Ballroom dancing can be enjoyed socially and in dance competitions. It is sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing”, as it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner. Ballroom dancing originated from dances held in the royal European courts in the 16th century. There’s also documented evidence that folk dances of the era influenced the development of Ballroom dance (for example, the Waltz began as an 18th century Austrian folk dance).
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The International Style of ballroom dance was introduced in England during the early 1800s. It became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century; it is thought through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. International Style is classified into two very distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”) and Latin, and is typically seen more on the competitive dance circuit, especially overseas. Here in the United States, the American Style of Ballroom dance began between 1910 and 1930, mostly from the influence of jazz music, an overall more social approach to dancing, and the iconic dance talents of Mr. Fred Astaire himself. Over the years, the American Style of Ballroom Dance has expanded, and now includes dances such as the Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing. American style has always been driven by the continual development of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom dance is classified into two distinct sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is seen around the world in both social and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between American & International Styles
The International Style of ballroom is what people would likely refer to as the “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard, dance partners remain in “closed dance position” continually (meaning that they stand in front of each other in body contact, throughout the dance). American Smooth is similar to its International counterpart, but it does allow the dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the beginning stages of dance training, the International Style is more disciplined than the American Style (which typically starts as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). The American Style can also include “Exhibition” and solo work, which allows dancers more freedom in their choreography. Both styles can be highly technical with a high level of proficiency requirements, but there is more freedom in the American Style when it comes to closed figures, where the International Style is more strict with fewer overall figures offered. In the world of ballroom dance competitions, there are also differences between the styles of the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners 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
When you dance with Fred Astaire Dance Studios, you choose which dance style you’d like to learn first based on what’s most appealing to you, and your individual dance goals. For example, individuals looking high-energy lessons for improved health would likely choose a different dance style than couples looking for an elegant or romantic First Dance for their wedding. No matter your age, your 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.
We offer lessons in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! To learn more about each type of dance and view a brief demonstration video, click on any of 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, let’s get you started on your personal dance journey!