Dancing is a great way for people of all ages to get and stay in shape. Besides being fun, dancing has many positive health benefits
Ballroom dancing encompasses both traditional dances, such as the Waltz, Tango and Quickstep, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz – (the "Standard" category) - and Latin dances, including Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Samba and Jive, which make up the "Latin" category.
On a higher level, however, “Ballroom” branches into two distinct styles – “International”, consisting of International Standard and International Latin, and “American”, consisting of American Smooth and American Rhythm.
American Style is more prominent on the North American continent, but virtually unknown throughout Europe and the rest of the world - for this reason, we encourage students to start with International style.
If you're watching ballroom dancing and wondering how to distinguish between International and American styles, here are two points to look out for: dance positions and leg action Standard and Smooth dances. International Standard is danced almost exclusively in closed dance positions while American Smooth allows more moves executed in open position.
The Latin and Rhythm dances tend to be a bit harder to tell apart. The dancers' leg action is probably the best clue as to which style they're dancing here. In American Rhythm, the dancers will use a bent leg action allowing them to delay their change of weight on the step, so you will frequently see them with bent legs. However, in International Latin, the dancers usually have the look of two straight legs which comes from the faster change of weight on the step.
Slow Waltz is counted in ¾ time, and has a classic swooping rise and fall. This is the Standard dance usually learned first.
Tango is known for quick, sharp snaps and dramatic pauses. It is much more stylized than Argentine Tango, from which it was derived, although it is still passionate. It alternates between slow, stalking motion and explosive speed.
Slow Foxtrot is the Standard dance many find the most challenging, and most rewarding. It is smooth, playful, and very slow. Like American Foxtrot, it is done to Big Band music in 4/4 time, but its basic timing is slow-quick-quick and the speed is much slower.
Quickstep is a high-speed version of the Slow Foxtrot. It's done to Swing-type music and is very energetic and vivacious. Advanced figures include hops, skips, and jumps
Viennese Waltz is about twice the speed of Waltz. The international style is faster than the American style, and very simple. There are only a few figures in the dance, since partners never release their arm hold. Although the speed can make the dance challenging.
Foxtrot is a great social dance: it’s fun, not hard to learn, and easy to lead and follow. Traditionally danced to Big Band music, it is smooth and sexy. Its basic timing is slow-slow-quick-quick. The American Foxtrot is upbeat and sprightly, more like the Quickstep than the Slow Foxtrot, looking like an old Fred and Ginger movie. Some jazziness and show dancy quality is added that is not appropriate (or even possible) in international style.
Cha-Cha is a fast and flirtatious dance that was created by replacing the "slow" in Rumba with a quick" side-close-side" (cha-cha-cha).
Samba is super sexy with a pulsing "1 a-2" beat and fluid hip action. American Samba features simpler figures than International Samba, but the same music and technique.
Rumba is the only slow International Latin dance; is slower than American Rumba, but faster than Bolero. It is sensual and passionate. Its basic timing is slow-quick-quick, like American Style, but all of the figures are different; the "slow" is on beat 2 of the music instead of beat 1.
Paso Doble portrays a bullfight. The man depicts the matador, while the female portrays the flowing and snapping cape. There are only a few songs to which Paso Doble is danced, and they all have the musical highlights in the same place. Thus this dance is usually completely choreographed from start to finish; each musical highlight corresponds to a dramatic pose or drop.
Jive is a tight, precise, extremely fast version of East Coast Swing. Its basic timing is rock step, triple-step, triple-step, and it features swift flicks and kicks and lots of spins.
Bolero is a very slow dance compared to the Rumba. It is swooping and graceful.
East Coast Swing is the basis of many of the other Swings. Its basic timing is "triple-step, triple-step, rock-step
Mambo is similar to Salsa (very fast!). The basic timing is quick-quick-slow.
Salsa has recently grown to be one of most popular club dances. It is fast, sexy, and features a lot of improvisation. It is extremely popular in clubs around the world.
Merengue is a Club dance that is done to really fast Latin music. It consists of very simple steps organized into sets of 8, and features a characteristic hip.
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