Dance Styles

Ballroom, latin dances (competitive ballroom, latin dancing is called Dancesport); If you want to find out more details about these dance styles, please click on the one you are interested:

The waltz is a couple dance in 3/4 time, done primarily in closed position, the commonest basic figure of which is a full turn in two measures using three steps per measure. It first became fashionable in Vienna in about the 1780s, then spread to many other countries within the next few years. The waltz, and especially its closed position, became the example for the creation of many other ballroom dances. Subsequently, new types of waltz have developed, including many folk dance and several ballroom dance types. In contemporary ballroom dance, the fast versions of the waltz are called Viennese waltz.

The waltz is sometimes assumed to be a descendant of the lavolta (Renaissance dance for couples). This is unproven, and the fundamental differences in technique make it hard to imagine how the one could be so closely related to the other. The main reason to assume such a descent is merely that these are two of the earliest European turning dances in closed positions for which we have explicit written instructions. It is likely, however, that they could have had a common ancestor. The Laendler has also been suggested as a possible ancestor.

International standard waltz has only closed figures; that is, the couple never leaves closed position. Contrast American-Style Waltz, in which some figures involve breaking contact entirely. For example, the Syncopated Side-by-Side with Spin includes a free spin for both the man and lady. Open rolls are another good example of an Open dance figure, in which the lady alternates between the man's left and right sides, with the man's left or right arm (alone) providing the lead.

A typical waltz figure (from the man's perspective) starts lowered into the knees and travelling forward with a strong heel lead. Count 2 rises and is taken on the ball of the foot, and count 3 starts on the ball of the foot and lowers to the heel as the couple begins to lower in preparation for the next measure. A smooth rise-and-fall action is a primary characteristic of this dance.

The most famous composers of waltz music for dancing were the Strauss family of Vienna, particularly Johann Strauss Senior and Junior. Johann Strauss Jr. surpassed the fame of his father with "The Blue Danube", which is easily the most famous of waltz melodies.

The Viennese Waltz has step patterns adapted to a faster tempo of music. The Waltz helps dancers to develop balance and control. With practice, correct posture, and rise and fall motion, the flowing movement of the dance can be developed and enjoyed.

The Foxtrot has been America's most popular dance since 1913. Introduced by a Vaudevillian named Harry Fox, it quickly became the standard of social dancing. Foxtrot is a great dance for beginners, as it teaches the novice variety, maneuverability, and how to combine steps easily. The music for Foxtrot is any slow to moderately slow Big Band or pop music song, or "slow dance". Most pop music is written in four/four timing, which is Foxtrot's rhythm (four beats to a measure of music). The mantra for Foxtrot is the classic dance teacher's phrase: "Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick". Much of our popular music is Foxtrot music, and it's a nice, slow, easy dance during which a couple can even have a pleasant conversation. This is the classic dance for wedding receptions and social events, and wedding couples usually choose either a Foxtrot or a Waltz to be their first dance together, predicting a lifetime of slow, easy, romantic cuddling (we hope)!

Tango is a social dance form originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo Argentina.

Today, there are many tango dance styles including Argentine tango, Ballroom tango (American and International styles), Finnish tango, Chinese tango, and vintage tangos.

The way steps are taken in tango are quite different in ballroom tango versus Argentine tango. Ballroom tango does not use gliding steps, but rather uses staccato steps. Although teachers some times call the steps out as SLOW SLOW QUICK QUICK SLOW. The SLOW steps are better described as QUICK-HOLD. Where the dancer rushes to make a step and then holds it as long as possible before rushing to make the next step. That's what gives the staccato action of the steps. This is an attempt to match the staccato accents that always appear in ballroom tango music.

Other forms of tango, including Chinese tango and Argentine tango uses more gliding steps which match the music, which tends to be romantic and less staccato. The basic position is a closed position similar to that of other kinds of ballroom dance. In Argentine Tango, the "close embrace," with full upper body contact, is often used. In Ballroom tango, the "close embrace " involves close contact, too, but the contact is with the hips and upper thighs and *not* the upper torso. In the Argentine Tango, the ball of the foot may be placed first. Alternatively, the dancer may take the floor with the entire foot in a cat-like manner. In the International style, "heel leads" (stepping first onto the heel, then the whole foot) are used for forward steps. Ballroom tangos, including American and International, are based mainly on the movement of the feet across the floor, while the Argentine Tango includes various other moves such as the gancho (hooking one's leg around one's partner's leg).

Tango on Film

Quickstep sounds like a fast Foxtrot, it is actually considered to be a marriage between the Waltz and the Charleston!

The dance features both the light, airy foot movements of the Charleston and the "floating through space" of the Waltz.

On a social level, many people dance Quickstep as a fast Foxtrot. Quickstep is an International style competitive dance.

The more elegant Salon dancing, and the wild, uninhibited popular dancing associated with Carnival.

Carmen Miranda is generally credited with bringing Brazilian rhythms to the United States and Europe, and since then the Samba has undergone a metamorphosis, as the steps became stylized and standardized.

Samba has very distinctive and varied rhythms occurring simultaneously within every song, which helps to build richness in the music and excitement in the listening. It is often called the "South American Waltz", as it features a "rise and fall" type of motion which is associated with waltz.

Originally an offshoot of the Mambo, the Cha Cha was the rage in the 50's and is probably the most popular social Latin dance in America.

It has an infectious rhythm that has been used by many musicians, even those who are not traditionally thought of as Latin - even some Beatles songs, and a lot of disco music!

The rhythmical "split beat" of the Cha Cha and the many open movements add surety and poise to your dancing style.

Originally, the Rumba was a lively, peppy dance similar to Mambo in its feel.

Over the years it has changed, and is now the name of a slow and romantic Latin dance.

Inspired by African rhythms and Latin melodies, the Americanized version of the Cuban Rumba is the basis for the Mambo and Cha Cha.

The Rumba is a pre-requisite for good Latin dancing, and helps sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing and muscle control.

Jive is a dance style that originated among African-Americans in the early 1940s. It is a lively and uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug, i.e., belongs to Swing dances.

In Ballroom dancing, Jive is one of 10 International Latin dances.

Modern Jive is generallly danced to music with 4 beats to the bar (4/4 or Common time), from latest chart hits to big band music and everything between, in a wide variety of tempos from slow to very fast. Some styles may concentrate on particular musical styles, such as swing.

Swing is a group of related street dances, that evolved from Lindy Hop. Swing is a partner dance, where the couple consists of a lead and follow, who share a connection.

Forms of Swing

  • Lindy Hop evolved in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the original swing dance. Almost anything goes.
  • West Coast Swing was developed in the 1930s and 1940s as a stylistic variation. Follows stay in a slot, which reduces their ability to move left and right, but improves their ability to spin left and right. West Coast Swing is danced with blues and rock and roll music.
  • East Coast Swing is a simpler 6-count variation. Also known as Triple-Step Swing, 6-Count Swing, Single-Step Swing, Rock-a-billy, or Jitterbug. East coast swing has very simple structure and footwork along with basic moves and styling.
  • Country Swing, also called Western Swing or Country/Western Swing (C/W Swing) is a form with a distinct culture. It resembles East Coast Swing, but adds variations from other country dances. It is danced to country and western music.
  • Push and Whip are Texas forms of swing dance.
  • Charleston.This is a classic dance that predates Lindy Hop, and is part of Lindy Hop.
  • Balboa. This is simpler, and good for fast music.
  • Collegiate Shag. This is simpler and good for fast music.
  • Carolina Shag
  • St. Louis Shag
  • Boogie Woogie
  • Ballroom Swing is a part of American style Ballroom dancing. This form (most often the same as or similar to East Coats Swing) has been adopted by Ballroom dancers. Street swing and Ballroom Swing are very different. Ballroom Swing is danced in competition and is done strictly in patterns (a series of interlocking moves). Street Swing is danced in many different styles and places with thousands of differences. It is very open for interpretation.
  • Jive is a dance of International Style Ballroom dancing. It diverged from Swing still further

Originally, swing was danced to swing music, which is a kind of jazz. Some of the swing jazz great performers are Count Basie, Woody Herman, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Many dance forms fit their own music. West Coast swing is usually danced to blues or rock and roll. Country swing is usually danced to country and western music. Charleston is usually danced to Ragtime music.

Paso Doble is a Spanish style of dance.

Paso Doble means "two step" in Spanish.

This dance is based on the theme of a bullfight.

Merengue is a simple, fun dance with origins in the Dominican Republic.

The simple march tempo is easy to hear and feel, and lends itself to a spontaneous, improvisational style of dance.

The music is charming and happy, and often contains clever jokes or puns in Spanish.

Learning the Merengue is a good way to start familiarizing yourself with Cuban Motion , which is the way that your body moves in all the Latin dances.

The cutting edge of development for Salsa music is in NYC and Florida, both areas with large Latin communities.

Salsa works on the basis of Mambo - a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music.

At this school, we call it Salsa if the pattern of steps begins on the "one" beat of the music, and Mambo if it starts on the "two" beat.

Salsa is a more contemporary name for the same step pattern, and came about when dancers started mixing up Mambo with Hustle steps.

Remember the '70's? John Travolta in the white polyester suit in Saturday Night Fever?

Well, that was the Hustle, but just like a lot of other things have changed in the last 20 years, the Hustle has changed a lot, too.

The Hustle was born in New York's Latin community.

Young Latinos were born in a culture where dancing together was the norm, but they wanted to dance to more contemporary music than the Mambo of their parents.

Slowly the Latin Hustle was developed and emerged as a club style.

The mainstream young people caught on to the music, and the dance style, and Hustle quickly became hugely popular, all over America and Europe, fueled in part by the movie. As hustle developed, many different styles emerged.

In the late '70's, with the emergence of punk rock and the anti-disco movement, the hustle faded in popular culture -- but it never died!

The hustle fanatics of the '70's never gave up on the dance, and it retained a cult popularity at underground clubs through the '80's.

During this time, hustle kept developing and changing, and the hustle that is danced today bears little resemblance to the hustle of the '70's.

Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years.

It is a fast, smooth dance, with the lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away.

Zouk is a style of rhythmic music originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe & Martinique. Zouk means "party" or "festival" in the local Antillean Creole of French, although the word originally referred to, and is still used to refer to, a popular dance, based on the Polish dance, the mazurka, that was introduced to the French Caribbean in the 19th Century




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