Ballroom dance (or “partnership dancing” as it’s sometimes called because it requires a dance partner), is a dance style that can be enjoyed socially and in dance competitions. It is believed that Ballroom dancing started in the 16th century and is based on dances held in the royal courts of Europe. Folk dances of the era are also thought to have influenced the development of Ballroom – for example, the Waltz began as an 18th-century Austrian folk dance.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
There are two Styles of Ballroom Dance – International Style and American Style. The International Style of ballroom dance was introduced in England in the early 1800s and was very popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century, likely because of the “dance music” of Josef and Johann Strauss. International Style can be categorized into two distinct sub-styles of dance: Standard (or “Ballroom”), and Latin. International Style is typically used more in the competitive dance circuit. Here in the U.S., ballroom dance adapted into the American Style starting around between 1910 and continuing for the next 20 years, mainly due to the influence of American jazz, an overall more social approach to dancing, and of course, the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Over the years, the American Style has expanded and now includes dances such as Mambo, Salsa and West Coast Swing. American style has always been driven by the continual evolution of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom dance can be categorized into two distinct sub-styles of dance: Rhythm and Smooth, both of which are commonly seen in both social and competitive ballroom dance arenas.
The Differences Between International & American Styles
International Style is what people would call the classic “old school” style of Ballroom dance. In International Standard for example, both dance partners must remain in closed dance position continually (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). The American Smooth style is similar to its counterpart from overseas, except that it does allow the dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame. In the early stages of dance training, International Style is more disciplined than American Style (which typically starts first as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). American Style can also include solo “Exhibition” work, which provides the couple with more freedom in their choreography. Both styles of dance are very technical with a high level of proficiency requirements, but there is definitely more freedom in the American Style when it comes to closed figures, where the International Style is more strict with fewer figures offered. In ballroom dance competitions worldwide, there are also differences between the ladies’ dresses or gowns for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, International style 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
At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, you can choose either International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! As a Fred Astaire dance student, you also get to 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, people interested in high-energy dance lessons as a workout would likely choose a different style than couples interested in an elegant First Dance for their wedding reception. But no matter your age, your ability level or whether you’re planning to take 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 view a demonstration video, just click on the links to the right. Then call us 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!