Ballroom Dancing is when a couple performs any of the various social dances that follow a pattern of predictable steps. Examples of these dances are the tango, waltz, foxtrot and quick step. It has an immensely amplified popularity spreading across Europe, the Americas and Asia. Ballroom dancing has had a relatively short but interesting history and has evolved from a recreational activity to a worldwide sporting event.
Ballroom dancing originated in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in which these dances, such as the waltz, were performed by the upper and elite classes of society in balls and parties. During the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, it became a trend among the working and middle class where they would go to gatherings and events in public dance halls. In the early 1920s, ballroom dancing competitions started to boom that in 1924, an organization was formed called the Ballroom Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. The objective of this organization was to standardize and formalize ballroom dancing techniques, sets of steps and music to which it was danced to.
In legitimate Dance Sport competitions and in social events, there are five standard dances. These are the Modern and the Viennese Waltz, the Tango, the Slow Foxtrot and the Quickstep. These dances are standardized and categorized into segregated teaching levels and utilize vocabulary, rhythm and tempo and techniques which are accepted internationally.
Although these dances come from very different backgrounds and have special techniques, aesthetics, rhythms and tempos, they do share common qualities. All ballroom dances, as with all forms of dance, are expressions of feelings, thoughts and emotions. These dances may be stricter than other forms of dance and may limit the range of steps and body movement involved, but it is still one of the best expressions of love, joy and pain between two people.
Also, all ballroom dances are performed by only two people, usually a man and a woman. These dances are performed in a certain position termed as the "Closed Hold". In this position, the couple strictly remains in contact in five different points or places. These five points consists of three hand contacts, one elbow contact and one chest contact.
The first hand contact occurs when the man's left hand holds the lady's right hand. Second is when the lady's left hand is placed at the top of the man's right upper arm. In the tango, the lady's left hand is placed behind the man's arm, not on top of it. The third contact is when the man's right hand is placed under the left shoulder blade on the lady's back. The fourth contact is when the lady's left elbow rests on the man's right elbow and both arms are kept in a horizontal line. The lady's arms are held comfortably by the man's and permit her to follow the man's lead with ease. This also gives the couple the appearance of having a bearing of royalty. This is an important characteristic in the ballroom dances that came from Western Europe because these dances were performed in the royal courts. The last point of contact is where the right area of the chest of one touches the right area of his partner. This closeness allows very little room between the partners' faces thus contributing to the dance's romantic appeal.
Swing - the Fun Dance
Swing is an American dance which dates back to the 1920's. The Swing is a spot dance with a carefree relaxed style and is a dance easily mastered by most people. The various speeds are excellent training for quick footwork and good leading & following which will add comfort and ease in other rhythm dances. After mastering the patterns, both men and women will find Swing a fun and exciting dance to learn and practice. Perhaps the most uniquely American of all dances, the Swing brings forth a buoyant carefree movement. It's one of the dances that become contagious.
The character of the Swing is upbeat and fun. It is a happy and playful dance. East Coast Triple Swing and Single Step Swing tend to be very circular in their movements and work more on a 6-count beat basic. The Single Swing, being the closest to the original form, has simpler footwork and is great for dancing to extremely up tempo music like the old Big Band Tunes as performed by the likes of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. The East Coast Swing can be danced to slower, Blues, Rock or Country music. The West Coast Swing and the Lindy Hop are danced more to an 8-count beat and are danced in a slotted fashion - both partners turning 180 degrees during every pattern, to exchange places. West Coast Swing is very smooth and sexy and is quite popular with people who like country and/or funk music. Lindy hop on the other hand can be very bouncy and has incorporated the Charleston kicks and various acrobatic lifts known as aerials and looks a lot like what we see of Swing in the old Black & White Big Band World War II movies.
Foxtrot - the International Must
Fox Trot is a basic dance from which you can acquire a foundation. Learning to combine dance steps easily and smoothly teaches variety and manoeuvrability. The Fox Trot posture is attractive in appearance and helpful to all other dances. Being able to dance to slow, medium, and fast tempos will add confidence to your dancing and will assure fun and relaxation for your partner. The Fox Trot provides a good foundation for all dances and is often called the "get-acquainted" or "first impression". The Foxtrot originated in the summer of 1914 by Vaudeville actor Harry Fox.
The Fox-trot originated in the Jardin de Danse on the roof of the New York Theatre. As part of his act downstairs, Harry Fox was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to his dance as "Fox's Trot." In the rise to fame of the Vernon Castles, exhibition dancers of outstanding talent and charm, there was no doubt that the fox-trot was the most original and exciting of their various dances. The elite of the dancing world were soon trying to capture the unusual style of movement and when a very talented American, G.K. Anderson came over to London, and with Josephine Bradley won many competitions, he set the seal - so to speak - on the style of the foxtrot.
The Foxtrot was the most significant development in all of ballroom dancing. The combination of quick and slow steps permits more flexibility and gives much greater dancing pleasure than the one-step and two-step which it has replaced. There is more variety in the fox-trot than in any other dance, and in some ways it is the hardest dance to learn! Variations of the foxtrot include the Peabody, the Quickstep and Roseland foxtrot. Even dances such as the lindy and the hustle are derived to some extent from the foxtrot.
Waltz - the Romantic "Pink Cloud" Dance
The real origin of the Waltz is rather obscure, but a dance of turns and glides, leaping and stamping appeared in various parts of Europe at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. In Italy it was the Volta, France had its Volte, Germany the Weller, and Austria had its Landler. These were round dances but at the end of the dance itself there was a short period in which the circle would break up into couples who would whirl madly round and round and finish with a jump in the air. In the Landler the hopping gave way more to a gliding motion and that is why it is considered the forerunner of the Waltz. The Waltz can be traced back as far as 400 years. The Waltz regained its real popularity in the 20th century. Waltz develops balance and control. The basic Waltz steps are the foundation patterns used in most ballroom dances. Correct posture, rise and fall, and flowing movements should be stressed to achieve good styling. The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz gives dancers a chance to practice balance and to move lightly with ease.
Tango - the Dancer's Dance
The Tango is one of the most beautiful of all the dances. It is characterized by earthy and dramatic movements. In order to achieve the distinctive style of Tango, it is important to develop controlled staccato footwork along with fluid graceful movements. The unique rhythm of the music is great training for timing and phrasing which develops as the dancer becomes more proficient. Tango practice is essential towards becoming a good dancer. Tango music originated from Argentine, Brazilian and Spanish influences. The earliest traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century-to the Milonga, an Argentine folk dance with Moorish, Arabic and Spanish ancestry. Years later, the Argentine Gauchos (streetwise single men) danced a modified version of the Milonga, in the seedy bars and bordellos of Buenos Aires. The Milonguero dance hold in Argentine Tango is called "close embrace", where the couple are literally dancing chest to chest. It gives Tango an immediate intimacy that the other dances not have. This was considered far too risky for polite society.
Rumba - the Latin Favourite
Learning the Rumba is a prerequisite for good Latin dancing. The Cuban Motion is essential in most Latin dances. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control. The word Rumba is a generic term, covering a variety of names (i.e., Son, Danzon, Guagira, Guaracha, Naningo), for a type of West Indian music or dancing. The exact meaning varies from island to island. There are two sources of the dances: one Spanish and the other African. Although the main growth was in Cuba, there were similar dance developments which took place in other Caribbean islands and in Latin America generally.
The "rumba influence" came in the 16th century with the black slaves imported from Africa. The native Rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely fast with exaggerated hip movements and with a sensually aggressive attitude on the part of the man and a defensive attitude on the part of the woman. The music is played with a staccato beat in keeping with the vigorous expressive movements of the dancers. Accompanying instruments include the maracas, the claves, the marimbola, and the drums. As recently as the second world war, the "Son" was the popular dance of middle class Cuba. It is a modified slower and more refined version of the native Rumba. Still slower is the "Danzon", the dance of wealthy Cuban society. Very small steps are taken, with the women producing a very subtle tilting of the hips by alternately bending and straightening the knees.
The American Rumba is a modified version of the "Son". The first serious attempt to introduce the rumba to the United States was by Lew Quinn and Joan Sawyer in 1913. Ten years later band leader Emil Coleman imported some rumba musicians and a pair of rumba dancers to New York. In 1925 Benito Collada opened the Club El Chico in Greenwich Village and found that New Yorkers did not know what Rumba was all about. Real interest in Latin music began about 1929. In the late 1920's, Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra that specialized in Latin American music. He opened at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and appeared in early sound movies such as "In Gay Madrid". Later in the 1930's, Cugat played at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. By the end of the decade he was recognized as having the outstanding Latin orchestra of the day.
In 1935, George Raft played the part of a suave dancer in the movie "Rumba", a rather superficial musical in which the hero finally won the heiress (Carol Lombard) through the mutual love of dancing. In Europe, the introduction of Latin American dancing (Rumba in particular) owed much to the enthusiasm and interpretive ability of Monsieur Pierre (London's leading teacher in this dance form). In the 1930's with his partner, Doris Lavelle, he demonstrated and popularized Latin American dancing in London. Pierre and Lavelle introduced the true "Cuban Rumba" which was finally established after much argument, as the official recognized version in 1955. Rumba is the spirit and soul of Latin American music and dance. The fascinating rhythms and bodily expressions make the Rumba one of the most popular ballroom dances.
Samba - the Champagne Sparkle
This Brazilian dance was first introduced in 1917 but was finally adopted by Brazilian society in 1930 as a ballroom dance. It is sometimes referred to as a Samba, Carioca a Baion or a Batucado. The difference is mostly in the tempo played since the steps in all three dances are very similar. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. They say that the Samba was introduced in the United States in 1939 by the late Carmen Miranda. Samba improves the flexibility of the body and helps achieve easy movement and lightness. The Samba rolling action teaches the body to be supple. To move lightly, quickly, and smoothly without effort takes study but only at the start. Although considered a good exercise, Samba should be danced smoothly and in a relaxed manner giving the appearance of effortless movement. Sometimes called the South American Waltz, the Samba pulsates to a unique Latin rhythm.
Cha-Cha - the key to self-expression
From the less inhibited night clubs and dance halls the mambo underwent subtle changes. It was triple Mambo, and then peculiar scraping and shuffling sounds during the “tripling” produced the imitative sound of Cha Cha Cha. This then became a dance in itself. Mambo or triple Mambo or Cha-Cha as it is now called, is but an advanced stage in interpretive social dancing born of the fusion of progressive American and Latin music. The Cha-Cha adds fun to your dancing through its syncopated steps and many open movements. When you can dance many interesting combinations with ease, you and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating Latin rhythms which make this dance so fascinating. The energetic rhythm of the Cha-Cha encourages you to cut loose and let your personality show.
Mambo - the Latin Sophisticate
Mambo is a fusion of Cuban and American dancing. The music is characterized by a stirring Afro-Cuban beat. Mambo is an exciting dance which allows you to develop your own feeling and expression. Because Mambo is such a fun dance, good Mambo dancers are always popular and in demand as partners. The wild exciting music and rhythmical body movements make the earthy Mambo irresistible.
Originally a Spanish dance in 他 time, it was changed in Cuba into 2/4 time and then eventually into 4/4 time. It is now present as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is a favorite of dancers, as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance.
Quickstep is the English version of the Fast Fox Trot, which has quick hopping steps set in with the smoother gliding figures. It is very popular in Europe as a competition dance. It ranks among the "Big Five."Just as American Swing has spread throughout the world because of it's gay, stimulating rhythm, the lively English Quickstep is popular with good dancers everywhere. The patterns are such fun to dance!
The Viennese Waltz
With such wonderful composers as Johann Strauss and others, the Waltz became more and more refined. The steps became smaller with the turns smoother and more compact. Adding the graceful lilt of the flowing skirts we have today's Viennese Waltz.
The Paso Doble
The Spanish March or One Step. It makes an especially good exhibition routine when the man styles his body movements to look like a bullfighter's and leads his partner in and out of the patterns as if she were a cape. It is in 2/4 time.