From the German “walzen”, meaning to roll, turn or glide, Waltz was the first dance in which the man and lady danced with body contact. Waltz has materialized into two accepted forms known as the Modern Waltz and Viennese Waltz both in keeping with the main characteristics of the dance, though at different tempos. The Modern or Slow Waltz is done at a slower tempo, with long gliding steps, fewer turns, and more backward and forward movements. The waltz is danced to ¾ time music, has an elegant rise and fall action and swaying to the sides. It has a graceful and romantic feel.
Developed from many cultural influences beginning in Spain, Morocco, then Buenos Aires, Argentina, Paris and finally standardized in New York. It was popularized by Vernon & Irene Castle right before WWI and then by Rudolph Valentino in a silent movie. The tango is a dramatic dance with both cat-like and staccato movements. Done in a close hold with bent knees, the tango is danced to 4/4 time music together with a marching rhythm and is phrased into 16 or 32 beats much like telling a story.
Sometimes called the dance of Fred and Ginger, the Foxtrot made its first appearance during vauldeville time, when it was danced to ragtime music. Modifications came when realized that ‘’trotting” couldn’t be sustained for long periods of time. It evolved into a smooth and stylish dance much like the waltz, however, it is characterized with both slow gliding steps as well as quick steps with an easygoing look and feel. It is danced to 4/4 time and has two rhythms which make it adaptable to many different music styles.
The Quick step is a descendent of the Boston and the One Step which appeared on the scene with the arrival of Ragtime and Jazz music in America towards the end of the nineteenth century. These two were the first dances based on the forward step. They used a heel lead followed by two or more steps on the balls of the feet.
The Quickstep was developed to interpret music with a faster tempo. It is a fast moving dance based on walks and chasses danced to music of four beats per bar at 50 bars per minute, or 200 beats per minute. It retains the walks, runs, chasses and turns, of the original Foxtrot, with some other fast figures such as locks, hops, and skips added.
A lively, playful dance of Cuban origin which evolved from a slow version of the Mambo called “Triple Mambo”. Originally danced to Latin Pop or Latin Rock music it became the latest dance craze of the 50’s in the U.S. when the Big Band instruments were popular. Cha-Cha is an exuberant and non-progressive dance done in 4/4 time music, and distinguished by the syncopated triple step (chasse or shuffle).
Known as the grandfather of all the Latin dances, Rumba is a very slow romantic dance, characterized by quick and slow steps, a still upper body and swaying of the hips. Rumba music is written in 4/4 time with a very slow tempo. It was greatly influenced by African style music, but has infiltrated many other popular music genres such as country, blues and rock.
Evolved from the 1920’s when it was called Lindy first and then Jitterbug. After emergence of the Big Band Jazz music and several modifications of the dance, it was renamed Swing and finally distinguished as East Coast Swing in the 70’s. ECS is an upbeat and happy dance characterized by its bounce steps and rock-back break. It is a stationary dance done to 4/4 time music.
Jive is a dance style that originated among African Americans in the early 1940s. It is a lively and uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug that belongs to the Swing dance group. Modern Jive, sometimes called French Jive is a dance style that originated in the 1980s. It derives from Swing, Lindy Hop and may include Rock 'n' Roll and others, the main innovation being simplification of footwork. Moves from many forms of ballroom dance including Salsa and Tango may also be included.
Modern Jive is generally danced to music with 4 beats to the bar from latest chart hits to Big Band music. Some styles may concentrate on particular musical styles, such as swing. Modern Jive is a male led dance but women are encouraged to ask men to dance.
West Coast Swing is a smooth and sexy dance style that is danced in a slot (a narrow line), making it perfect for a crowded dance floor. West Coast Swing is danced to a variety of music, including rock, blues, funk, country/western, disco and contemporary pop. West Coast Swing also stresses leader-follower connection and dancing in close harmony with the music.
Basically, West Coast Swing consists of 6-beat and 8-beat patterns executed in a slot area on the dance floor, and can be danced to a variety of styles of music. It has enjoyed a rise in popularity in the last few years, due partly to the work of the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships.
Bolero is a 3/4 dance smooth, sophisticated, sentimental ballroom dance that originated in Spain in the late 18th century. The emphasis is on smoothness, grace and communication between partners. Bolero has the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba and is thought to have originated in Cuba. The music is frequently Spanish vocals with a subtle percussion effect. The dance is itself a slow salsa, with a taste of Tango and has easy patterns. The Bolero is a modification of the Fandango. The original dance was invented in about 1780 by Sebastian Cerezo a celebrated dancer from Cadiz, Spain. It was danced singly or in couples, the dancers exhibiting complex and intricate movements while maintaining the rattle of their castanets. The dance should tell the story of a couple falling in love. The partners change from a very close hold to solo dancing, and then come together as one.
The American Style Bolero is a unique dance style combining the patterns of Rumba with the rise and fall technique and character of Waltz and Foxtrot. The music is 4/4 time, and is danced to the slowest rhythms of the Latin ballroom dances (the spectrum runs Bolero, Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo). The basic rhythm of steps in patterns, like Rumba, is Slow-Quick-Quick.
generated from the original Mambo or “Son” which is of African/Cuban influence and is danced to the rhythm of the African drums (or the slap of the conga). It was danced side to side (Columbian Style) or forward and back (Cuban & Puerto Rican Style). The Latin Jazz Bands of the 40’ & 50’s used to yell “Salsa” (meaning HOT) and the when this style of dance became formalized by Eddie Torres in the 80’s, they called the dance “Salsa”. The steps are characterized by a quick-quick-slow, 8 count pattern. The New York Mambo Style breaks on counts 2 & 6 (the off-beats), whereas the L.A Salsa Style breaks on counts 1 & 5 (the downbeats)
Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance of Brazilian origin in 2/4 time danced under the Samba music. However, there are three steps to every bar, making the Samba feel like a 3/4 timed dance. There are two major streams of Samba dance that differ significantly: the modern Ballroom Samba, and the traditional Brazilian Samba.
As a ballroom dance, the samba is a partner dance. Ballroom samba, like other ballroom dances, is very disconnected from the origins and evolution of the music and dance that gives it its name. It is a form created for its suitability as a partner dance. The dance movements, which do not change depending on the style of samba music being played, borrows movements from Afro-Brazilian traditional dances.
Paso Doble originated in France, but is reminiscent of the sound, dramas and movement of the Spanish bullfight. Paso Doble means "two step" in Spanish. It is a dance for the Man, which allows him to fill the "stage" with strong three-dimensional shapes and movements danced with "Pride and Dignity".
The woman's role varies depending on the interpretation of the dance. The woman can take the role of the matador's cape, the bull or even the matador at different times within the dance. Characteristics of the Paso Doble are the "marching" flavor given to the steps and the cape movements creating tension between both dancers.
The CHASSEZ CAPE is when the man uses the woman as the cape in order to turn her around. APEL is when the man stamps his foot as if trying to attract the bulls' attention. During the dance the use of castanets is simulated. The ARPEL is a commencement of a movement with the stamping of the feet where the man and woman walk in different directions.
Because of its inherently choreographed tradition, ballroom Paso Doble for the most part is usually only danced competitively, almost never socially – unless there is a previously learned routine.
Was born in the Dominican Republic and blended with African and French influence. It is a fun, fast and easy dance made up of simple steps. Merengue became popular in New York during the 30’s and 40’s. The Big Band instruments contributed to its marching rhythm. It is characterized by strong side to side motion with emphasis on counts 1 and 5. The dance encourages creative arm movements to go with the simple steps.
The Tango originated in Buenos Aires during the late 19th Century and began as one of many different forms of tango dances. Modern Argentine Tango styles are danced both in open and closed frame focusing on lead and following and moving in harmony with the passionately charged music. The dance relies on improvisation by the lead since Argentine Tango doesn’t have a formal basic structure like other dances. Fortunately for learning purposes, teachers have fashioned a basic form in order to teach beginners.