The dance steps and the Latin/International rhythms we use in Zumba Fitness classes are often quite foreign and unfamiliar to new students, and it can be intimidating to feel as though you're the only person in the room who doesn't know how to do the dances. TRULY... I don't care! Zumba is not about being perfect; it's about having fun and just moving your body the best you can.


But... because I know it can be more fun if you feel as though you have some idea what you're doing, I thought I'd include this page with information and videos that can help you out.

The Zumba Rhythms

There are many & it seems like I'm learning about more all the time, but here's the rundown on a few...


Merengue - This rhythm was born in the Dominican Republic, although Haiti and Santo Domingo also stake some claim over it. It is generally quite fast-paced, with an even beat, like a marching beat. Common instruments used in merengue songs are: tambora, Congo drums, mambo trumpets and guiro. Common steps (using my cuing words) are: march, 2- and 4-step, 6-count and Beto Shuffle. Examples of merengue songs I've used in class the past year include:


  • Crazy Love

  • Let's Get Loud

  • Por Un Lagrima

  • Tu Boca


Salsa - This rhythm is one of the most loved Zumba rhythms, but also often the hardest for new Zumba lovers to learn. It is a blend of many Caribbean cultures, but has been most strongly influenced by Cuba, Africa and Spain. The salsa we know today was made popular in New York and Florida. Salsa tends to be fast and has an accented 4/4 beat, kind of a syncopated rhythm. Common instruments are: timbales, Congo, clave, trumpet and trombone. Common steps are: side salsa, rock back, front and back salsa and 2-step push. Examples of salsa song's I've used in class include:


  • Mambo Salsa

  • Yo No Se Manana

  • Porque Te Amo

  • Guantanamera

  • Chiquicha

  • Vivir Mi Vida


Cumbia - This rhythm comes from the home country of Zumba's founder, Beto Perez, which is Columbia. It has some influences from Africa and Europe, and is known for its tropical or Creole flavor. Like salsa, it has an accented beat, alternating hard and soft beats in a 4/4 rhythm. Percussion is key, and includes instruments such as accordion, guiro and tambora. Common steps are the basic rock, stomp, sleepy leg, and machete (or sugar cane) step. Examples of cumbia songs I've used in class include:

  • El Amor

  • Dame un Tiempo Mas

  • Pagaras

  • Eres Mi Sueno


Cumbia celebrates the culture of Columbia, and this video from a Zumba Fitness Concert shows all its beautiful pageantry:


Reggaeton - This rhythm has Jamaican influences (Caribbean/Urban), but was made popular in Puerto Rico and Panama by such artists as Daddy Yankee. It has a bit of a hip-hop feel. Its accented beat has hard, soft, and medium beats in an 8-count. The music has a heavy bass drum beat, with the primary instrument being a Reggae-style drum. Common steps are the Reggaeton stomp, knee lifts, Destroza (hip shake), front & back rock (similar to, but different than the cumbia rock) and the bounce. Examples of reggaeton songs I've used in class include:


  • Besos de Amor

  • Carita de Angel

  • Lovumba

  • Pose

  • Energia


Tango - This rhythm is thought to come from Argentina, though the ballroom versions can be somewhat different. Zumba tango steps are more similar to the Argentinian influence. This rhythm is strong, dynamic, emotional and passionate and the steps can vary between fast and slow, but overall tango is a slower rhythm, often used as a recovery dance, pre-cooldown or in Zumba Gold, as the balance cooldown. Common steps I'll cue are the stroll forward and back (varying speeds), the 6-count cross step, slide and tap out/in, toe circles and flicks. Examples of tango songs I've used in class include:


  • Pa Bailar

  • Santa Maria

  • Dance With Me

  • Por Una Cabeza


Flamenco - This rhythm originated in the Andalusian province of southern Spain, in the Gypsy culture, though there have been other influences as well. In Zumba, we use steps most closely aligned with the type of flameco called rumba flamenca, that has a 4/4 beat. This rhythm as strong & quick clapping movements, as well as strong percussive footwork. It's all about the attitude! Posture and grace are essential factors. Guitar is the primary instrument used. Common steps include: side lunges, grapevine with a knee lift, bull fighter and step 3 knee. Arm movements include the cape sweep and picking the grapes. Examples of flamenco songs I've used in class include:


  • Volare

  • Una Aventura

  • Maria

  • Ella Me Copia


Belly Dance/Bollywood - This rhythm has its roots in the Middle East and perhaps also Egypt and is probably a fusion of many different ethnic folk dances. I'm grouping Bollywood here as well (as done in Zumba), because many of the movements are similar. The beats can be quite different from other rhythms, as are the steps. Common instruments might be the sitar, drums, and wind instruments or chimes. Common steps might be the plie, leg adduction, cross tap and various hip bump movements. Examples of belly dance or Bollywood songs I've used in class include:


  • Ringa Ringa

  • Boro Boro

  • Indian Moonshine

  • Shant

  • Banjaara


The rhythms above are the ones you are most likely to find in my classes. Other favorites used  include: African, Cha Cha, Bachata, Oldies, Caribbean, Country, Swing and Axe. Other rhythms used in Zumba (but not often in my classes) include: Soca, Samba, Quebradita and Hip Hop. Another trend is songs that fuse one or more of these rhythms into one song, although I tend to choose songs that have one pure rhythm most often.

Step Breakdown

Now that you are armed with more information, you might also find it helpful to watch these videos from Zumba Fitness's  home office that breakdown some of the steps in the various rhythms. They don't cover everything, but they DO cover a lot!

This video teaches some of the basic merengue rhythm steps.

This video teaches some of the steps we use in belly dance or Bollywood rhythm songs.

In the future, I may even record some of my own videos showing how to do the steps I use in class. But meanwhile, you might find it helpful to practice using some of the videotaped dances I have on my YouTube channel. I will be adding more to this channel over time, so check back often if it's something you're interested in!


Hope you found this information helpful!