Ballroom dancing (or “partnership dancing” as it is sometimes called, because it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner), can be enjoyed socially and in dance competitions. It is believed that Ballroom dancing originated in England in the 16th century, probably from dances that were held in the royal courts. There’s also evidence of influence from folk dances of the era – for example, the Waltz began as an Austrian folk dance in the 18th century.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The International Style of Ballroom dance became popular throughout the world in the 19th century, having been introduced in England in the early 1800s through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. The International Style is classified into two distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”) and Latin. International Style is typically used more in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the US, ballroom dance adapted into what became known as the American Style between 1910 and 1930. The American Style developed mainly due to the influence of American jazz, a generally more social approach to dancing, and the iconic choreography and dance talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, the American Style of Ballroom expanded to include Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing and similar dances, and has been driven by the continual development of music around the world. The American Style includes two distinct sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is used in social and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
The International Style is without a doubt what we would call the classic “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard for example, both dance partners must remain in a closed dance position continually throughout the dance (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact during the entire dance). American Smooth is similar to its overseas counterpart, but it does allow dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the early stages of dance training, International Style is more disciplined than American Style (which typically starts as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). American Style can include “Exhibition” solo work, which enables the couple to have more freedom in their choreography. Both International and American styles can be very technical with a high level of proficiency requirements, but in general there is more freedom in the American Style when it comes to closed figures (whereas the International Style is more strict with fewer figures offered). In the ballroom competition world, there are also differences between the styles of the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance couples stay in closed position when dancing International Style, those dresses often have floats coming from the tops which would not be conducive for American Style (because it features both open & closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we teach both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! And as a Fred Astaire Dance Studios dance student, you select which dance style to learn first based on what’s most appealing to you, and your individual dance goals. For example, couples interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health would likely choose a different type of dance than couples looking for an elegant First Dance for their wedding reception. No matter your ability level, age, or whether you’re planning to dance with a partner or on your own – you’ve come to the right place.
To learn more about each type of ballroom dance and watch a demonstration video, click on any of the links to the right. Then contact us 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!