Ballroom dance is a set of partner dances, which are enjoyed both
socially and competitively around the world. Because of its
performance and entertainment aspects, ballroom dance is also widely
enjoyed on stage, film, and television.
Ballroom dance may refer, at its widest definition, to almost any type
of partner dancing as recreation. However, with the emergence of
dancesport in modern times, the term has become narrower in scope, and
traditionally refers to the five International Standard and five
International Latin style dances (see dance categories below). The two
styles, while differing in technique, rhythm and costumes, exemplify
core elements of ballroom dancing such as control and cohesiveness.
Developed in England, the two styles are now regulated by the World
Dance Council (WDC) and the
World DanceSport Federation (WDSF). In the
United States, two additional variations are popular: American Smooth
and American Rhythm, which combine elements of the Standard and Latin
styles with influences from other dance traditions.
There are also a number of historical dances, and local or national
dances, which may be danced in ballrooms or salons. Sequence dancing,
in pairs or other formations, is still a popular style of ballroom
1 Definitions and history
1.1 Early Modern Age
1.2 19th century
1.3 Early 20th century
2 Competitive dancing
2.1 Elements of competition
2.2 Medal evaluations
3 Collegiate Ballroom
5 Competitive dances
5.1.2 Viennese Waltz
5.1.5 Quick step
5.2.4 Paso doble
5.2.6 East Coast swing
Dance style classification
6.1 International Style competition dances
6.2 American Style competition dances (only in the U.S. & Canada)
7 See also
9 Further reading
Definitions and history
The term 'ballroom dancing' is derived from the word ball which in
turn originates from the Latin word ballare which means 'to dance' (a
ball-room being a large room specially designed for such dances). In
times past, ballroom dancing was social dancing for the privileged,
leaving folk dancing for the lower classes. These boundaries have
become blurred. The definition of ballroom dance also depends on the
era: balls have featured popular dances of the day such as the Minuet,
Quadrille, Polonaise, Polka, Mazurka, and others, which are now
considered to be historical dances.
Early Modern Age
The first authoritative knowledge of the earliest ballroom dances was
recorded toward the end of the 16th century, when Jehan Tabourot,
under the pen name "Thoinot-Arbeau", published in 1588 his
Orchésographie, a study of late 16th-century French renaissance
social dance. Among the dances described were the solemn basse danse,
the livelier branle, pavane, and the galliarde which Shakespeare
called the "cinq pace" as it was made of five steps.
Galliard in Siena, Italy, 15th century
In 1650 the Minuet, originally a peasant dance of Poitou, was
introduced into Paris and set to music by
Jean-Baptiste Lully and
danced by the King
Louis XIV in public, and would continue to dominate
ballroom from that time until the close of the 18th century.
Toward the latter half of the 17th century,
Louis XIV founded his
Académie Royale de Musique
Académie Royale de Musique et de Danse', where specific rules for
the execution of every dance and the "five positions" of the feet were
formulated for the first time by members of the Académie. Eventually,
the first definite cleavage between ballet and ballroom came when
professional dancers appeared in the ballets, and the ballets left the
Court and went to the stage.
Ballet technique such as the turned out
positions of the feet, however, lingered for over two centuries and
past the end of the Victoria era.
The waltz with its modern hold took root in England in about 1812; in
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber wrote Invitation to the Dance, which marked
the adoption of the waltz form into the sphere of absolute music. The
dance was initially met with tremendous opposition due to the
semblance of impropriety associated with the closed hold, though the
stance gradually softened. In the 1840s several new dances made
their appearance in the ballroom, including the Polka, Mazurka, and
the Schottische. In the meantime a strong tendency emerged to drop all
'decorative' steps such as entrechats and ronds de jambes that had
found a place in the Quadrilles and other dances.
Early 20th century
Modern ballroom dance has its roots early in the 20th century, when
several different things happened more or less at the same time. The
first was a movement away from the sequence dances towards dances
where the couples moved independently. This had been pre-figured by
the waltz, which had already made this transition. The second was a
wave of popular music, such as jazz. Since dance is to a large extent
tied to music, this led to a burst of newly invented dances. There
were many dance crazes in the period 1910–1930.
Vernon and Irene Castle, early ballroom dance pioneers, c. 1910–18
The third event was a concerted effort to transform some of the dance
crazes into dances which could be taught to a wider dance public in
the US and Europe. Here
Vernon and Irene Castle
Vernon and Irene Castle were important, and so
was a generation of English dancers in the 1920s, including Josephine
Bradley and Victor Silvester. These professionals analysed, codified,
published and taught a number of standard dances. It was essential, if
popular dance was to flourish, for dancers to have some basic
movements they could confidently perform with any partner they might
meet. Here the huge
Arthur Murray organisation in America, and the
dance societies in England, such as the Imperial Society of Teachers
of Dancing, were highly influential. Finally, much of this happened
during and after a period of World War, and the effect of such a
conflict in dissolving older social customs was considerable.
Later, in the 1930s, the on-screen dance pairing of
Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers influenced all forms of dance in the USA and elsewhere.
Although both actors had separate careers, their filmed dance
sequences together, which included portrayals of the Castles, have
reached iconic status. Much of Astaire and Rogers' work portrayed
social dancing, although the performances were highly choreographed
(often by Astaire or Hermes Pan), and meticulously staged and
Main article: Dancesport
Young couple dancing cha-cha-cha at a junior
Latin dance competition
in the Czech Republic
Competitions, sometimes referred to as dancesport, range from world
championships, regulated by the
World Dance Council (WDC), to less
advanced dancers at various proficiency levels. Most competitions are
divided into professional and amateur, though in the USA pro-am
competitions typically accompany professional competitions. The
International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee now recognizes competitive ballroom
dance. It has recognized another body, the World DanceSport
Federation (WDSF), as the sole representative body for dancesport in
the Olympic Games. However, it seems doubtful that dance will be
included in the Olympic Games, especially in light of efforts to
reduce the number of participating sports.
Ballroom dance competitions are regulated by each country in its own
way. There are about 30 countries which compete regularly in
international competitions. There are another 20 or so countries which
have membership of the WDC and/or the WDSF, but whose dancers rarely
appear in international competitions. In Britain there is the
Dance Council, which grants national and regional championship
titles, such as the British Ballroom Championships, the British
Sequence Championships and the United Kingdom Championships. In the
United States, the member branches of the WDC (National
of America) and the WDSF (USA Dance) both grant national and regional
Ballroom dancing competitions in the former USSR also included the
Soviet Ballroom dances, or Soviet Programme. Australian New Vogue is
danced both competitively and socially. In competition there are 15
recognised New Vogue dances, which are performed by the competitors in
sequence. These dance forms are not recognised internationally,
neither are the US variations such as American Smooth, and Rhythm.
Such variations in dance and competition methods are attempts to meets
perceived needs in the local market-place.
Dance Festival, hosted annually at
Blackpool, England, is considered the most prestigious event a
dancesport competitor can attend.
Formation dance is another style of competitive dance recognised by
the IDSF. In this style, multiple dancers (usually in couples and
typically up to 16 dancers at one time) compete on the same team,
moving in and out of various formations while dancing.
Elements of competition
Intermediate level international style Latin dancing at the 2006 MIT
ballroom dance competition. A judge stands in the foreground.
In competitive ballroom, dancers are judged by diverse criteria such
as poise, the hold or frame, posture, musicality and expression,
timing, body alignment and shape, floor craft, foot and leg action,
and presentation. Judging in a performance-oriented sport is
inevitably subjective in nature, and controversy and complaints by
competitors over judging placements are not uncommon. The
scorekeepers—called scrutineers—will tally the total number
recalls accumulated by each couple through each round until the
finals, when the
Skating system is used to place each couple by
ordinals, typically 1–6, though the number of couples in the final
may vary. Sometimes, up to 8 couples may be present on the floor
during the finals.
Competitors dance at different levels based on their ability and
experience. The levels are split into two categories, syllabus and
open. The syllabus levels are newcomer/pre-bronze, bronze, silver, and
gold—with gold the highest syllabus level and newcomer the lowest.
In these levels, moves are restricted to those written in syllabus,
and illegal moves can lead to disqualification. Each level, bronze,
silver, and gold, has different moves on their syllabus, increasing in
difficulty. There are three levels in the open category; novice,
pre-champ, and champ in increasing order of skill. At those levels,
dancers no longer have restrictions on their moves, so complex
routines are more common.
Medal evaluations for amateurs enable dancers' individual abilities to
be recognized according to conventional standards. In medal
evaluations, which are run by bodies such as the Imperial Society of
Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) and the United Kingdom Alliance (UKA), each
dancer performs two or more dances in a certain genre in front of a
judge. Genres such as Modern Ballroom or Latin are the most popular.
Societies such as the ISTD and UKA also offer medal tests on other
dance styles (such as Country & Western, Rock 'n Roll or Tap). In
some North American examinations, levels include Newcomer, Bronze,
Silver, Gold, Novice, Pre-championship, and Championship; each level
may be further subdivided into either two or four separate sections.
People on the dance floor waiting to dance and compete.
There is a part of the ballroom world dedicated to college students.
These chapters are typically clubs or teams that have an interest in
ballroom dancing. Teams hold fundraisers, social events, and ballroom
Ballroom dance teams' goals are to have fun and learn
to dance well. There is a strong focus on finding a compatible dance
partner and bonding with teammates. There is also a competitive side
to collegiate ballroom - collegiate teams often hold competitions and
invite other teams to participate. These competitions are often
run with many of the same rules are regular amateur competitions as
outlined above, but are usually organized entirely by collegiate
teams. Examples include the MIT Open Ballroom
Purdue Ballroom Classic and the Harvard Invitational.
Victor Fung and Anna Mikhed dancing a tango in 2006. The couple,
dancing for the USA, came third in the Professional World Championship
"Ballroom dance" refers most often to the ten dances of International
Ballroom (or Standard) and International Latin, though the term is
also often used interchangeably with the five International Ballroom
dances. Sequence dancing, which is danced predominantly in the
United Kingdom, and its development New Vogue in Australia and New
Zealand, are also sometimes included as a type of Ballroom dancing.
In the United States and Canada, the American Style (American Smooth
and American Rhythm) also exists. The dance technique used for both
International and American styles is similar, but International
Ballroom allows only closed dance positions, whereas American Smooth
allows closed, open and separated dance movements. In addition,
different sets of dance figures are usually taught for the two styles.
International Latin and
American Rhythm have different styling, and
have different dance figures in their respective syllabi.
Other dances sometimes placed under the umbrella "ballroom dance"
include Nightclub Dances such as Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing,
Nightclub Two Step, Hustle, Salsa, and Merengue. The categorization of
dances as "ballroom dances" has always been fluid, with new dances or
folk dances being added to or removed from the ballroom repertoire
from time to time, so no list of subcategories or dances is any more
than a description of current practices. There are other dances
historically accepted as ballroom dances, and are revived via the
Vintage dance movement.
In Europe, Latin Swing dances include Argentine Tango, Mambo, Lindy
Hop, Swing Boogie (sometimes also known as Nostalgic Boogie), and
Disco Fox. One example of this is the subcategory of Cajun dances that
originated in Acadiana, with branches reaching both coasts of the
Ballroom/Smooth dances are normally danced to Western music (often
from the mid-twentieth century), and couples dance counter-clockwise
around a rectangular floor following the line of dance. In
competitions, competitors are costumed as would be appropriate for a
white tie affair, with full gowns for the ladies and bow tie and tail
coats for the men; though in
American Smooth it is now conventional
for the men to abandon the tailsuit in favor of shorter tuxedos,
vests, and other creative outfits.
Latin/Rhythm dances are commonly danced to contemporary Latin American
music and (in case of Jive) Western music. With the exception of a few
traveling dances like Samba and Paso Doble, couples do not follow the
line of dance but perform their routines more or less in one spot. In
competitions, the women are often dressed in short-skirted Latin
outfits while the men are outfitted in tight-fitting shirts and pants,
the goal being to emphasize the dancers' leg action and body
Waltz began as a country folk dance in Austria and Bavaria in the
1600s. In the early 1800s it was introduced in England. It was the
first dance where a man held a woman close to his body. When
performing the dance the upper body is kept to the left throughout all
figures, woman's body leaves the right side of the man while the head
is extended to follow the elbow. Figures with rotation have little
rise. Sway is also used on the second step to make the step longer and
also to slow down the momentum by bringing feet together.
performed for both International Standard and American Smooth.
Viennese waltz originated in Provence area in France in 1559, and is
recognized as the oldest of all ballroom dances. It was introduced in
England as German waltz in 1812 and became popular throughout the 19th
century by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. It is often referred
to as the classic “old-school” ballroom.
Viennese Waltz music is
quite fast. Slight shaping of the body moves towards the inside of the
turn and shaping forward and up to lengthen the opposite side from
direction. Reverse turn is used to travel down long side and is
overturned. While natural turn is used to travel short side and is
underturned to go around the corners. Viennese waltz is performed for
both International Standard and American Smooth.
Tango originated in Buenos Aires in the late 1800s. Modern Argentine
tango is danced in both open and closed embraces which focuses on the
male leader and the women moving in harmony of the tango’s
passionate charging music. The tango’s technique is like walking to
the music while keeping feet grounded and allowing ankles and knees to
brush against one another during each step taken. Body weight is kept
over the toes and the connection is held between the man and women in
Ballroom tango, however, is a dance with a far more open frame, often
utilising strong and staccato movements. It is ballroom tango, rather
Argentine tango that is performed in international competition.
The foxtrot is a true American dance, credited by a vaudeville
performer Harry Fox in 1914. Fox was rapidly trotting step to ragtime
music ( an original form of jazz). The dance was originally named as
the “Fox’s trot”.The foxtrot can be danced at slow, medium, or
fast tempos depending on the speed of the jazz or big band music. The
partners are facing one another and frame rotates from one side to
another, changing direction after a measure. The dance is flat, with
no rise and fall like the waltz. The walking steps are taken as slow
for the two beats per steps and quick for one beat per step. Foxtrot
is performed for both International Standard and American Smooth.
The quickstep is an English dance and was invented in the 1920s as a
combination of faster tempo of foxtrot and the Charleston. It is a
fast moving dance so men are allowed to close their feet and the
couples move in short syncopated steps. Quick step includes the walks,
runs, chasses and turns, of the original foxtrot dance, with some
other fast figures such as locks, hops, and skips can be added. Quick
step is performed as an International Standard dance.
Samba is the national dance of Brazil. The rhythm of samba and its
name originated from West African slaves. In 1905, samba became known
to the rest of the countries during an exhibition in Paris. Eventually
in 1940s, samba was introduced in America due to a movie star named
Carmen Miranda. The modern ballroom samba dance differs compared to
the traditional Brazilian samba as it was modified as a partner dance.
Samba is danced with a slight bounce which is created through the
bending and straightening the knee. Samba is performed as an
International Latin dance.
The cha-cha was originally called the “cha-cha-cha.” The term came
from Haiti and resembled the sound the bells made when rubbed. It was
evolved from the rumba and mambo in the 1950s. Since mambo music was
quite fast and difficult for some to dance to, a Cuban composer
Enrique Jorrin slowed the music down and cha-cha was
established.Cha-cha is a very flirtatious dance with many hip
rotations and partners synchronizing their movements. The dance
includes bending and straightening of the knee giving it a touch of
Cuban motion. Cha-cha is performed for both International Latin and
Rumba is known to be the most romantic and passionate of all dances.
In the early 1920s, the dance came to the United States from Cuba and
became a popular cabaret dance during prohibition. Rumba is very
polyrhythmic and complex. It includes Cuban motions through
knee-strengthening, figure- eight hip rotation and swiveling foot
action. An important characteristic of rumba is the powerful and
direct lead achieved through the ball of the foot. Rumba is performed
for both International Latin and American Rhythm.
The paso doble originated from Spain and its dramatic bullfights. The
dance is mostly performed only in competitions and rarely socially due
to many choreographic rules. The man plays the role of the matador
while the women take the role of the matador’s cape, the bull, or
even the matador too. The chassez cape refers to the man using the
woman to turn her as if she is the cape and the apel is when man
stomps his foot to get the bull's attention. Paso double is performed
as an International Latin dance.
The jive is part of the swing dance group and is a very lively
variation of the jitterbug. Jive originated from African American
clubs in the early 1940s. During World War II, American soldiers
introduced the jive in England where it was adapted to today's
competitive jive. In jive, the male leads the dance while the women
encourage the men to ask them to dance. It is danced to big band music
and some technique is taken from salsa, swing and tango. Jive is
performed as an International Latin dance.
East Coast swing
Swing in 1927 was originally named the
Lindy Hop named by Shorty
George Snowden. There have been 40 different versions documented over
the years, most common is the East Coast swing which is performed in
American Smooth (or American Rhythm) only in the U.S. or Canada.
The East Coast swing was established by
Arthur Murray and others only
shortly after World War II.Swing music is very lively and upbeat and
can be danced to jazz or big band music. The swing dancing is a style
with lots of bounce and energy. Swing also includes many spins and
underarm turns. East Coast swing is performed as an American Rhythm
The original version of bolero was created by Sebastian Cerezo in
Cadiz, Spain during the 18th century. However, the bolero performed
now was modified in Cuba a century later. The dance represents the
couple falling in love.
Bolero is a combination of many dances and is
danced to Spanish vocals with fine percussion beat. It is like a slow
salsa with contra-body moment of tango, patterns of rumba and rise and
fall technique and personality of waltz and foxtrot.
Bolero can be
danced in a closed hold or singly and then coming back together.
Bolero is performed as an
American Rhythm dance.
Mambo originated from Cuba but the name came from Haiti. Mambo music
was first written in late 1930s by a Cuban composer. Eventually in the
late 1940s, a musician named Perez Prado invented the dance mambo.
Perez introduced the dance from Havana to Mexico, and making its way
up to New York. Mambo is performed as an
American Rhythm dance.
Dance style classification
International Style competition dances
According to World
Waltz: 28 bars per minute, 3/4 time, also known as Slow
Waltz depending on locality
Tango: 32 bars per minute, 2/4 time
Viennese Waltz: 60 bars per minute, 3/4 time. On the European
continent, the Viennese waltz is known simply as waltz, while the
waltz is recognized as English waltz or Slow Waltz.
Foxtrot: 28 bars per minute, 4/4 time
Quickstep: 50 bars per minute, 4/4 time
Samba: 48 bars per minute, 4/4 time
Cha-cha-cha: 30 bars per minute, 4/4 time
Rumba: 24 bars per minute, 4/4 time
Paso Doble: 56 bars per minute, 2/4 time
Jive: 42 bars per minute, 4/4 time
American Style competition dances (only in the U.S. &
Waltz: 28–30 bars per minute 30–32 bars per minute for Bronze
Tango: 30 bars per minute 30–32 bars per minute for Bronze
Foxtrot: 30 bars per minute 32–34 bars per minute for Bronze
Viennese Waltz: 53–54 bars per minute 54 bars per minute for Bronze
Cha Cha: 30 bars per minute
Rumba: 30–32 bars per minute 32–36 bars per minute for Bronze
East Coast Swing: 36 bars per minute 34–36 bars per minute for
Bolero: 24 bars per minute 24–26 bars per minute for Bronze
Mambo: 47 bars per minute 48–51 bars per minute for Bronze
Historical/Vintage Ballroom dance:
Schottische – Tango –
Other dances occasionally categorized as ballroom:
Nightclub Two-step – Hustle –
Modern Jive /
Ceroc – and
the whole swing variety:
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing / East Coast Swing/ Lindy
Hop (always included in the "Rhythm-Swing" category) /
Carolina Shag /
Collegiate Shag / Balboa /
Blues – Fusion
Cumbia – Mambo – Merengue –
Porro – Cha cha –
Semba – Zouk
Samba de Gafieira
Samba de Gafieira –
Lambada - Zouk
Polka – C/W Cha-cha – C/W Two-step – C/W Waltz
Cajun One Step or
Cajun Jig – Cajun Two Step – Zydeco – Cajun
Waltz – Cajun Jitterbug
Java – musette-waltz – musette-tango – musette-paso-doble
Argentine tango – New Vogue
Dance in Canada
Dance sport in Austria
Dancesport at the Asian Games
^ a b Franks A.H. 1963. Social dance: a short history. Routledge &
Kegan Paul, London.
^ Silvester, Victor 1980. Old Time and sequence dancing. Barrie and
^ a b c Silvester, Victor 1993. Modern Ballroom Dancing; rev. ed.
London: Stanley Paul. (1st edition: London: H. Jenkins, 1927)
^ Richardson P.J S. 1948. The history of English ballroom dancing
(1900–1945). London: Jenkins
^ "History of Musical Film, by John Kenrick". Musicals101.com. 1996.
Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
^ "Review of "Swing Time" (1936)". rogerebert.com. 1998-02-15.
^ Certificate of Olympic recognition of WDSF Archived 2010-06-26 at
the Wayback Machine.
^ Complete listings of affiliations are given in the programmes of the
^ http://www.unitedstatesdancechampionships.com/ USDC
USA Dance Nationals
^ "Ballroom 101". USA Dance, Inc. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
^ "History of Modern Ballroom Dancing". Archived from the original on
26 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-20. .
^ "International Style - DanceCentral.info". www.dancecentral.info.
^ a b "Ballroom
Dance Styles America's Ballroom Challenge PBS".
Dance Styles America's Ballroom Challenge PBS. Retrieved
^ a b "Just
Dance Ballroom ::
www.justdanceballroom.com. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September
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·Nott, James, Going to the Palais: a social and cultural history of
dancing and dance halls in Britain, 1918-60 - Published 2015 OUP
Arthur Murray "How To Become A Good Dancer" Published: 1938
ISBN 1447416767, 9781447416760 250 pages.
Abra, Allison. "Review of James Nott, Going to the palais: a social
and cultural history of dancing and dance halls in Britain,
1918–1960." Contemporary British History (Sep 2016) 30#3 pp
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