The origins of ballroom dance can be found in royal courts in the 16th century. However, dancers continue to enjoy the style today in both social events and dance competitions. This style of dance – also sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing” because it requires two dancers – has evolved over the centuries. Influences from all over the world can still be seen today. For example, the Waltz, a popular ballroom dance style, began as an 18th century Austrian folk dance.
The Two Ballroom Dance Styles
In the early 1800s, the music of Josef and Johann Strauss gave rise to the International Style of ballroom dance in England. By the 19th century, the rest of the world caught on to this style. International Style can be broken down into two very different sub-styles: “Ballroom” (also referred to as Standard) and Latin, which is more commonly seen on the competitive dance circuit. Here in the United states, ballroom dance adapted into the American Style between 1910 – 1930 due to the strong influence of jazz. This evolution of ballroom dance was also greatly influenced by the classic dance style and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, American Style has expanded to include dances such as Mambo, Salsa, and West Coast Swing, and continues to adapt to contemporary musical styles. Like its International cousin, the American Style of ballroom dance is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Smooth and Rhythm, which are both used in social and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
Without a doubt, International style remains the classic or “old school” style of Ballroom. In International Standard, dance partners continually remain in a closed dance position. This means that they maintain body contact while standing in front of each other. Although American Smooth is similar to this style, it does allow dancers to separate their dance frame in what’s called “open position”. Because of these differences, International Standard requires more discipline. Newcomers typically start their ballroom dance studies with American Style. Nonetheless, both styles can be very technical and require much training at the most competitive levels.
These differences can even be seen in the typical gowns or dresses worn for either style. Because International Style requires a constant closed position, dancers typically wear dresses with floats coming from the tops, while dancers performing American Style avoid these dresses due to the transitions between open and closed position.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we offer lessons in International Ballroom Style, American Ballroom Styles, and then some! 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 own dance goals. For example, individuals interested in high-energy lessons for better physical health would likely choose a different style than couples looking for a beautiful First Dance for their wedding reception. No matter your ability level, age, 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. Be sure to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey!