Ballroom dance – also known as “partnership dancing” because it must be performed by two dancers – can be enjoyed both competitively or socially. This style of dance originated in royal courts in the 16th century and remains wildly popular today. While ballroom dancing is recognizable across many different cultures, each of these cultures have also developed unique styles. For example, one of the most iconic ballroom dance styles, the Waltz, began as an 18th century Austrian folk dance.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The music of Josef and Johann Strauss led to the rise of the International Style of ballroom dance in England in the early 1800s. The style grew in popularity, gradually becoming well-known throughout the world by the 19th century. International Style is categorized into two distinct sub-styles: Standard (also known as “Ballroom”), and Latin, a style commonly seen in the competitive dance circuit. In the United States, traditional ballroom dance evolved into the American style between 1910 and 1930. The rise of American jazz music greatly influenced this evolution as it both encouraged a more social approach to dancing and incorporated the iconic choreography and dance talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, American style has expanded to include dances such as Salsa, Mambo, and West Coast Swing, and has continued to adapt to the most popular musical genres of the time. The American Style of ballroom dance has two distinct sub-styles: Smooth and Rhythm. Both sub-styles are likewise seen in both competitive and social ballroom dance venues.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
Without a doubt, International style remains the classic or “old school” style of ballroom dance. In International Standard, dance partners must continually remain in a closed dance position. This implies standing in front of each other in close proximity as they maintain body contact. Although American Style shares some similarities with its counterpart overseas, it allows dancers to separate their dance frame in what’s known as “open position.” In the early stages of training, International style requires more discipline than American Style, hence why most casual or social dancers start with the latter. On a similar note, American Style also includes “Exhibition” solo work, which allows couples more freedom in their choreography. Both styles do still require a high level of proficiency due to nuance and technique required. In the world of competitive ballroom dance, there are even differences between the typical dresses or gowns worn in either style. Because International Style demands closed dance position, dancers typically wear dresses with floats coming from the tops, while American style avoids such dresses due to the transitions between both open and closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we offer instruction in International Ballroom Style, American Ballroom Style, and then some! As a Fred Astaire dance student, you get to choose which dance style you’d like to learn first based on what’s most appealing to you and your unique 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 style of dance and view our demonstration video, just click on the links to the right. Then give us a call at Fred Astaire Dance Studios. Don’t forget to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we’ll get you started on your personal dance journey!