There are two major genres of formal ballroom dancing- International Style and American Style. International Style was formalized in Great Britain. The two branches are International Standard including Slow Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep, (which are the dances you describe) and International Latin which includes Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. All the figures from the five dances in International Standard must be danced in the five contact hold although body contact is maintained through the chest down the side to the hip. International Latin figures are rhythmic and although the closed hold is utilized many figures are danced in various open dance positions including two hand hold, one hand hold, shadow position, side by side position and no hold positions where dancers maintain their connection through eye contact.
The second major branch of ballroom dancing is American Style. American Style also has two categories known as American Smooth and American Latin. American Style ballroom grew out of United States social dance scene tied to American Jazz music and Big Band. American Smooth dances include Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz. American Latin includes Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Mambo, Bolero, and East Coast Swing. The figures in both branches of American Style are interchangeable within their style. As dancers become proficient in American Style the gentlemen learn how to lead the various steps and the lady learns how to follow the gentleman as he chooses which steps to do. An adept dancer in the American Styles is able dance with any partner through any steps in the American Style Dances. Although American Smooth is closely related to International Standard, American Smooth is fundamentally different since many figures utilize open holds and positions rather than the strict closed hold used in International Standard. Similarly, American Rhythm is related to International Latin although timing and some fundamental technique is different.
There are also other dance styles that fall under the American Social Dance umbrella but are not included in the competitive Smooth and Rhythm categories. These include West Coast Swing, American Rumba, New York Hustle, Polka, Merengue, Salsa, Lindy Hop, as well as several more styles of swing dance. In addition Country Dance Style emerged from the American Style dances.
Our ballroom instructor at Dance Connection Too are highly trained in both International and American Style ballroom dance. They have experience coaching both social and competitive ballroom dance and are able to work with individuals, couples, or formation ballroom teams. In our beginning ballroom technique classes students will focus on American Style Social Dances to learn the fundamentals of partnering and technique, basic figures, and beginning formation ballroom dancing. As students become proficient in American Style they are introduced to the International Styles. Whether you are looking for some basic social dance lessons, would like to improve your individual technical skills, need help preparing for Medal’s exams or would like to work with our coaches to hone your competitive routines we have the resources and coaching staff to help you reach your goals. Be sure to take a look at our schedule to see our current ballroom classes or call us to schedule private or group lessons today.
The word “ballroom” is derived from the Latin word “bellare,” which means “to dance.” There are recorded instances of ballroom dancing as early as the 1600s in Western Europe. Dances were held as a pre-battle send-off for soldiers. Because the men danced wearing their swords, the women would put their left hands atop their partners’ right shoulders for balance, which is how the male dancer became the “lead” dancer.
There are five styles of ballroom dancing; Foxtrot, Modern Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz. Ballroom dancing originated some time in the early 1900s in England and its popularity spread quickly. It was 1936 when dancer Alex Moore wrote Technique of Ballroom Dancing, the book that has been considered the “bible” for dance instructors.
To be considered a master of ballroom dancing, a student must pass several intricate levels that include specific rhythms, techniques and tempos. For example, in “closed hold” ballroom dancing, the partners are required to maintain 5 contact areas with the man’s left hand holding the woman’s right hand, the woman’s left elbow atop the man’s right elbow, the woman’s left hand resting on the man’s upper right arm, the man’s right hand atop the woman’s shoulder and the upper rights of their chests touching. There are variations where the dancers break contact, but they always return to the closed hold near the finale.
Vaudeville actor Harry Fox popularized the Foxtrot in 1914, and reknowned dancers Vernon and Irene Castle developed this classic dance’s distinctive grace and style. Vernon Castle claimed to have seen the Foxtrot performed by black dancers for about fifteen years prior to its U.S. premiere in 1914.
The waltz has a slow, measured tempo and was originally called “Slow Waltz.” Basically, 1 step is taken for every beat; three steps for every measure. In 1580, French philospher Montaigne wrote about dancing he saw in Augsburg, Germany, where the couples danced so closely that their faces touched.
Is there anything more romantic than the classic Tango? Tango Criollo originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the 1890s from the candomble (African ceremonies to the gods) of former slaves. The International Style of Tango is used most often in dance contests, but the American Style gives dancers more creativity of movement. In 2009 UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) added this classic dance to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Quickstep developed in the ’20s in New York City by Caribbean and African dancers. It incorporated the foxtrot with the Charleston, a bouncy dance that was the first example of the “swing” dance style. This is the quintessential dance of Rock & Roll (a variation of jazz music) and the most lighthearted and dynamic ballroom dance. When “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets hit the radio airwaves in 1955, the classic foxtrot picked up its rhythm and became the dance known as the quickstep. The tempo is fast and the pattern of steps have an extra half-measure step; the time beat is usually 2/4 or 4/4. Movements can include hops, runs, and rotations.
This is the classic and original form of the Waltz and was the first dance performed using the closed hold position. The dancers consistently turn toward the man’s right or left, using “change steps” to make the switch between direction. The Viennese Waltz has two recognized styles, International (which is most often used in competition) and American, which offers more creativity of movement.
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