Ballroom dance (sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing” because it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner) has been enjoyed socially and in dance competitions for decades. Ballroom dance originated in the 16th century, from dances held in the royal courts and folk dances of the era – 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 the early 1800s in England, and became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century, through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. International is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”), and Latin, and is typically used more in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the United States, ballroom dance adapted into the American Style between 1910 and 1930, mainly due to a more social approach to dancing, the influence of American jazz music, and the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, American Style expanded to include newer dances such as Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing, always driven by the constant development of music around the world. The American Style is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is used in both social and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
International Style is without a doubt the classic “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard for example, dance partners should remain in a closed dance position continually (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). In American Smooth, its counterpart from overseas, dancers may separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the beginning stages of training, the International Style is more disciplined than the American Style (which typically starts first as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). American Style can also include “Exhibition” solo work, which gives the couple more freedom in their choreography. Both Ballroom styles can be very 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 figures offered. In the world of ballroom dance competition, there are differences between the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, the ladies’ dresses often have floats coming from the tops which would not be conducive for dancing American Style, which features both open and closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, our talented instructors offer instruction in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! And as a Fred Astaire dance student, 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 who are 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 dance lessons with a partner or on your own – you’ve come to the right place.
To learn about each type of dance and view a demonstration video, 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!