This is a relatively slow dance in 4/4 time (approx. 25 bars per minute of music, ie 100 beats per minute) and is the predecessor of the cha-cha, mambo and salsa. Like many latin american style dances, the rumba does not travel around the room. No steps are on the heel first - always the toe or ball of the foot first. Keep all steps small so they remain under the body and permit the settling into the hips which is characteristic of the dance.
Most simple rumba figures occupy exactly one bar of music. The feet are used alternately but 3 steps are taken per bar, ie one of the steps is much slower than the others, taking 2 beats of music. The typical rhythm is quick, quick, slow (on counts 2, 3, 4&1). With 2 feet per person (left and right) that means it takes a minimum of 2 bars of music to repeat anything.
These are danced in fairly close hold facing partner. Both leader and follower have the same steps, just in different bars so that one moves forwards while the other moves backwards and vice versa.
The forwards basic is a step forward on the left foot, a replacement step back on the right foot and a slow sideways step to the left.
The backwards basic is a step back on the right foot, a replacement step forward on the left foot and a slow sideways step to the right.
Forwards and backwards basics would normally be danced in pairs with the leader dancing the steps for the forwards basic while the follower dances the backwards one and vice versa afterwards.
In these, the couple turn a quarter to step forwards together through the gap between them each time before stepping back again and facing partner for the slow sideways step and sway. It is necessary to drop out of close hold and use a single handhold which alternates for each direction. You need the hand which will be closest to your partner!
In these, the couple turn a quarter to step backwards (and away) together each time before stepping forward again and facing partner for the slow sideways step and sway. These figures also require a single handhold but the opposite one from the New Yorks in order to have the hand which will be closest to your partner!
These start like a New York figure but the couple let go with both hands in order to continue turning all the way around on the next step to return to their original positions facing each other once again for the slow sideways step and sway.
The leader dances the footwork for a backwards basic while the follower dances the footwork for a spot turn under the single pair of joined arms (leader's left and follower's right).
It is possible to walk forwards or backwards in the rumba rhythm, ie in groups of 3 with a pause for the slow step. These can be incorporated into various figure groups, with the couple facing each other or dancing side by side. Sets of walks all begin with a basic figure which is then extended beyond its initial slow step to continue further in the same direction.
With the exchange of weight between the feet being a key feature of rumba, there are also various figures which do this instead of going anywhere. Eg the rumba rocks extend what would otherwise be a single replacement step by adding in some further changes of weight without further steps.
A fairly typical routine would be: 4 Basics (2 pairs), 3 New Yorks and solo Spot Turn, 3 Hand-To-Hands + Alemana turn. Some beginners classes will already have added some walks to this sequence while other classes will cover that at the start of improvers next term.