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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Habanera
The Duo Georgigust Dancers doing the Habanera circa 1910
Habanera Dance History Archives Title

            Spanish, African and Cuban rhythms mixed and the Habañera was born. The name Habanera [abAnerah] is from the capitol city in Cuba (Havana) and is named as such. The Habañera was originally known as the Contradanza with some African influences and was only called the Habañera outside of Cuba, in New Orleans it was known as the Creole Country Dance.

      On leaving Cuba, the Habañera made its trek thru Spain then onto Argentina and finally arrived in France in the early nineteenth Century. Buenos Aires (in Argentina) was founded by a Spanish expedition in 1536, then again in 1580. Immigration brought many French, Spanish and Italians to Buenos Aires and later would become a major city. By 1816 the Waltz was introduced to Argentina, then came the Polka, Mazurka and Schottische.

     Eventually the Habanera would join with the Milonga and form what we call the Tango. In the States the Habanera became a part of some Ragtime music and in Mexico was just called the Danza. When the Contradanza came to Havana, it would be known as the Contradanza Habañera. Georges Bizet (1838-1875) used the Habañera in his opera Carmen (1875) which helped spread many dance styles of this theme. The distinguishing musical feature in the Habañera is its short, repeating 2/4 rhythmic figure in the bass line.

      Maurice Mouvet created a dance called the Habañera in 1912, which is what his version was of this dance (see bottom), he created another dance called the MAURICE WALK, which was used for this dance as well as the sheet music of the same name. His walk in the Tango, Maxixe, One-step and his Habañera was a close resemblance to the Tango-walk of today.

The Habañera was one of the first Latin rhythms widely used and as a music form crossed many borders from Ragtime to Blues and Western Swing to Rockabilly and Rock and Roll rhythms.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Havana, Cuba 1820s? n/a Latin

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles ...

n/a La Habanera Carmen - Suite #1 Habañera in D (Bizet)
  La Paloma Cigareres (1914 - Gervais)
  La Rumba Dat's Love (Carmen Jones 1954) Marilyn Horne (Clip)
  Maurice Walk En Forme De Habanera (1926 - Ravel) [MP3]
    Habanera (Maurice Ravel) (Clip)
  Soy Tremendo! Habanera (Techno Mash-Up) Scooter (Clip)
  Tango Habañera (French) Habañera de Cádiz
        Habanera from Carmen - Maria Callas (Clip)
        L'amour Est Un Oiseau Rebelle [MP3]
        La Habañera
        ~See: Habanera Titled Music List

Night Clubs / Ballrooms etc.



Teatro Colon Broadway Theatre (1943) Argentina
      Casino Garden (1909) Buenos Aires
      Center Theatre (1944 & 48) France
      Covent Garden Havana, Cuba
      Daly's Theatre (1908) Italy
      Empire Theatre (1895) La Boca
      Herald Square Theatre (1905) Mexico
      Holiday Theatre (1952) Pabello'n de las rosas
      Opera Comique (1905) USA (NY, New Orleans)
      Park Theatre (1918)  

Related Films


Ballets / Stage

1899 - The Havana (a Ship!) Lucy & Desi 1: Cruise Havana 1875 - Carmen (Bizet)
1900 - L' Habanera       1903 - La Habanera (Raoul Laparra)
1907 - La Danza de las mariposas       1909 - Havana
1914 - La Última danza       1911 - Salome (La Habanera)
1929 - The Girl From Havana       1919 - E. Jane Hamilton Cabaret
1933 - Havana Widows       1943 - Carmen Jones
1937 - La Habanera DLORish1d_A     1949 - Les Ballets de Paris
1938 - La Danza       1952 - A Night in Havana
1938 - It Happened in Havana       1983 - La Tragedie de Carmen
1940 - Down Argentine Way [DVD]      


1940 - The Girl From Havana       1900s - Caras y Caretas
1940 - Havana is Calling Me       8/21/1901 - Sanduxky Daily Star (Cuban Dances at Harvard)
1940 - La Danza dei milioni      
1941 - Weekend in Havana [DVD]       1/8/1911 - Indianapolis (Salome - La Habanera)
1942 - Moonlight in Havana       1915 - Octavo Song Book
1943 - La Sévillane       1/26/1920 - Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Tango renamed Habanera)
1945 - Club Havana      
1949 - Holiday in Havana [DVD] (Arnaz Rumba)            
1951 - Havana Rose            
1952 - La Danza del corazón            
1953 - L' Arte della danza            
1954 - La Danza de los deseos            
1957 - Affair in Havana            
1957 - Night In Havana            
1958 - Habanera            
1960 - Carnival of Havana            
1961 - Hawana '61            
1962 - Danza española      
1962 - Komu tancí Havana            
1973 - La Habanera [DVD] (Song)            
1984 - Habanera            
1988 - Night in Havana: Gillespie in Cuba [DVD]            
1986 - A Room With A View [DVD] (song)            
Benvenuta (song)            
1995 - Don Juan DeMarco [DVD] (song)            
1989 - The Mighty Quinn [DVD] (song)            
Cuba - The Forgotten Island [DVD]            

Other Related Dances of the time...

Andalusian Tango Contradanza International Maurice Walk Salsa
Apache Dance Creole Country Dance La Rumba (Tango) Milonga Son
Bolero Danza Malagueña One Step Spanish Dance
Cha-Cha Fandango Mambo Rumba Tango(s)

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


The Castles n/a Julio Argentino Roca (1843-1914)
Maurice & Walton    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


n/a n/a n/a n/a

Musicians, Composers etc.


Poets / Writers

Albeniz, Isaac (1860-1909) Celia Cruz Jose Hernandez
Aubert, Louis (1877) Maria Callas  
Bizet, Georges (1838-1875)(Habanera) Mme. Marguerite Sylva (1926)    
Canaro, Francisco        
Debussy, Claude (1862-1918)        
Filiberto, Juan de Dios        
Fuentes', Eduardo Sanchez de        
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1829-1869)        
Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937)        
Yradier, Sebastian        

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Araucanian Indians Contradanza Habana Modinha Love songs
arrabales Compadre Habanero Pampa
Barrios Gauchos Havanaise Payadores (Folk Singers)
Caudillos Guitar Milonga Campera Sainetes 
Clandestinos Gypsy Dances    


  • Basic Step:
    excerpted from Mouvet's Tango Book - 1913;
    This new dance creation of ours is quite different from any other dance we do. It is danced to a rather peculiar "Raggy" rhythm, with the syncopation much the same as the rhythm in primitive Spanish music. Properly to do this dance one should get that particular piece of music written for me called the "Maurice Walk." It is unlike any other walk that is being done. It has the versification necessary for the figures of "La Habanera." To start the dance you take the eight plain walking steps.

  • Figure One ... A quick "One, Two, Three" movement of the music follows. The interpretation of this is a decided marking of its accent. This is done with the shoulders and body in unison to a quick advance of alternating feet.

  • Figure Two ... You begin with the right foot. The movement is then right, left, right, left, right, left, etc., through sixteen bars of music. The shoulders bend simultaneously. When the right foot advances, the bend is with the right shoulder, slightly forward and sidewise. The left shoulder bends as the left foot advances.

  • Figure Three ... the time is broken from "one, two, three" and you go into a two-step, starting with the right foot, for one-two, and then with the left foot, one-two. This continues for eight bars of the music.

  • Figure Four ... For this you make a small skip and then go into a side step for sixteen bars of music, sliding first on the right foot and then on the left foot. You repeat this twice.

  • Figure Five... you make a small circle, going right foot, one-two, left foot one-two, for eight bars of music.

  • Figure Six... the man folds his arms in front of him, putting his right arm over his left. The girl folds her arms, right arm over left. Holding them right on a level with their chests they continue the two-step time and make another circle for eight bars.

  • Figure Seven... with their arms still folded, the girl starts on the right foot and the man on his left foot and they resume again the "one, two, An interpolated step in La Habanera, much favored by Maurice. This figure is as difficult to perform as it is graceful. The lady dips backwards, being supported by the gentleman until her head touches the floor. The charm of this figure is the grace and agility with which it is performed. In ballroom dancing it may be omitted. Fig. 10.--The large circle following the rise after the dip to the floor. The lady accentuates the rise by raising here free foot behind, three" times. They go right foot, one, two, three, and then left foot, one, two, three, making a circle starting with the front and ending in the front. They repeat this twice. At the end of the second circle they go into figure eight:

  • Figure Eight... This is a dip to the floor. The girl goes down on her right knee in a genuflection. The man dips on his left.

  • Figure Nine... They rise and resume again the one, two, three time for sixteen bars, making large circles all around the room.

  • Figure Ten... Is a large circle at the end of Figure Nine. This is one, two, three, on the left, with the girl's left foot lifted in the back at the end of their third count. Then one, two, three, on the right, with the girl's right foot lifted in the back at the end of the third count. Then, one, two, three, on the right with the girl's right foot lifted in the back at the end of the third count. This continues for sixteen bars of music. At that point the music changes to a sort of cake-walk. This change in time makes possible

  • Figure Eleven... This is what is known as the "Eight step" in the Tango. If you will refer to my lesson on the Tango you will find this plainly described, but you do it here to cake-walk time and you do it twice. The knees are raised right up almost waist high, as was done in the old fashioned cake-walk. The girl starts on her right foot, and the man on his left. You go right, left, right, left for sixteen times. Finishing, the girl is on her left foot and the man is on his right foot.

  • Figure Twelve... Finishes the dance. The couple shall do a plain Cake-walk step, but the girl is on the side of the man instead of facing him. On the two final bars of the music, the man turns the girl squarely around deep courtesy in. This dance is when danced once won its way with positive that if you will give up the idea of the worked one step and want the La Habanera .... end!
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