Ballroom dancing encompasses a wide variety of partner dances. The basic 6 dances in ballroom dancing are Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Cha Cha, Rumba, and East Coast Swing, although there are many more. Each dance is unique and has a different attitude associated with it. For instance, the waltz is typically associated with peace and happiness, whereas the Tango is known for its passion and intensity. These diverse moods are often reflected through dancers’ clothing and emotional expressions.
In competitions, dances are split into five different categories: International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, American Rhythm, and Nightclub. Some dances appear in more than one category, and thus have different rules applied to them, mainly having to do with style and movement.
International Standard: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep International Latin: Cha-Cha, Rumba, Jive, Samba, Paso Doble American Smooth: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz American Rhythm: Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo Nightclub: Salsa, Hustle, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Merengue, Night Club Two-Step, Argentine Tango
Bolero Bolero is one of the most beautiful, graceful, romantic dances ever created, danced to very slow Rumba music and counted Slow, Quick-Quick. Originally a Spanish dance, the music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually using Congas or Bongos. Unlike the rest of the Rhythm dances, the Bolero basic is danced in a closed dance position similar to many of the Smooth dances. Sample Songs: “Beautiful Maria” by Antonio Banderas “I’m Not Giving You Up” by Gloria Estefan “Emotion” by Destiny’s Child Cha-Cha Cha Cha is an exciting, syncopated Latin dance that originated in the 1950’s, as an offshoot of the Mambo. The dance gets its name and character from its distinct triple, repetitive foot rhythm. This consists of 3 quick steps (cha-cha-cha) and 2 slower steps on the 1 and 2 beats. The Chacha styling is very similar to the Rumba and the Mambo. It is a high-energy, flirty dance and is flashy, sassy and full of itself. Sample Songs: “Smooth” by Santana “Oye Como Va” by Santana “Represent Cuba” by Orishas
East Coast Swing East Coast Swing is a 6-count style of Lindy Hop, and is an incredibly versatile dance. It can be danced to Jazz, Swing, Bop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Disco and Country. It is characterized by an up-tempo, carefree, relaxed style that is easily adaptable to a wide range of tempos from moderately slow to very fast music. Often known as the Jitterbug, the Swing with its fun spins and intricate patterns is a very versatile dance. The East Coast Triple Step and Single Step Swing tend to be very circular in their movements and work more on a 6-count beat basic. Sample Songs: “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley “Help Me Rhonda” by The Beach Boys “How Sweet it Is” by Michael Buble
Foxtrot Harry Fox introduced the Foxtrot into the mainstream in 1913 in his Vaudeville Routine. As “Fox’s Trot” was embraced by the social dancers of the time, it became simply the Foxtrot. Foxtrot is both, beautiful and romantic, yet playful. It is most often danced to any syncopated 4/4 rhythm. Foxtrot is a great dance for beginners; it feels like a stroll in the park…with some rhythm thrown in. The basic beginner rhythm of Foxtrot is Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick. Higher-level patterns are often danced Slow, Quick-Quick. Sample Songs: “A Wink and a Smile” by Harry Connick Jr. “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Michael Buble
Hustle Hustle was originally created in the 1970’s as a line dance, but has since developed into a partner dance. It is a fast, yet smooth dance in which the lady almost constantly turns. Hustle is taught dancing in a slot rather than rotation, and is characterized by its 3 count basic step. The lady spins almost continuously, while her partner leads her back and forth in a “slotted” linear formation. It can be used widely for club dancing to popular 4-count music, as well as to Disco. Sample Songs: “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson “Staying Alive” by The Bee Gees
Mambo Mambo became popular in the 40’s as Americans became fascinated with the exciting rhythms emanating from the Latin countries. As with most Latin dances, the hip-movements are the key to looking authentic. Salsa is the more contemporary name for Mambo, but is often danced on the 1 beat while Mambo starts on the 2 beat. The Mambo gained in popularity and in the 1950’s was taught in dance studios, resorts, and nightclubs in New York and Miami. Mambo is the forefather of Cha-Cha. It also shares many patterns in common with the other Latin dances Rumba and Bolero. Mambo is fun and flirty and socially is a great dance to learn if you like Latin music. Sample Songs: “La Soledad” by Jimmy Bosch “Rio de la Plata” by Natalia Oreiro “Habriendo el Dominante” by Eddie Palmeri
Merengue The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance. It is a very easy dance for beginners. The Merengue basic is danced as a walking step with a step taken on every beat of music. The simple march tempo is easy to hear and feel, and lends itself to a spontaneous, improvisational style of dance. Learning the Merengue is a good way to start familiarizing yourself with Cuban Motion, which is common to almost all the Latin dances. Sample Songs “Suavamente” by Elvis Crespo “Rabiosa” by Shakira & Pitbull “Besame” by Ronny Moreno
Night Club Two-Step Night Club Two- Step, not to be confused with country two-step, is one of the most practical and versatile social dances ever conceived. It is designed to be used with contemporary soft rock (“Love Song”) music. This type of music is common just about everywhere, nightclubs, radio, etc. The rhythm of the dance is very simple and rarely changes from the 1 & 2 count. It’s attractive, romantic, and a real asset to learn since it will be used often. Sample Songs: “Lady in Red” by Chris Deburgh “Apologize” by OneRepublic “Just a Kiss” by Lady Antebellum
Quickstep Quickstep is a lively and energetic dance, characterized by a variety of kicks, hops, skips, lock steps and chasses. Foxtrot and quickstep have a common origin. In the twenties many bands played the slow-foxtrot too fast, which gave rise to many complaints. Eventually they developed into two different dances, slow-foxtrot tempo has been slowed down and Quickstep became clearly the fast version of Foxtrot. The Charleston had a lot of influence on the development of Quickstep. Sample Songs: “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman “When You’re Smiling” by Frank Sinatra “Let’s” Face the Music and Dance” by Nat King Cole
Rumba Rumba, is the spirit and soul of Latin American music and dance and is considered the sexiest of the Latin dances. The Rumba was originally a courtship, marriage, and street dance that was African in origin. The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened causes the hips to sway from side to side, in what has come to be known as “Cuban Motion.” Sample Songs: “She Will be Loved” by Maroon 5 “Falling into You” by Celine Dion “Como Fue” by Benny More
Salsa Salsa is danced on music with a recurring eight-beat pattern, i.e. two bars of four beats. Salsa patterns typically use three steps during each four beats, one beat being skipped. The dance structure of salsa is largely associated with mambo type patterns. However, while Mambo movements are typically sharper and more staccato, Salsa is a smoother, more fluid dance. Typically salsa music involves complicated percussion rhythms and is fast with around 180 beats per minute. Salsa is a spot dance, meaning the couple does not travel over the dance floor much, but rather occupies a fixed area on the dance floor. Sample Songs: “Stairway to Heaven” by Manuel Gonzalez “Yo No Se Manana” by Luis Enrique “Achilipu” by Gran Combo
Samba The Samba originated in Brazil. It is danced as a festival dance during celebrations. The festive style and mood of the dance has kept it alive and popular to this day. Samba is a fun dance that fits many of today’s popular songs that typically have a very distinct bass line. Many figures, used in the Samba today, require a pelvic tilt action. Sample Songs: “Mas Que Nada” by The Black Eyed Peas “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stephani
West Coast Swing West Coast Swing is a distinctive “slot dance” using a 6 count basic and originating from the dancehalls of San Diego as far back as 1938. While sometimes referred to as Sophisticated Swing, WCS styles can vary considerably. Modern WCS can be danced conservatively with upright posture, be smooth and warm, or be a funky, hot partnered-jazz dance. While Rhythm and Blues is standard WCS music, it is frequently danced to popular Top 40 tunes. It offers endless possibilities for expression. Sample Songs: “Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 “S&M” by Rihanna Viennese Waltz Formerly a court dance of aristocrats from Austria, this is the fastest of the Waltz tempos. With its smaller smooth turns, dancers seem to glide across the floor with grace and ease. The nature of this dance requires both the leader and the follower to maintain a good frame. Sample Songs: “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson “Potter Waltz” by Patrick Doyle “Once Upon a December” by Deana Carte