Ballroom dance is a type of dance that requires a dance partner, which is why it is also known as “partnership dancing”. Ballroom dance is enjoyed socially and in dance competitions, worldwide.
It is believed that ballroom dance started in the 16th century based on dances held in the royal courts of Europe. There’s also evidence of influence from 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 England in the early 1800s, and by the 19th century, it had become popular throughout the rest of the world due to the “dance music” of Josef and Johann Strauss. Thus began International Style, which is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”) and Latin, which are typically used more in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the United States, ballroom adapted into what became known as the American Style, between 1910 and 1930. American style came into being mainly from the influences of American jazz, an overall more social approach to dancing, and of course the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Since its beginnings, American Style has expanded and now includes such dances such as the Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing. American style has always been driven by the continual evolution and development of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom is categorized into two sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is used in both social and competitive ballroom arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
International Style can be best described as the classic “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard for example, the dance partners must remain in closed dance position continually (meaning that they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the entire dance). In American Smooth, similar to its counterpart from overseas, but more flexible, the dancers are allowed to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the beginning of training, the International Style can be described as more disciplined than the American Style (which typically starts first as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). The American Style can also include “Exhibition” and solo work, which allows the dance couple more options in their choreography. Both styles of Ballroom 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, the dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles are also different. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, these 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
Contact us, at Fred Astaire Dance Studios – we offer instruction in both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! As a Fred Astaire dance student, you can choose which dance style you’d like to learn first based on what’s appealing to you, and what your individual dance goals are. For example, if you are interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health you’d likely choose a different style than if you were looking for an elegant First Dance for your wedding. No matter your age, your ability level or whether you’re planning to take lessons with a dance partner or solo – you’ve come to the right place.
Get started by learning more about each type of dance and viewing a demonstration video. Simply 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 can get you started on your personal dance journey!