Ballroom dance, sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing”, because it is a type of dance that requires a dance partner, can be enjoyed socially and in dance competitions. It originated from dances held in the royal courts in the 16th century. Ballroom was also influenced by 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 Europe in the early 1800s and by the 19th century was popular throughout the rest of the world, through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. The International Style of Ballroom is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Standard (also known as “Ballroom”) and Latin, and is typically used more in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the U.S., ballroom dance adapted into the American Style between 1910 and 1930, due mainly to the influence of American jazz music, the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire and a more social approach to dancing. Since then, American Style has expanded to include newer dances such as Salsa, Mambo and West Coast Swing. It has always been driven by the constant development of music around the world. The American Style is categorized into two sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is used in both social dancing and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
The International Style can without a doubt be called the classic or “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard, both partners remain in a closed dance position (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact) throughout the dance. American Smooth is similar to its counterpart from overseas, but American Smooth allows dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame, during the dance. In the beginning stages of dance training, International Style can be 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 gives dancers more freedom in their choreography. Both styles of ballroom 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 dance competitions, there are also differences between the ladies’ dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. 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 dancing American Style, which can feature both open & closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, our talented and friendly Dance Instructors teach both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! As a Fred Astaire dance student, you tell us which dance style you’d like to learn first – based on your individual dance goals and what’s most appealing to you. For example, people who are interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health would likely choose a different style of dance than couples looking for an elegant First Dance for Wedding Day. No matter your ability level, age or whether you’re planning to take your lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve definitely come to the right place.
To learn about each type of ballroom dance and see a demonstration video, click on the links to the right. Then give us a call at Fred Astaire Dance Studios and together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey! (When you call, be sure to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students, too.)