Ballroom dance is enjoyed both socially and in dance competitions, and it’s sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing”, because it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner. Ballroom dance originated in the 16th century from dances held in the royal courts. It’s also likely that folk dances of the era provided an influence too; for example, the Waltz originated 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 Europe, and became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century, through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. International Style is categorized into two very 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 & 1930, due mainly to a more social approach to dancing, the influence of American jazz music, and the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Since then, American Style has expanded to include dances such as West Coast Swing, Mambo and Salsa, and is driven by the continual development of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom dance has 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 definitely the “old school” classic style of Ballroom. In International Standard, for example, both partners must remain in a closed dance position continually (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). In American Smooth, similar to its counterpart from overseas, dancers may separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the early stages of training, International Style is more disciplined than the American Style (which typically starts as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). American Style can also extend to “Exhibition” solo work which allows dancers more freedom in their choreography. Both styles of dance can be very technical, with a high level of proficiency requirements, but there is more freedom in the American Style of ballroom dance when it comes to closed figures… as the International Style is more strict with fewer figures offered. In the world of ballroom dance competition, differences extend to the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners stay in closed position in International, these dresses often have floats coming from the tops which would not be conducive for American Style, because it can feature both open & closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
Here at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we are experts at both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! And as a Fred Astaire dance student, you select which dance style to learn first – based on what’s most appealing, and your individual dance goals. For example, if you’re interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health you would likely choose a different style than if you are looking for an elegant First Dance for your wedding. No matter your age, level of ability or whether you’re planning to take your lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve come to the right place!
Learn more about each type of dance (and view a demonstration video) by clicking 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!