Since prehistoric times, dance has always existed on our island. The earliest dances documented by the cronistas de
When the Conquistadors arrived, the indigenous population quickly began to disappear, and with them vanished any autochthonous cultural expression that the authorities deemed pagan. Even so, Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra affirmed in 1789 that "the most appreciable pastime for these island people are their dances; they have them for no other reason than to while away the time, and rarely are they missing on one occasion or another."
Later, other dances that appeared on the island and took root and developed in the mountains, on the coast, and in urban centers were brought by the Spanish and by African slaves; by immigrants from the
Dances of European origin that became popular among the campesinos [peasants] from the mountains and the central part of the island include the waltzwaltz: 1. A dance for couples that originated in Germany and Austria. The rhythm is moderate, and the dancers execute smooth and elegant circular movements. The dance originated in the late 18th century and became the most sophisticated and refined form of ballroom dancing. The music has a 3/4 meter. 2. Music of this dance., the mazurka, the lancer (a combination of quadrilles), the rigadoonrigadoon: 1. Old country dance from Provence that was quite popular in the 18th century. The lively and festive dance is executed by four or more couples to music in 2/4 time. 2. Music for this dance, usually in rapid duple meter., and the contradanse (the so-called country dance). Among the campesinos these dances rapidly acquired distinctive features of rhythm, instrumentation, interpretation, and even dress. The seis is the most important. Manuel Alonso, in El gíbaro (1849), classified it as one of the garabato dances, a dance "of the people of inferior class and from the country" as opposed to the dances of higher society. The name "seis" [six] comes from the participation of six couples who begin the dance in a line with the men facing the women. The lines cross, the dancers stamp their feet, and at the end the couples waltz, while songs (are sung) of love and spite.
Another important dance is the bomba, a generic term, according to Nydia Ríos, covering a number of dances of campesino, African, and Hispanic-Central American origin. The Afro-Puerto Rican bombas, developed in the sugarcane haciendas of Loíza and the northeastern coastal areas, in Guayama and in southern
The Puerto Rican danza, the dance itself and its musical form, is considered the most refined of the dances. Its inspiration supposedly comes from the Cuban habanera, or perhaps from the South American one; in any case, it achieved its own style, with two distinct divisions. During the first part, to the steady cadence of the music, the couples promenade around the room; during the second, with a lively rhythm called merenguemerengue: 1. Second part of the danza which is danceable. 2. Popular dance popularized in the Dominican Republic, they dance in a closed ballroom position. Captain General Juan de la Pezuela considered this position "a depravity of manners" and prohibited the practice in 1849, under penalty of ten days in jail for those who permitted the dance in their homes. The people, however, ignored the proscription, making it obsolete though never repealed.
The plena, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is the last of the national dances to emerge before the change of sovereignty in 1898 and the beginning of the influence of the
In addition, dances from elsewhere were imported to Puerto Rico, including the bolero, the mambo, the cha-cha and the guarachaguaracha: A fast-paced Cuban dance of Andalusian origin, in which the music has a 2/4 or 4/8 meter., as well as dances from the U.S. Today, Puerto Ricans dance to salsa, rock, reggaetón and, especially, merengue, while dances such as the pasodoble and even the plena are disappearing.
Research in Folklore
Beginning in the 1950s with the creation of the
There are many groups performing the bomba, and they originally came from the regions from which the genre sprang. Because these areas remained isolated to a large degree, the authenticity of the dances was preserved for a longer time, at least until the development of mass communication. Recent interest in the politics of identity has revived the desire to learn about and practice these dances. Today, the production and staging of the dances lean more toward the theatrical than toward true folklore, for which reason all sorts of modifications and innovations are being introduced.
Version: 06100221 Rev. 1