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.
Two Styles of Ballroom Dance
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
If you were asked to conjure an image of classic ballroom dancing in your head, you are most likely thinking of the International Style. The first distinction between the International Style and the American Style is that the International Standard generally requires partners to remain the closed position at all times, where as the American Style gives dancers a bit more freedom and allows them to transition to the open position if they wish. The closed position simply means that dance partners stand in front of each other and are in body contact. The second distinction is that American Style typically starts out as a social hobby, and later progresses into a sport whereas the International Style is a bit more disciplined. Moreover, dancers can do “Exhibition” solo work in the American style, which yields them even more freedom with the choreography. As a result of this freedom, dress attire worn is also different between the two styles. In the International Style, partners will usually be in the closed position and attire may include dresses that have floats coming from the tops; this would not be appropriate for the American Style, which features both open & closed positions.
Getting YOUR Dance On
Here at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we offer classes to teach both International and American Ballroom Styles, and then some! As a student of Fred Astaire Dance Studios, you have the option to choose which dance style you prefer to learn first based on what’s most appealing to you, and your individual dance goals. For those who are seeking to improve their overall health, a high-energy class would be most beneficial; but for a couple looking to choreograph their First Dance at their wedding, we suggest taking one of our wedding dance classes. Remember that regardless of your age, dancing ability, or dance goals – you’ve come to the right place.
If you wish to learn more about each type of dance and view a demonstration video, please click on the links to the right. Remember to also give us a call at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in order to take full advantage of our special deal for new students. Together, we’ll help you start your dance journey of a lifetime!