The most frequently asked question we receive as exponents of "International" Style dancing from people who have only been exposed to "North American" Style, is, what's the difference?
In our early years as dancers in England, we were aware of only one style, the "English" Style, which only within the last twenty years has become known as the "International" Style. I will endeavor to explain the differences as I see it.
In the Waltz the biggest difference is we bring our feet together on the count of three in basic turns and maintain a closed hold throughout the dance. In American Style, the feet pass in turns and for a large part of the dance, the couples dance in open position. International Style requires the couple to maintain contact at the mid-section of the body, "gapping" being considered one of the cardinal sins of International competitive dancing.
The same or similar differences occur in Foxtrot and Tango, although at a high level, these two dances are taking on quite an International look. Then there is the Quickstep, which has no counterpart in American Style. The dance consists of chasses, skips, locks, runs and hops performed to a fast 4/4 rhythm. The couple endeavoring at the same time to maintain contact and appear to be relaxed!
In the Viennese Waltz, there is the greatest difference. American Style is danced in a large part in open position, with numerous variants, whereas in International Style, we are limited to seven figures. These are the Natural and Reverse turns, Forward and Backward changes, Natural and Reverse Fleckerels (a fast turning figure danced on the spot) and the Contra check.
Lawrence Ardern is a Canadian Dance Teachers Association Member and teaches at Olympia DanceSport & The Studio.