Ballroom dance is a style of partner dance which originated in the western
world and is now enjoyed both socially and competitively around the
globe. Its performance and entertainment aspects are also widely enjoyed
on stage, in film, and on television.
Ballroom dancing is derived from the word "ball",
which in turn orginates from the latin word "balare" which
means "to dance".
The definition of "ballroom dance" depends
on the era. We all know or have heard of balls that featured
Minuet, Quadrille, Polonaise, Pas de Gras, Mazurka, and other
popular dances of the day, which are now placed into the category
of historical dances.
In times past, ballroom dancing was "social
dancing" of privileged classes, leaving "folk dancing" for
the lower classes. Today ballroom dancing is much more democratic,
and the boundaries between once-polarized ballroom and folk
dances become blurred. However, even in times long gone many "ballroom" dances
were elevated folk dances.
Most competitive ballroom dances were social
and/or folk dances before being formalized as ballroom dances,
and many of these dances are still danced as social and folk
Ballroom dancing has been in continual use
as a social art form since its inception with one obvious exception
in the 20th century. Dance historians usually mark the appearance
of the Twist in the mid 1960s as the end of social partner
dancing, and they credit what was then called the Latin Hustle
for bringing it back in the late 1970s.
Today one may speak of competitive ballroom
dancing, with its competitions, schools, societies, and books
of technique, and of social ballroom dancing, with its emphasis
on having fun.
Ballroom" - competitive dancing
Contemporary ballroom dance technique
has been extensively studied and formalized. Medal examinations
are a commonly accepted standard of measurement of a dancer's
technique according to conventional standards. Franchise
studios in the United States classify them as Bronze, Silver,
and Gold for the social dancers. For amateur competitive
dancers the rankings go Bronze-> Silver-> Gold-> Novice-> Prechampionship-> Championship
(roughly corresponding to the E->..-> A-> S rankings
in Europe and Australia), then Rising Star and Open Professional
for the pro ranks. The International Olympic Committee recognizes
competitive ballroom dance as a DanceSport.
Coming from grouping dances in competitions,
the following divisions of contemporary ballroom dance are
recognized: International Standard and International Latin.
In addition, American Smooth, and American Rhythm are widely
popular in the USA. The former two divisions are called International
Style and the latter two are American Style.
As you may see below, both International and
American styles include dances with the same names. However,
they are danced quite differently. Therefore, when discussing
dance technique, the dance is named including its style, e.g.,
it is spoken of American Style Rumba vs. International Rumba
or American Tango vs. International Tango. In a way, "Standard" matches "Smooth" and "Latin" matches "Rhythm".
Australia also has a division called New Vogue
and is often referred to as 'Australian New Vogue'. It is danced
both competitively and socially. In competition there are 15
recognised New Vogue dances which are performed by the competitors
As a historical curiosity, ballroom dancing
competitions in the former USSR included the Soviet Ballroom
dances, or Soviet Programme, in addition to Standard dances
and Latin dances.
International Standard is sometimes called
International Ballroom or Modern Ballroom.
Standard and Smooth are travelling dances:
couples travel around the dance floor (along the line of dance
(LOD), counter-clockwise). Time may be 2/4 (tango), 4/4 (Foxtrot,
Quickstep), 3/4 (Waltz), or 6/8 (Viennese Waltz).
Most Latin and Rhythm dances are spot dances,
which do not travel, although Samba and Paso Doble travel along
the LOD. Time is 2/4 or 4/4.
Of course, all the above can
be and are danced socially in numerous dance clubs, schools,
In addition, in social ballroom dancing, as
well as in dance competitions in the United States the Nightclub
dance category is recognized, which includes dances such as
Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, and Hustle. Nightclub dances are
less formalized than the others. A number of them are proudly
called Street dances. Nightclub dances are danced differently
in different places, and club/street styles differ from the
styles taught in ballroom studios.
Another category recently formalized in Europe
is the "Latin Swing" class, which consists of five
dances: Tango Argentino, Mambo, Lindy Hop, Swing Boogie (sometimes
also known as Nostalgic Boogie), and Disco Fox.
There's also a Rock'n'Roll dance variant accepted
as a social dance.
Akin to "Ballroom dances" and "Nightclub
dances" are Country/western dances, danced both competitively
and socially at C/W bars, clubs, and ballrooms.
A related category is Regional Ballroom
Dances. One example would be the subcategory of Cajun dances
which originated in New Orleans, with branches reaching both
coasts of the United States.
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