Ballroom is a style of dance can be enjoyed both socially and in dance competitions. It is sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing”, because it requires a dance partner. Ballroom dance originated in the 16th century from dances held in the royal courts. There’s also evidence that folk dances of the era influenced the development of ballroom – for example, the Waltz likely began as an 18th century Austrian folk dance.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The International Style of Ballroom dance was introduced in western Europe in the early 1800s and became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century, through Josef and Johann Strauss’ music. The International Style of Ballroom dance is categorized into two very distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”), and Latin, and is very common in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the United States, Ballroom dance adapted into what became known as the American Style, between 1910 and 1930, due to the influence of jazz music, a more social approach to dancing overall and (need we say?) the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Since then, the American Style of Ballroom Dance has expanded to dances such as Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing, and is always driven by the continual development of music around the world. The American Style is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is common in both social settings and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
The International Style of ballroom dance is without a doubt the “old school”, classic style of Ballroom. In International Standard, both dance partners remain in a closed dance position throughout the dance (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). American Smooth is similar to its International counterpart, but does allow the dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame during the dance. In the early stages of training, International Style can be more disciplined than American Style (which typically starts first as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). American Style sometimes also includes “Exhibition” solo work, allowing the couple more freedom in their choreography. Both styles of Ballroom dance 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 competition, there are also differences between the gowns worn for American Style versus International Style. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International style, the dresses often have floats coming from the tops (which would not be conducive for American Style, which features both open & closed positions).
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, our talented Instructors offer instruction in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and more! And as a Fred Astaire Dance Studios student, you can choose which dance style you’d like to learn first based on what’s most appealing, and your individual dance goals. For example, couples looking for an elegant First Dance for their wedding would likely choose a different style than individuals interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health. No matter your age, ability level 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 – 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, let’s get you started on your personal dance journey!