. The body remains motionless, but the legs perform a quick heel. The man holds the woman's hands and makes movements, and the woman imitates him.

    The instruments with which the music is played are the harp, the quartet (similar to a guitar) and the maracas. There are different types that have developed in each area, such as the eastern joropo, tuyero or Andean.


    This is practiced in popular festivals. This is dance happy and full of delight. It is believed that its name comes from the feasts of the Galleons, which were celebrated in the seventeenth century.

    Galerón is held in pairs who practice zapateado. The man is chasing the woman. In addition, he wears a shawl that moves and with which he rotates around him.

    In the following YouTube video we see the performance of two pairs of young dancers:

    Pacific Coast

    The Pacific Coast is made up of four departments: Choco, Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño. This region, located in the west, is the most populated by the descendants of Afro-Colombians.


    This is the Choco folk dance. This is an erotic ritual between a couple that performs provocative gestures, footplays and hints of movement. Has origin African . Its name comes from the word muzzle rope to tie boats.

    To represent this, two rows are formed: one of the men and one of the women. The dancers don't grab, and sometimes the man surrounds the woman, who is wearing a wide skirt and choli.

    Hota Chokan and Caderon

    These two are mestizo dances as they mix African culture and European dances of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Jota Chocana is a satirical imitation of Spanish nest. It began to be interpreted in the 18th century. They dance in pairs, standing opposite each other. This has some differences with the Spanish version. In Colombia, the movements are faster and sharper. However, both palms.

    In the case of the Caderona, during the performance, the voice, accompanied by the choir, sings the following lyrics: “Caderona, come , meniate , With hand on hip. Caderona, come , meniate , oh! Come , meniate , fall in love , »

    Currulao and the Bund

    Its history begins with the slaves who worked in the mine during the colonial era.

    It is presented in pairs, which moves in a circular and linear manner, drawing a figure eight. This is a kind of courtship in which a man tries to make a woman fall in love. It is performed with the following percussion:

    • bombs
    • Drums
    • Maracas
    • marimba

    Bund uses the same instruments, but this one is religious in nature. This was traditionally practiced at children's funerals. Currently, it is only sung if it is a holiday. If not, its instrumental form is retained.


    This comes from a European dance of the 16th and 17th centuries called contrydance what does it mean field dance . It was in the 18th century when the Spaniards passed it to Colombia.

    Contradanza practiced at the celebrations top class Elegance dominated her. This went on for about an hour, and there was no rest in his interpretation.

    This idea was passed on to the popular classes of the country through slavery. It is held in pairs and has pre-established rules. Among the instruments that accompany it, we find the clarinet and the euphonium. Other dances of European origin are chotis or rumba.

    Andean region

    It takes its name from the Cordillera de los Andes, which is located in this area. Here we find various cultural groups such as paisa, santandereano and cundobiyacense.


    This is the most important dance in the area and one of the most popular in the whole country. You have doubts about his history, so there are different hypotheses that speak of African, indigenous or Spanish origin.

    This is another performance as a couple, in which a man invites a woman to dance, with whom he intersects, forming a figure eight. They move with their hands on their waists and play with an important element: a handkerchief.

    In this genre we find La Guaneña , song of 1789. Its author is the musician Nicanor Diaz, who wrote it in honor of Rosario Torres, He fell in love lost. In the following video you can listen to the original song:

    Although not official, it is considered a popular Nariño anthem. Both songs and dances are taught to children of preschool and primary school age. The clothes with which this is practiced are warm fabrics and bright colors.

    Sanjuanero is an important variety of bamboo. This style of music was composed in 1936 by Duran Plazas. This is a very expressive dance in which eight different figures are made.


    Whirlwind comes from farmers , which express different feelings with him: love, religiosity, disappointment, etc. It is practiced at parties, weddings and pilgrimages.

    This is done by two people walking around. The man chases the woman and she runs away. Then the roles change. This is a light and spontaneous dance. Therefore, children can also practice it.


    Guabina is a nineteenth century dance that came from Europe, although over time it has undergone some changes.0202 regional adaptations , This was persecuted by the Christian church in the past.

    Depending on the departments in which he practices, we find three types:

    • Cundiboyacense : in Boyaca and Cundinamarca
    • Veleña : in Veles (Santander)
    • Tolimese : in Huila and Tolimna


    Although the sauce originated in Cuba in the 20th century, it is very famous in Colombia and popularity , All over the country you can find schools to learn how to practice this.

    Colombian salsa has its own characteristics, as it is influenced by African and Cumbian movements. Some of the more famous authors are Joe Arroyo, Cristian del Real and Los Titanes.


    This region is located in the south of Colombia. It is part of the Amazon rainforest, the largest forested area in the world. Inhabits a total of 44 indigenous peoples.


    This is a dance that is presented at a meeting between communities local from the Alto Putumayo region. In this ceremony, people redistribute food.

    The parade is led by a man known as Chief Matachin who wears a red mask and a bell. This ceremony is part of a party called the Forgiveness Carnival.

    In this video we see different parts of this important indigenous holiday:

    Offering Dance

    This is a performance in honor of people who have passed away. In it they are offered some of the products They are used in life. Therefore, each dancer carries a wooden plate.

    Participants are seated in a round shape. In the center is a person around whom the rest rests. Music is performed with flute and drum.


    It is considered a national dance because it is presented not in one region, but throughout the country. It began to develop in the 19th century due to the influence of the European waltz.

    This is also quite popular in Ecuador. Because of its origin, it is considered a mulatto dance. It was born as a sign of joy after the independence of Spain, so it reflects freedom.

    There are two different types, interpreted according to the case: