Costa Rica’s multi-cultural dance world is more diverse than anywhere in Central and South America!
Costa Rica offers one of the most eclectic and passionate dance scenes in the world. An inherently multi-cultural country, Costa Rica has adopted more styles of dance and more variant rhythms of music than any other Central or Southern American country. These various forms of dance can be seen divided among Costa Rica’s provinces and reflect each regions particular artistic influence.
African and Caribbean influences, such as reggae and calypso, dominate the Limón province and much of Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, while Guanacaste, and much of northern Costa Rica, is the heartland of folkloric dance: a flurry of frilly skirts, tossing scarves, fanning hats, and lusty yelps. More modern cities, like San Jose in the Central Valley, offer the chance to dance the night away to beats of pop, disco and contemporary rock. Overall the most popular and the most danced styles throughout Costa Rica are the salsa, merengue, cumbia and folkloric dance.
Salsa originated in Cuba and is influenced by mambo and Afro-Caribbean beats. It blends quick steps with sensual movements. As in most Latin dances the man leads the woman holding one or both of his partner’s hands. Experienced salsa dancers often employ complicated spins and intricate steps, adding panache to their dance. It is easy to find a club that plays salsa music in Costa Rica.
Another popular Latin dance in Costa Rica is the merengue. It can be heard in almost every discotheque, home, and radio station in the country. It features fast footwork and swaying hips. Just as in salsa, the man leads the woman but only by the waist or the right hand. Merengue is a tight dance and the dancers move within a small circle. Merengue is easy to find throughout Costa Rica as well.
Cumbia originated from Colombia and is one of Costa Rica’s most tropical and favorite rhythms. Cumbia is typically danced to Colombian music; however, Costa Ricans make cumbia all their own by dancing a cumbia beat to the steps of the “swing criollo.” Swing criollo mixes elements of the Lindy hop and jive to create bouncing steps and small kicks that are danced in a circle with complex footwork and fancy spins. This dance style is very Costa Rican and a source of national pride.
Costa Rican folkloric dancing is a joy to watch, and each dance tells a story in its own melodies and artistic way. The Punto Guanacasteco is the most easily recognized of traditional dances; women two step toward a partner who attempts to seduce them, while marimbas tap out the beat.
Learn To Dance a la Costarricense (the Costa Rican)!
While visiting Costa Rica there are numerous dance academies that can teach you the basics of dancing a la costarricense: Danza Viva offers courses in salsa and merengue, the two dances most popular at discos, as well as the lambada, the more formal bolero and marcado, the Caribbean mambo, and ballet, jazz, and modern dance. An offshoot of Danza Viva is Merecumbe, which specializes in popular dancing. And the Academia de Bailes Latinos offers more intensive courses in ballroom and formal dancing.