Which dances should be included in the canon of 'ballroom dances' is a matter of debate. However, the following are all generally considered to belong to the world of ballroom dance:
- RHYTHM dances: Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, Mambo, Salsa, Bolero, East Coast Swing, Jive, West Coast Swing.
- LATIN dances: Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, Mambo.
- SMOOTH dances: Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Night Club Two-Step.
Many of these dances have both an American style and an International style.
Country dancing is usually considered to include the following: Country Cha-Cha, Country Waltz, Texas Two-Step, Night Club Two-Step, Country Swing.
Other popular partner dance styles include: Lindy Hop, Argentine Tango, East Coast Swing, Polka.
Thank you Dance Colorado for the following dance descriptions:
Waltz This slower version of the Viennese Waltz emerged in the 1920’s out of a fad dance called the “Boston.” It is the most elegant and romantic of all the ballroom dances. The Waltz will inspire feelings of love, if only with the dance! Danced to a 3/4 time, the Waltz glides gently across the floor. It is easy for beginners to learn and is a great choice for the First Dance of any wedding celebration.
Tango This exciting dance evolved from the Argentine Tango, which originated in the back streets of Buenos Aires, then gained popularity and traveled to Europe, and finally to the US in the 1910’s. Danced to strict tempo music and used mostly in competitions, the Tango incorporates sharp, catlike steps with passion and intensity. Words that describe any style of Tango are dramatic, sensual, urgent and sexy. No matter which style you dance, the Tango is likely to raise your temperature!
Foxtrot Evolved out of the “Two-Step” Era around 1915, in the US. It is a smooth combination of slow and quick beats danced in a 4/4 rhythm. Reputedly named after Harry Fox, a popular Broadway singer and dancer, it is still as popular as ever. This dance is perfect for weddings and galas or a trip to the Rainbow Room. If you enjoy the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Ella Fitzgerald, you’ll definitely want to learn the Foxtrot!
Viennese Waltz Is the oldest of all the dances still danced today, and has its origin in 17th century Germany. It achieved its greatest artistic expression in Vienna in the 1880’s. The fast tempo and close embrace stifled its acceptance in the US. The Viennese Waltz and the Slow Waltz are the only dances that use music written in 3/4 timing. You’ll feel like royalty as you sweepingly cover the floor dancing to such classics as the “Anniversary Waltz” and the “Blue Danube.” It is an exciting and challenging dance that you will grow to love.
Cha Cha Originating in Cuba as an off-shoot of Mambo, Cha Cha is danced to slower music. It has a distinct sound suggesting the 1/2 1/2 1, or cha-cha-cha, that embodies the scraping sound made by the feet while dancing the triple rhythm added to the middle of the basic salsa movement.
Rumba Learning this dance is a prerequisite for good Latin dancing. The Cuban Motion is essential in most Latin dances. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control.
East Coast Swing Is strictly comprised of six count patterns. The Swing is a spot dance with a carefree, relaxed style and is a dance easily mastered by most people. The various speeds are excellent training for quick footwork and good leading & following, which will add comfort and ease in other rhythm dances. After mastering the patterns, both men and women will find East Coast Swing a fun and exciting dance to learn and practice. Perhaps the most uniquely American of all dances, the Swing brings forth a buoyant carefree movement. It’s one of the dances that becomes contagious.
Bolero Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba into 2/4 time and then eventually into 4/4 time. It is now present as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is a favorite of dancers, as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance.
Mambo Is a fusion of Cuban and American dancing. The music is characterized by a stirring Afro-Cuban beat. Mambo is an exciting dance which allows you to develop your own feeling and expression. Because Mambo is such a fun dance, good Mambo dancers are always popular and in demand as partners. The wild, exciting music and rhythmical body movements make the earthy Mambo irresistible.
Hustle Is a general name for many different forms of hustle. Back in the late 1970’s, most disco dances were called Latin Hustle or NY Hustle. The dance has evolved greatly over the years through at least six major changes. The earliest version (approximately 1975) looks like it was developed by women doing the woman’s part in West Coast Swing. Originally it was a 6-count dance, then changed to 3 count around 1980. About 1980 the dance had a rock-step in it, but that was changed to a together-forward around 1982. Many people believe they are doing NY hustle; however, they are generally doing older versions of Hustle. Originally, NY Hustle was a catch-all name, and some versions of it were identical to some versions of Latin Hustle. By 1983, the other versions of hustle had faded away, and what was left we call NY Hustle. Hustle helped to highlight a partner dancing revival back in the 1970’s and is quite fun and challenging.
Merengue Originated in the Dominican Republic. It is one of the easiest Latin dances to learn and very simple to follow and make up steps. Beautiful, sensuous body movements are typical. The Merengue is usually danced to very fast tempos.
Samba Improves the flexibility of the body and helps achieve easy movement and lightness. The Samba rolling action teaches the body to be supple. To move lightly, quickly, and smoothly without effort takes study but only at the start. Although considered a good exercise, Samba should be danced smoothly and in a relaxed manner giving the appearance of effortless movement. Sometimes called the South American Waltz, the Samba pulsates to a unique Latin rhythm.
West Coast Swing Is one of the most popular partner dances. It developed from the Lindy, and more specifically Dean Collins Swing, and was done originally to Rhythm & Blues style music. West Coast Swing is a bit more sultry and sexy than other swing dances. Smooth and rolling, the current scene has people dancing to a wider variety of music – blues and R&B, as well as some country, pop, and rock. Because of this you can have fun with this dance style in an extensive variety of settings and venues. West Coast Swing, in its most fun and competitive form, combines 6 & 8 count rhythms with syncopated footwork, embellishments and breaks.