Types of Dance

Types of Ballroom Dance

Ballroom dance can be 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 dancing originated in the 16th century from dances held in the royal courts. There’s also evidence that folk dances of the era were an influence – 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 in the 1800s 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 (also known as “Ballroom”), and Latin, and is typically used more in the competitive dance circuit than for social dancing. Here in the United States, ballroom dance adapted into what became the American Style between 1910 – 1930, mainly due to the influence of American jazz music, a more social approach to dancing and the iconic dancing and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, American Style expanded to include dances such as West Coast Swing Salsa and Mambo, and has always been driven by the development of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom dance 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 style of Ballroom. In International Standard, dance partners remain in a closed dance position continually (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). American Smooth is similar to its counterpart from Europe, but it allows the dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the beginning stages of training, the International Style is more disciplined than American Style (which typically starts first as a social hobby, then progresses to sport). American Style can also include “Exhibition” solo work which allows the couple more freedom in choreography. Both styles are 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 also differences between the dresses or gowns worn for American Style versus International Style. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, these ladies’ gowns often have floats coming from the tops which would not be conducive for the American Style of dance, which features both open & closed positions.

Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we offer lessons in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! And as a Fred Astaire dance student, you select which dance style you’d like to learn first based on what’s most appealing to you, and your individual dance goals. For example, people interested in high-energy dance lessons for improved physical health would likely choose a different style than couples who are looking for an elegant First Dance for their wedding. No matter your age or ability level, or whether you’re planning to take lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve definitely 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 ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey!

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