WHY CHOOSE BALLROOM DANCING?
Ballroom dancing is characterized as a very formal style of dancing with emphasis on technique and choreography. There are often two styles referred to by professionals: International and American. The style we instruct and promote is International, although we demonstrate American-style figures when appropriate or suitable. See discussion below.
The list of dances below are known as the 10 International Ballroom Dances. These 10 are divided into two divisions known as Standard and Latin:
Latin: Cha Cha
Another popular dance in Ballroom settings is the Argentine Tango.
Waltz - The International Waltz is a slow waltz and is danced to 25-30 bars of music per minute (bpm), sometimes known as the English Waltz.
Tango - International Tango is danced in close hold to a speed very close to 33 bpm. It is known for the tight hold, flexed knees, fast head-snapping action, stucca rhythm and austere look.
Slow Foxtrot - Slow Foxtrot is the International style of the foxtrot that is danced in close hold to a speed very close to 30 bpm. This walking dance looks very smooth and regal.
Quickstep - Quickstep is an International Style ballroom dance that comes from the foxtrot family. It is remarkably faster than the slow foxtrot and has uniquely different figures. It is danced very close to 50 bpm.
Viennese Waltz - Viennese Waltz is a faster waltz danced very close to 50 bpm. The International style is danced in close hold only.
Cha Cha - The term comes from Haiti and refers to the part of a bell that made a “cha-cha” noise when rubbed, but the dance itself evolved from the rumba and the mambo. Mambo was wildly popular in the United States just after World War II, but the music was fast and very difficult to dance to, so a Cuban composer named Enrique Jorrin slowed the music down, and the “cha-cha-cha” was born. By 1953, several of his songs were hits, and the cha-cha became a sensation.
Rumba - Rumba has a rich history – it started as both a family of music and a dance style that originated in Africa and came to the new world with the slave trade. As a result, rumba is highly polyrhythmic and very complex, and has spawned many different dance styles including salsa; African rumba, which emerged there in the 1950s; Gypsy rumba, popularized with the Spanish “Gypsy kings” in the 1990s; and the Cuban rumba, which was later imported to the States. This became the cabaret dance that flourished in America during prohibition. All of the styles, however, share similar movements that have a wonderfully sensual, rhythmic quality.
Samba - The samba is the national dance of Brazil, and it is danced in every club, Carnaval parade, and in virtually every home. The rhythms of samba, as well as the word itself, were brought to Brazil by West African slaves. Because it can carry overtones of sadness or regret, samba has often been compared to the blues in the U.S. The rest of the world started to discover samba after an exhibition in Paris in 1905, but it wasn’t until the 1940s, thanks to movie star Carmen Miranda, that the samba became a sensation in America.
Paso Doble - “Paso doble” means two-step in Spanish, and it was inspired by the bullfight. It is set to the music played during the bullfighter’s entrance and just before the kill. If you watch closely, you might see that the man plays the part of the matador, while the woman’s movements mimic those of his cape. Because it is so highly stylized, with many rules about what is acceptable, the Paso doble is rarely performed outside of competitions.
Jive - In Ballroom dancing, Jive is a dance style in 4/4 time that originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1940s. It is a lively and uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug, a form of Swing dance.
Argentine Tango - Argentina is the home where this dance originated. The Argentine tango style is unique: close hold, weaving of the body and legs around each other, fast ficks and posture dominated by leaning towards each other. The music is also unique.
The list of dances below are known as the 9 American Ballroom Dances. These 9 are divided into two divisions known as Smooth and Rhythm:
Rythym: Cha Cha
East Coast Swing
A personal comment about the difference between the International and American style and a strong caution to begiinner students who want to know what the difference is and how it can affect his or her dancing journey:
As a student and teacher and dancer of both styles, I have come to appreciate and respect both styles and will continue to encourage and support both as equals in the world of Ballroom dancing. My strong caution is as follows: When a student comes to me and asks which direction he or she should go as far as International or American, I would unequivocally advise International for several reasons:
First, International has a long history of maintaing the long traditional style of the dances in their correct form and technique and is much more universally accepted and is performed much more in countries around the world. American style is just that "American" even though it has gained much more popularity around the world.
Second. There is a reason why the t.v. series Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) only accepts the International format as the basis of their syndicate. As Len Goodman rightly says, "I want to see a proper ........ dance in proper hold with proper technique".
All Ballroom dances on DWTS around the world are selected based on the International 10 dance selection, although dances such as Swing and Mambo and Bolero on the American show have been danced. The agreement with the American programing was that all 10 dances were to be International in style and technique with the exception of three dances: Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. Of the 1.5 minutes for each dance performed, 1 minute of the 1.5 the American style would be allowed as long as the .5 minute was International. As any observer of the American DWTS program who has been watching the program from the beginning until the present, the rules have unfortunately been broken and very difficult for Judges to uphold the International style in the counrty whose home of the American style is just that American.
My suggestion is as follows. If I were to do it over again, I would enrol in International and stay with it for a long time, as long as possible in order to learn the proper names of the figures and the steps and technique before experincing the American. Then if you desire to learn American, make the crossover knowing full well that there will be differences and then the dancer will know what is proper and what figures are the same but have different names and why the American steps and techniique can look different and possibly questionable. This is a brief comment. Please email if you have any questions about the two styles. Now is the time to ask before you spend tons of money into a style you may want to change out of for whatever reasons.
WHY CHOOSE SOCIAL DANCING?
Social dancing is characterized as informal dancing and often learned for fun. We stress a more social style of learning in order to enjoy both ballroom and social dances when social dancing. In our social dance classes, we will add some technique from the ballroom style in order to make your social dancing flow with more style and ease.
The list of dances below we emphasize as social or club-style dances:
Country Texas 2 Step
Social American Foxtrot
East Coast Swing
The Gay Gordon
The French Minuet
Heel Toe Polka
Country Texas 2 Step - A fast tempo chasse-style foxtrot that is very popular where county music is played. It is fun and easy to learn.
Social American Foxtrot - The most popular social dance for all couples of all ages. We incorporate a perfect arrangement of International and American style figures into this social dance. So be prepared to look great.
Slow Waltz - This is the term applied to waltz in countries where Viennese Waltz is the prevalent form of waltz. Some confusion occurs when dancers come from these countries to places like the United States where it is simply known as "waltz". "Slow Waltz" was also the name of a dance in the International Standard dance category of ballroom dances. Now it is officially called simply "Waltz", but "Slow Waltz" is still in the informal use, to distinguish from other types of waltzes. It is sometimes called the "English Waltz".
Fast Waltz - The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either toward their right (natural) or toward their left (reverse), interspersed with non-rotating change steps to switch the direction of rotation. It is a very rapid, traveling form of Waltz. Because of its speed, we recommend you get thorough exposure in other ballroom dances before taking on this high power, energetic dance.
Salsa - A very energetic Latin dance. Lots of fun, complete with spins, sharp movement, and crisp turns. Very popular in Latin clubs along with merengue. Styles varies depending on where you are from. Costa Rican salsa in general goes side to side but LA style for example goes forward and backwards. This dance is also similar to Mambo.
Mambo - The feel of the Mambo is based mostly on forward and backward movements. The basic components of the dance include rock steps and side steps, with occasional points, kicks and flicks of the feet. Important to Mambo is the distinctive hip movement, hence the meaning of the word mambo: "shake it." The Mambo uses a 4/4 beat and is similar in rhythm to the slower Bolero.
East Coast Swing - Swing music has an infectious accent on the upbeat and makes even non-dancers tap their feet, and snap their fingers. The most elemental definition of Swing dancing is any style of dancing to Swing music, and there are hundreds of styles. Swing dancing is usually characterized by its bounce and energy as well as lots of spins or under arm turns.
Merengue - A fast Latin dance that never slows down. Very easy to learn and I often refer to this dance as the “marching with style”. It's the most popular dance at most Latin clubs along with Salsa.
Polka - A lively courtship dance of Bohemian folk origin. It is characterized by three quick steps and a hop and is danced to music in 2/4 time. The couples cover much space as they circle about the dance floor. Introduced in Paris in about 1843, it became extraordinarily popular in ballrooms and on the stage, sweeping across Europe and the Americas from Scandinavia to Latin America and developing many varieties. Still popular in the 20th century both as a folk dance and as a ballroom dance.
Charleston - A social jazz dance highly popular in the 1920s and frequently revived. Characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps, it was performed as a solo, with a partner, or in a group. Mentioned as early as 1903, it was originally a black folk dance known throughout the American South and especially associated with Charleston, S.C. Analysis of its movements shows it to have strong parallels in certain dances of Trinidad, Nigeria, and Ghana. In its early form the dance was highly abandoned and was performed to complex rhythms beaten out by foot stamps and handclaps.
The Gay Gordons - A popular dance at céilidhs and other kinds of informal and social dance. It is an "old-time" dance, of a type popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which every couple dances the same steps, usually in a circle around the room. The name alludes to Scottish regiment, the Gordon Highlanders.
The French Minuet - An elegant couple dance that dominated aristocratic European ballrooms, especially in France and England, from about 1650 to about 1750. Reputedly derived from the French folk dance branle de Poitou, the court minuet used smaller steps and became slower and increasingly etiquette-laden and spectacular. It was especially popular at the court of Louis XIV of France. Dancers, in the order of their social position, often performed versions with especially choreographed figures, or floor patterns, and prefaced the dance with stylized bows and curtsies to partners and spectators. The basic floor pattern outlined by the dancers was at first a figure 8 and, later, the letter Z.
Heel Toe Polka - In doing the Heel and Toe Polka, as a couples dance, at the count "heel", the foot is extended to the second position, but with the heel down and the toe raised, and at count "toe", the moving foot is moved to the fifth position, behind the stationary foot, or in other words, starting with left foot, the foot is extended to second position, heel down, and at count "toe", the left foot is moved to fifth position behind right foot, thus forming fifth position for right foot, except that the weight of the body rests on the right foot.