Ballroom dance

From Academic Kids

Ballroom dance is a style of partner dance which originated in the western world and is now enjoyed both socially and competitively around the globe. Its performance and entertainment aspects are also widely enjoyed on stage, in film, and on television.

Ballroom dancing is derived from the word "ball", which in turn orginates from the latin word "balare" which means "to dance".

The definition of "ballroom dance" depends on the era. We all know or have heard of balls that featured Minuet, Quadrille, Polonaise, Pas de Gras, Mazurka, and other popular dances of the day, which are now placed into the category of historical dances.

In times past, ballroom dancing was "social dancing" of privileged classes, leaving "folk dancing" for the lower classes. Today ballroom dancing is much more democratic, and the boundaries between once-polarized ballroom and folk dances become blurred. However, even in times long gone many "ballroom" dances were elevated folk dances.

Most competitive ballroom dances were social and/or folk dances before being formalized as ballroom dances, and many of these dances are still danced as social and folk dance.

Ballroom dancing has been in continual use as a social art form since its inception with one obvious exception in the 20th century. Dance historians usually mark the appearance of the Twist in the mid 1960s as the end of social partner dancing, and they credit what was then called the Latin Hustle for bringing it back in the late 1970s.

Today one may speak of competitive ballroom dancing, with its competitions, schools, societies, and books of technique, and of social ballroom dancing, with its emphasis on having fun.

1914 dance illustration
1914 dance illustration

"Strictly ballroom" - competitive dancing

Contemporary ballroom dance technique has been extensively studied and formalized. Medal examinations are a commonly accepted standard of measurement of a dancer's technique according to conventional standards. Franchise studios in the United States classify them as Bronze, Silver, and Gold for the social dancers. For amateur competitive dancers the rankings go Bronze-> Silver-> Gold-> Novice-> Prechampionship-> Championship (roughly corresponding to the E->..-> A-> S rankings in Europe and Australia), then Rising Star and Open Professional for the pro ranks. The International Olympic Committee recognizes competitive ballroom dance as a DanceSport.

Coming from grouping dances in competitions, the following divisions of contemporary ballroom dance are recognized: International Standard and International Latin. In addition, American Smooth, and American Rhythm are widely popular in the USA. The former two divisions are called International Style and the latter two are American Style.

As you may see below, both International and American styles include dances with the same names. However, they are danced quite differently. Therefore, when discussing dance technique, the dance is named including its style, e.g., it is spoken of American Style Rumba vs. International Rumba or American Tango vs. International Tango. In a way, "Standard" matches "Smooth" and "Latin" matches "Rhythm".

Australia also has a division called New Vogue and is often referred to as 'Australian New Vogue'. It is danced both competitively and socially. In competition there are 15 recognised New Vogue dances which are performed by the competitors in sequence.

As a historical curiosity, ballroom dancing competitions in the former USSR included the Soviet Ballroom dances, or Soviet Programme, in addition to Standard dances and Latin dances.

International Standard is sometimes called International Ballroom or Modern Ballroom.

Standard and Smooth are travelling dances: couples travel around the dance floor (along the line of dance (LOD), counter-clockwise). Time may be 2/4 (tango), 4/4 (Foxtrot, Quickstep), 3/4 (Waltz), or 6/8 (Viennese Waltz).

Most Latin and Rhythm dances are spot dances, which do not travel, although Samba and Paso Doble travel along the LOD. Time is 2/4 or 4/4.

Social ballroom

Of course, all the above can be and are danced socially in numerous dance clubs, schools, and studios.

In addition, in social ballroom dancing, as well as in dance competitions in the United States the Nightclub dance category is recognized, which includes dances such as Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, and Hustle. Nightclub dances are less formalized than the others. A number of them are proudly called Street dances. Nightclub dances are danced differently in different places, and club/street styles differ from the styles taught in ballroom studios.

Another category recently formalized in Europe is the "Latin Swing" class, which consists of five dances: Tango Argentino, Mambo, Lindy Hop, Swing Boogie (sometimes also known as Nostalgic Boogie), and Disco Fox.

There's also a Rock'n'Roll dance variant accepted as a social dance.

Akin to "Ballroom dances" and "Nightclub dances" are Country/western dances, danced both competitively and socially at C/W bars, clubs, and ballrooms.

A related category is Regional Ballroom Dances. One example would be the subcategory of Cajun dances which originated in New Orleans, with branches reaching both coasts of the United States.

Rogers and Astaire

The on-screen dance pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was highly influential on ballroom dancing. Although both actors had independent projects and careers (Fred Astaire had many other partners and Ginger Rogers won an Academy Award for a dramatic role), their filmed dance sequences have reached iconic status. Much of their work centred on portraying social dance, but the performances were highly choreographed, often by Astaire or Hermes Pan, meticuously staged, and rehearsed endlessly. Ballroom dance historians also note their portrayal of Vernon and Irene Castle.

Their work has greatly influenced social ballroom syllabuses in the USA. In fact, the American Smooth ballroom dance style was developed based on Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray influences. There are numerous dance schools of Fred Astaire Dance Studios franchises across the USA, and 'Fred & Ginger' classes and workshops remain popular.

Classic ballroom

There are also classic and vintage dance societies, dedicated to the performance and preservation of the ballroom dances of the past. These companies may perform at special events attired in costume. Some ballroom dance instructors specialize in the dances of one place or time, or in fad dances, short-lived, time-specific dances which may be associated with the music or style of an era ("The Twist") or a particular song ("YMCA", "La Macarena").

Performance and exhibition

While nightclub and street dances tend to focus on connection between partners and musicality, ballroom dances tend to focus more on performing to an audience. Of course, ballroom dancers do learn about connection and musicality, and club dancers are often excellent performers. But, ballroom dancers will tend to put appearance above connection, while club dancers will tend to focus primarily on their partners.

Consequently, competitive ballroom dance essentially consists of a number of couples, each performing for the audience's attention. Since ballroom dance is so participation-oriented, most of the audience are themselves dancers, so this format works well; everyone gets a chance to try to outperform their peers.

However, there are several noncompetitive forms of ballroom performance. Visiting professionals will generally give a showcase as part of a workshop, and often the winners of the higher levels of competition will be invited to give a short victory dance after the awards are presented. Studios also commonly hold showcases where their students can show off what they've learned.

There is also a growing interest in formation dance, which is also performance-oriented.

Dance grouping

International Standard
-Waltz - Tango - Viennese Waltz - Foxtrot - Quickstep
International Latin
-Cha-cha-cha - Samba - Rumba - Paso Doble - Jive (dance)
American Smooth
-Waltz - Foxtrot - Tango - Viennese Waltz
American Rhythm
- Cha-cha-cha - Mambo - Rumba - Bolero - East Coast Swing
- Nightclub Two-step - Hustle - Modern Jive / LeRoc / Ceroc - and the whole swing variety: West Coast Swing / East Coast Swing / Lindy Hop / Carolina Shag / Collegiate Shag / Balboa
Latin nightclub
- Salsa - Merengue - Cumbia - Bachata - Cha-cha-cha
All dances listed here are better to bear the "C/W" qualifier when discussed in non-C/W context.
-Polka - Cha-cha-cha - Two-step -Waltz - ...
or rather:
-C/W Polka - C/W Cha-Cha-Cha - C/W Two-step - C/W Waltz - ...
Cajun dances
- Cajun One Step - Cajun Two Step - Zydeco - Cajun Waltz - Cajun Jitterbug
- Argentine tango
- Polka

World Champions

Related articles

de:Standardtanz nl:Stijldans pl:Taniec towarzyski ru:Бальные танцы sv:Pardans zh:社交舞


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools