Ballroom dance – also known as “partnership dancing” as it can only be performed with a partner – can be enjoyed in both casual social settings and in a competitive format. Originating in royal courts in the 16th century, the style has undergone many evolutions over the centuries. For example, one of the most iconic forms of ballroom dance, the Waltz, began as an Austrian folk dance in the 18th century.
Ballroom Dance: Two Styles
The most recognizable style of ballroom dance – International Style – was introduced in early 1800s England. With the help of the exquisite music of Josef and Johann Strauss, this style became popular all around the world by the 20th century. International Style can be further broken down into Standard (sometimes simply referred to as “Ballroom”) and Latin, a technically demanding style seen frequently on the competitive dance circuit.
During the Jazz Age in the US, another form of ballroom dance emerged: American Style. This particular form of dance was (naturally) greatly influenced by jazz music but was also greatly informed by a more relaxed and social attitude towards dance. One of the most important influences upon this style (and our favorite!) is the iconic talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over time, the umbrella of American Style expanded to cover dances like Salsa, Mambo, and West Coast Swing, and continues to expand in response to the emergence of new kinds of music. Like International Style, American Style can be broken down into two different sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth. Both are used in competitive and social ballroom dance arenas.
International & American Styles: Main Differences
International Style is so recognizable and beloved across the globe because it represents the classic or “old school” style of ballroom dance. The International Standard “sub-style” mandates a number of restrictions to its dancers; namely, they must continually maintain body contact in what’s referred to as “closed position”. Though American Smooth shares many similarities with this style, it does allow dancers to open their dance frame (referred to as “open position”). This core difference is even reflected in the kind of dresses or gowns the dancers wear. In International Style, dresses or gowns will typically have floats. In American Style, however, they might hamper the transitions between open and closed positions. Finally, while International Style might demand more discipline than its American counterpart at the beginning of a student’s training, both styles demand a high level of proficiency at the most competitive tiers.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we 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 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 lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve 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 be sure to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey!