Typical Colombian dances by regions: from cumbia to joropo

Colombia is a country with immense folklore that encompasses different styles. Here you will find the characteristics of the main dances of the territory divided by regions. Also, we indicate in which departments the most popular are practiced.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Caribbean coast

It is the northern region of the country and the place of origin of several of the most important dances in the country. Some of its most important cities are Barranquilla, Cartagena de Indias and Santa Marta.


Cumbia can be considered a black dance, since it comes from Equatorial Guinea. It has its roots in African culture. The instruments with which it is accompanied are drums, bagpipes and flutes.

The musicians are placed in the center, on a stage. It's a dance in couple. The woman puts her left hand on her waist, grabbing the end of the skirt, while in her right hand she holds a lit candle.

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

The man is dressed in white. The pants have a collected in the back called cabbage. His shirt is round neck and he wears the decorated chest. They tie a red scarf around their neck and wear a hat on their heads.

Some of the most prominent cumbias are The colored skirt, Tropitating, The canoe, Hooked and Colombia Earth dear. The latter is interpreted in the following video:

Also, from this dance derives another called Gaita. In addition, there are some, such as the Puya, a dance of the nineteenth century, which have acquired elements of the cumbia.


It is represented by the descendants of the Maroons, the former rebel slaves who lived in freedom in the Palenque de San Basilio, in Mahates, Bolívar.

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

Traditionally, it has been transmitted orally from generation to generation. It has a marked rhythm, played by two drums: the caller and the cheerful or female.

Women move with an upright position and taking small steps, which may remind those of the cumbia. It is a festive and cheerful music.

I mapped

This dance of African influences was spread around the Magdalena River. The Mapalé, name of the dance, is also the meaning of a fish that is caught in this part.

It was represented at night to celebrate fishing. However, over time it was modified until reaching the present, in which it has a strong sexual character.

It takes place as a couple. Men perform exhibition postures, while women move erotically. The steps are short, the rhythm is moved and clapping.

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


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

It is represented as a couple. Depending on the vallenato, it is practiced more stuck or separated. There are no strict rules: the movements depend on the dancers. We find five different rhythms or musical airs:

  • Meringue
  • Walk
  • Puya
  • Are
  • Tambora

This dance is so important that it is declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is spread throughout Colombia and even other countries such as Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina.


It is typical of the departments of Córdoba, Bolívar, Atlántico and Sucre. It is also very popular in the city of Medellín, in Antioquia, in which important festivals are held.

Is a native dance. Little by little, African rhythms and later wind instruments of the military bands were added. It has a four by four beat.

In principle it was individual, although it is currently considered a ballroom dance as a couple. There is no established choreography, but circular movements are performed. One of the best known songs is The window.

The Orinoquía

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


This llanera dance is also popular in Venezuela. It has important influences from Spanish fandango. Its name derives from the Arabic word xarop, what does it mean syrup.

Begins to develop in the eighteenth century. It is danced as a couple. The body remains still, but the feet perform a quick heel. The man holds the woman's hands and makes the movements, while the woman imitates him.

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


It is practiced in popular festivals. It's a dance happy and full of exaltation. It is believed that its name comes from the Fiestas of the Galleons that were celebrated in the seventeenth century.

The Galerón is carried out in pairs, that practices zapateado. The man chases the woman. In addition, he wears a handkerchief that is moving and with which he is spinning around it.

In the following YouTube video we can see a representation carried out by two couples of young dancers:

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast is formed by four departments: Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño. This region, located to the west, is the most inhabited by Afro-Colombian descendants.


It is a folk dance of Chocó. It is an erotic rite between a couple, which performs provocative gestures, leg plays and insinuating movements. Is of ancestry African. His name derives from the word muzzle, a rope to tie boats.

To represent it, two rows are formed: one of men and one of women. The dancers do not grab and sometimes the man surrounds the woman, who wears a wide skirt and a short-sleeved blouse.

Jota Chocana and Caderona

The two are mestizo dances, since they mix African culture and European dances of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The jota chocana is a satirical imitation of the Spanish jack. It began to be interpreted in the 18th century. It is danced in pairs, standing opposite each other. It has some differences with the Spanish version. In Colombia, the movements are faster and sharper. However, both palms.

In the case of the caderona, while performing, a voice accompanied by a choir is singing the following lyrics: «Caderona, come, meniate. With the hand on the hip. Caderona, come, meniate. Oh! Come, meniate, to fall in love. »

Currulao and Bunde

The Currulao is the dance more important of the Afro-Colombians of this department. Its history begins with the slaves who worked in the mine in the colonial era.

It is represented in pairs, which moves in a circular and linear way drawing eights. It is a kind of courtship in which the man tries to make the woman fall in love. It is performed with the following percussion:

  • Bombs
  • Drums
  • Maracas
  • Marimba

The same instruments are used in the bunde, but this one has a religious character. Traditionally, it was practiced at children's funerals. At present, it is sung only if it is a celebration. If not, its instrumental form is maintained.


It comes from a European dance of the 16th and 17th centuries that was called contrydance, what it meant field dance. It was in the 18th century when the Spaniards transmitted it to Colombia.

Contradanza was practiced at the festivities of the upper class. Elegance dominated her. It lasted about an hour and there was no rest in its interpretation.

This representation passed to the popular classes of the country through servitude. It is carried out 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 the chotis or the rumba.

Andean region

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


It is the most important dance in this territory and one of the most practiced in the whole country. You have doubts about its history, so there is different hypotheses that speak of an African, indigenous or Spanish origin.

It is another representation as a couple, in which the man invites the woman to dance, with which he intersects forming an eight. They move with their hands on their waist and playing with an important element: the handkerchief.

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

Although it is not the official, it is considered the popular anthem of Nariño. Both song and dance are taught to preschool and elementary school children. The clothes with which it is practiced are warm fabrics and bright colors.

An important variety of bambuco is the Sanjuanero. The music of this style was composed in 1936 by Durán Plazas. It is a very expressive dance in which eight different figures are made.


The whirlwind comes from the farmers, which express with him his different feelings: love, religious, disappointment, etc. It is practiced at parties, weddings and pilgrimages.

It is carried out by two people, who are going around. The man chases the woman and she escapes. Then, the roles are changed. It is an easy and spontaneous dance. Therefore, children can also practice it.


The guabina is a dance of the nineteenth century that comes from Europe, although with the passage of time it has suffered some regional adaptations. In the past it was persecuted by the Christian Church.

Depending on the departments in which it is practiced, we find three types:

  • Cundiboyacense: in Boyacá and Cundinamarca
  • Veleña: in Vélez (Santander)
  • Tolimese: in Huila and Tolimna


Although the sauce originated in Cuba in the twentieth century, in Colombia it has great fame and popularity. Throughout the country you can find schools to learn how to practice it.

Colombian salsa has its own peculiarities, as it is influenced by the African and cumbia movements. Some of the most prominent authors are Joe Arroyo, Cristian del Real and Los Titanes.

Amazon region

This region is located in southern Colombia. It is part of the Amazon rainforest, the largest forest area in the world. It inhabits a total of 44 indigenous peoples.


It is a dance that is represented in the encounter between the communities indigenous from the region of Alto Putumayo. In this ceremony, people redistribute food.

The parade is directed by a person known as major matachin, which wears a red mask and a bell. This ceremony is part of the party called the Carnival of Forgiveness.

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

Offering Dance

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

The participants are placed in a circular shape. In the center is a man, around which the rest goes around. The music is performed with a flute and a drum.


It is considered the National Dance, because it is not represented in a single region, but in the whole country. It began to develop in the nineteenth century thanks to the influence of the European waltz.

It is also quite popular in Ecuador. Due to 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 depending on the occasion:

  • Partying: It is instrumental. It is represented at parties and weddings.
  • Slow: can be vocal or instrumental. It is interpreted in serenades.

Top photo by PACAF.

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Finally, we have selected the previous and next article of the block "Prepare the trip"so you can continue reading:

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