Types of Dance

Types of Ballroom Dance

Ballroom is a style of dance that can be enjoyed socially and for competitive dance. It is sometimes referred to as “partnership dancing”, because it requires a dance partner. Ballroom dance originated in in the royal courts of the 16th century. There’s also evidence that folk dances of the era influenced ballroom – for example, the Waltz began as an 18th century Austrian folk dance.

Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
The International Style of ballroom dance first appeared in England in the early 1800s, and it became popular throughout the rest of the world by the 19th century (through the music of Josef and Johann Strauss). International Style includes two distinct sub-styles: Standard (or “Ballroom”), and Latin, and is typically used more for competitive dance. Here in the United States, ballroom dance adapted into the American Style between 1910 and 1930, due mostly to the influence of American jazz and a more social approach to dancing, plus the iconic dance and choreography talents of Mr. Fred Astaire. Since then, American Style has expanded to include more modern dances such as Mambo, West Coast Swing and Salsa, and has always been driven by the constant development of music around the world. The American Style of ballroom dance includes two distinct sub-styles: Rhythm and Smooth, and is used for both social dancing and competitive ballroom dance.

The Differences Between International & American Styles

The International Style of ballroom is the classic “old school” style. In International Standard, both dance partners remain in a closed dance position continually (meaning they stand in front of each other, in body contact throughout the dance). American Smooth is similar to its overseas counterpart, but allows the dancers to separate (called “open position”) in their dance frame during the dance. In the beginning stages of training, International Style is definitely more disciplined than American Style (which typically starts first as a social Hobby, then progresses to Sport). The American Style can also include “Exhibition” solo work, which allows the dancers more freedom in choreography. Both styles can be quite technical with a high level of proficiency requirements, but there is more freedom in the American Style in terms of closed figures, where the International Style is more strict with fewer overall figures offered. In the world of ballroom dance competition, there are also differences in the style of dresses or gowns worn for American versus International Styles. Because dance partners stay in closed position when dancing International, those dresses often have floats coming from the tops which would not work well for American Style dancing, because it features both open & closed positions.

Getting YOUR Dance On

At Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we are experts in both International and American Ballroom Styles (and more)! And as a Fred Astaire dance student, you can select the dance style you’d like to learn first based on your individual dance preferences and goals. For example, some people are interested in high-energy lessons for improved physical health while others are looking for help with an elegant First Dance for their wedding. No matter your age, your ability level or whether you’re planning to take your lessons with a dance partner or on your own – you’ve come to the right place.

To view each type of dance and learn more about it, simply click on the links to the right. Then give Fred Astaire Dance Studios a call, and be sure to ask about our money-saving introductory offer for new students. Together, we can get you started on your personal dance journey!

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