The "Danza" is the maximum artistic expression of the Puerto Rican culture. It is the musical form of the New World that most resembles European classical music. It is a form very rich in melodic and harmonic contents with a very deep character. Some are melancholic and romantic: with long phrases, rich harmonies and three or more clearly defined parts. Others are fast and lively: very short pieces of a playful character. Some are hard to classify in one or the other category, but all retain the essence that characterizes this musical from.
The origin of the Puerto Rican danza is not clear, but most scholars agree that it began around the middle of the 19th century (around 1840). During the first third of the 19th century it was very popular in the island of Puerto Rico the Spanish "contradanza" or "counter dance" (a word derived, according to some, from the English "country dance"). This was a very rigid dance, a "figures" dance, in which the dancers had to do specific movements according to the directions of the "bastonero". The "bastonero" was some kind of director who decided how many couples would dance on each dance and the position of each dancer. The first dancer, who was usually one of the most experts on dancing, performed whichever complicated movements or "figures" he wanted and the other dancers had to imitate him on their turn. It is said that many of these dances ended in fights or great discussions when some of the dancers didn't faithfully follow the leader's movements. The bastonero was suppressed from 1839 on and the change began to take place.
Around the decade of 1840 Puerto Rico received many immigrants from Cuba, who brought with them some new music. The "contradanza" was losing popularity, due to its rigidness and the new dance began to displace it. This new music was called "habanera" (from the name of Cuba's capital city, La Habana). The habanera was danced by couples in a very free manner that was liked very much by the youth of that epoch. At the beginning, cuban music was used, but later on Puerto Rican composers began composing their own music and adding their variations and flavor
Traditionally, Danzas are classified in two types: romantic and festive. The two variations don't really resemble one another.
The Danza consists of four parts: an introduction or "paseo" (usually of 8 measures), a first theme, a second theme, and a third theme, each one of 16 measures. The third theme is usually more lively or melodic and in it the "bombardino" (an accompanying instrument which sounds very much like a trombone) leaves its role as accompanist and becomes the soloist.
After the third theme there is a recapitulation of the first theme and sometimes a coda for the end. All parts except the coda and recapitulation are played twice. There might be variations to this as the introduction of "bridges", parts of 8 measures instead of 16, etc.
Although danzas are mostly romantic, they are characterized by a very peculiar rhythmic accompaniment, played by the left hand when at the piano or by the "bombardino" or trombone in orchestras.
The festive danza is very rhythmic, lively and fast. Good examples of these are: No me toques, Sí te toco, La Cuñadita, El Ciclón, Fiestas de Santa Rosa and many others...
Most of the danzas are instrumentals, for piano or for orchestra, but there are many with lyrics.
Jose Raul Ramirez interpreta danza puertorriqueña