Bomba dance forms
bailes de bomba

by Edgardo Díaz Díaz

The centrality of piquetes in bomba dances

In staged activities set mainly in the context of official celebrations or shows, couples are dressed in old-style European attire and often evoke choreographed figures of ancient European forms creolized as quadrilles, minué, contradanza, rigodón and lanceros. [Beginning at 1:15]

In community-based gatherings presently known as bombazos, it is common to observe an improvisatory practice known as piquete, consisting of lively exchanges between a solo dance performer and the player of one of the drums, namely the primo, (also known as requinto, or subidor).

As a conventional practice much observed throughout the world, dancers are expected to perform in response to the pace and rhythms of a sound stimulus (be it through recorded music or a live music performance). For that reason, dance participants respond by norm to a music (or sound) and rarely is there a culture of musicians expected to “improvise music” at the indicationsbydance performers. But this is precisely one of various features that distinguish bomba from most other traditions: piquetes constitute a unique occasion for bomba dancers from the community to “dictate” desired rhythmic patterns for the drummers to play in the act. Piquetes involve a shared set of codes that tiedrumming beats and patterns to related body movements. For the primo player, the task consists on beating the drums according to the steps and movements improvised by a solo dancer, (known as bailador, or bailadora). On his or her part, the bailador or bailadora has to maintain a state of tension among all participants for as long as possible during the bomba performance, or just leave it up to another solo dancer:


Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Image Credits: Cortesy of Edgardo Díaz Díaz| All Rights Reserved