Dance Definitions

Below are the dance definitions for International Ballroom Dance.

SLOW WALTZ:  Danced in European courts in the mid 1700s, the romantic Slow Waltz is an offspring of the faster Viennese Waltz in 3/4 time.  The rhythm was gradually slowed down over time as songwriters of ballads and love songs chose to compose in a slower and more comfortable tempo.  This dance has continued to rise in popularity at anniversaries, graduations, and weddings.

FOXTROT:  The Foxtrot is one of the most deceiving dances.  It looks very easy, but is one of the most difficult dances to do.  The dance originated in 1913 when a vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox Performed a little trot which appealed to the social dance teachers in New York and thus the Foxtrot was born.  It has gone through many changes since that time, and is now comprised of more soft and fluid linear movements.

VIENNESE WALTZ:  The Viennese Waltz is a fast Waltz which originated in Austria.  Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss wrote the first waltzes in the early 19th century.  In the middle of the 20th century, the German, Paul Krebs choreographed the Viennese Waltz style to which we dance today.  The dance enjoyed a great deal of popularity not only in Europe but also in America, and has been used in many Hollywood productions.

QUICKSTEP:  As the name implies, the Quickstep is a very quick and lively dance, comprised of hops, skips and kicks.  The dance began as a quick version of Foxtrot mixed with the Charleston, and musical “Jazz” influences. 

TANGO:  The Tango originated in the bordellos of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is done in a slightly different manner than other dances.  The hold is very different, with the lady’s arm under the man’s, which creates a tighter hold for a quick staccato action and stylized poses.  (Not to be confused with Argentine Tango.) 

CHA CHA:  During 1950s, the Cha Cha was made famous by many Latino bands such as Xavier Cugat and Perz Prado.  Cuban in origin, the Cha Cha rythm is found in much of today’s popular music.

SAMBA:  The Samba originated in Brazil and, unlike the other Latin dances that are stationary, it has a traveling action around the floor with lots of spins and controlled bounces.

RUMBA:  The Rumba is Cuban in origin and is often referred to as the “dance of love”.  Sultry and romantic, the music is a mixture of African and Latin rhythms.

JIVE:  The Jive is a very fast, acrobatic, lively dance made popular during World War II by the swing music of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller.

PASO DOBLE:  The Paso Doble is a theatrical Spanish dance that characterizes the man as the matador and the lady as his cape.  Based of Flamenco dancing, the character of the dance is arrogant and passionate.

International Ballroom Dance is danced all over the world.

Dance Definitions for American Style Smooth

Foxtrot:  The Foxtrot remains the most popular social dance in the world today.  Little did Harry Fox realize that his trotting on New York stage in 1913 would become an overnight success. The Foxtrot is the foundation for many of the social dances that followed.  It is enjoyed by all age groups for its ease of movement and smooth style.  Foxtrot music is played by most social dance orchestras and is one of the easiest dances to learn in the American Style.

Waltz:  The Waltz appeared as a fashionable dance in Bohemia, Austria, Bavaria and other parts of Europe in the late 1700’s.  Danced in ¾ timing, the recurring, even beats of music send the dancers whirling around the floor enjoying the thrill of the Waltz movement.

Tango:  The American Style Tango is progressive, moving along the line of dance using body movement.  A staccato movement of the feet and flexed knees highlight the dramatic style of the Tango.

Viennese Waltz:  This dance originated in Mid-Europe some 400 years ago.  The music is fast in tempo and sends the couples whirling around the floor-first one way and then the other.

Peabody:  A fast Foxtrot during which the dancers may use many quick steps set against the figure called “open box.”  It was popular in the larger ballrooms where dance space was not a problem.

Cha Cha:  An exciting, syncopated, Latin dance, which originated in the 1950s as a slowed down Mambo, the Cha Cha gathers its personality, character, rhythm, basis, and charm from two major dance sources.  It is a derivation of the Mambo through its Latin music, and it is also a stepchild of the Swing, as it is danced to a 1-2-3 step rhythm.  The Cha Cha gets its name and character from its distinct repetitive foot rhythm.

Rumba:  The Rumba was originally a courtship, marriage, and street dance that was African in origin.  The Rumba met some opposition from society’s upper crust because of the suggestive body and hip movements.  The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step.  Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened causes the hips to sway from side to side, in what has come to be known as “Cuban Motion.”

Samba:  The Samba is a lively Brazilian dance which was first introduced in 1917 and was finally adopted as a ballroom dance by Brazilian society in 1030.  It is sometimes referred to as a Samba, Carioca, a Baion or a Batucado.  The difference is mainly in the tempo, since the steps in all four dances are very similar.  The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter.  They say that the Samba was introduced in the United States in 1939 by the late Carmen Miranda.

Bolero:  Originally a Spanish dance in ¾ time, it was changed in Cuba, initially into 2/4 time, then eventually into 4/4.  It is now presented as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm.  The music is frequently arranged with Spanish Vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually using Congas or Bongos.

Mambo:  The spicy Mambo as we now know it grew out of the Danzon (national music of Cuba), and grasped the imagination of the American dance scene at the close of World War II.  Later, fast Swing-Jazz and upbeat Latin music joined in to form the updated and uninhibited Mambo.  The Mambo is a spot dance and the steps are quite compact.

Merengue:  The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance.  There is an old tale about a very brave and famous military officer who was wounded in battle and developed a limp.  A celebration dace was given for the great hero returning from the war.  Rather than embarrass their hero, who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present favored their leg as well, and thus the Merengue was born.

Bossa Nova:  The music was born of a marriage of Brazilian rhythms and American Jazz.  The dance, which is said to have originated at Carnegie Hall in 1961, is based on the slower, more subtle Salon Samba and features either type of Clave Beat or a Jazz Samba in 4/4 time.

What is the difference between American Style and International Style?

American Style is most popular in the United States whereas the International Style, which is also known as the English Style, is danced throughout the rest of the world.  The American Style Smooth dances, Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz, experience more freedom and expression.  They may be danced in closed or open position, allowing for additional innovative tricks and creative arm and hand styling.  The International Style Standard Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz are danced only in closed position.  The technique for both styles is similar.  The American Style Rhythm dances, which are Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Samba, Mambo, Bolero, and Merengue, have a greater variety of patterns, and are more suited for social dancing.  The International Style Latin Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble and Jive are more disciplined and technical.  The technique is different between the styles and changes throughout the years.  American style dancing has always been more popular for social dancing in the United States.