Ballroom dance can be enjoyed in both competitive and social contexts, and is sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing” because it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner. Ballroom dancing originated in the 16th century from dances held in the royal courts. There’s also evidence of influence from folk dances of the era – for instance, the Waltz originates as an 18th century folk dance in Austria.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The International Style of ballroom dance was introduced in Britain in the early 1800s and became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 20th century through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. International Style is categorized into two very different sub-styles: Standard (also simply called “Ballroom”), and Latin, which is normally seen more in the competitive dance scene. Here in the United States, ballroom dance evolved into the American Style between 1910 – 1930, primarily due to the influence of American jazz music, a more social attitude towards dancing, and the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Since then, American Style has branched out into dances like the Mambo, West Coast Swing, and Salsa, and continues to exhibit influences from new musical styles. Similar to International Style, American Style consists of two main sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, both of which can be found in competitive and social ballroom dance venues.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
International Style is without a doubt the traditional “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard, dance partners must continually remain in a closed dance position (meaning they stand close to each other, maintaining body contact throughout the performance). Although American Smooth is similar to its counterpart from overseas, it does allow the dancers to separate (referred to as “open position”) in their dance frame. In the early stages of training, International Style demands more discipline than American Style. This leads to most beginners starting with American Style. American Style can also include “exhibition” solo work which allows the couple more leeway in their choreography. That having been said, both styles can demand a high level of proficiency at the highest level, but there is more freedom in the American Style when it comes to closed position, where the International Style is more strict with fewer moves available. In the world of competitive ballroom dance, there are also differences between the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, these dresses often have floats coming from the tops which would not be conducive for American Style, which features both open & closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we offer instruction in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! And as a Fred Astaire dance student, you choose which ballroom dance style you’d like to learn first based on your interests and your dance. For example, individuals interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health would likely choose a different style than couples looking for an elegant First Dance for their wedding. No matter your age, ability level or whether you’re planning to take lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve come to the right place.
To learn more about each type of dance and view a demonstration video, simply click on the links to the right. Then give us a call at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, and be sure to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey!