Our instinct tells us to express rhythm. Just as children bob their heads to music and senior citizens tap their canes to the beat, dancing comes naturally to both young and old alike.
With so many different styles of dance to choose from, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. How do you know which one is right for you?
The truth is that it’s just as easy to learn several dance styles at once as it is to learn just one. All dances use common elements, Learning each dance helps develop skills needed in other dances.
Explore as many dance styles as you can in the world of dancing. These styles have evolved from the old days and each has its own unique story and traditions. Some form of social dancing has probably existed since the beginning of time, moving from ritualistic dancing to social interaction for pure enjoyment.
Modern ballroom dancing has withstood the test of time and is now more popular than ever. Both American and International style ballroom dances are divided into the following categories:
While most people think that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers created the Foxtrot, it was really a vaudeville performer named Harry Fox who introduced this fun, theatrical dance to the world.
Foxtrot dancers travel around the perimeter of the room in a counterclockwise direction in a basic rhythm of slow-slow-quick-quick. Still a classic dance for wedding receptions, the Foxtrot is a true American favorite.
The Tango, a sensual, dramatic dance made famous by Rudolph Valentino, originated in Buenos Aires and was stylized by the Gauchos in Argentina before making it to the United States.
The Tango is known for flexing steps and posed pauses. Widely considered to be the “dancer’s dance,” it has become even more popular due to its presence in films like “The Scent Of A Woman” and “Evita.”
The Viennese Waltz, made popular in the 1880s by the invigorating music of Johann Strauss, is a very fast version of the waltz at a tempo of about 180 beats a minute. This dance is characterized by its fast pace and continuous circling.
A beautiful dance to watch and perform, the Viennese Waltz is a glamorous, uplifting, whirling experience for everyone to enjoy.
The Waltz, with its ¾ rhythms and strong accent on the first beat, was born in the suburbs of Vienna.
When the dance was first introduced in the early 19th century, people were shocked since it was the first ballroom dance where the man put his hand on a woman’s waist! But the Waltz gained in popularity and quickly became one of the most popular of all dances. This easy and flowing dance is still commonly seen at weddings and other social events.
The Bolero, originating in Spain, is danced to a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. With its slip pivot and body rise danced to dreamy music usually accompanied by vocals, the Bolero has a very romantic and soft feel to it. The Bolero is all about being one with your partner in a slow, sweeping motion.
The mid-tempo Cha-Cha is a spin-off of the Rumba and the Mambo. With its two slow steps followed by three quick ones (rock step, cha-cha-cha), this sensual, energetic dance is extraordinarily popular with old and young alike.
The tempo is slow and staccato, making it easy for dancers to inject their own personality into the patterns. The Cha-Cha-Cha rhythm can still be heard in the music of contemporary performers like Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Gloria Estefan.
East Coast Swing
Back in the good old days of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, the East Coast Swing originated as a simplified 6-count triple step dance.
The East Coast Swing dance pattern moves smoothly either forward/back or side to side while circling freely around the floor. The basic step is triple step, triple step, rock step. Danced to a wide variety of music, you can “swing” to almost anything!
It all started at the Savoy…or so the story goes. While “Shorty George” Snowden, a dance enthusiast, watched some couples dancing at New York City’s famous Savoy Ballroom in the late 1920s, someone asked him what dance they were doing. George glanced down at a newspaper opened up to an article about Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the ocean, titled “Lindy Hops The Atlantic,” and quickly answered: “The Lindy Hop.” A dance was born! The Lindy Hop, always fun to dance, is wild, spontaneous, jumpy, and jazzy!
A Cuban bandleader named Perez Prado is credited with starting the Mambo dance craze in the mid-1950s. The Mambo is a Rumba with a break on 2 and 4 in 4/4 time, danced according to the individual dancer’s temperament.
While conservative dancers can maintain a closed position, daring dancers can perform breakaway steps and completely separate themselves from each other.
Steamy! The most famous Latin American dance to gain popularity in North America and Europe is, without doubt, the rumba. Slow and romantic, the Rumba is the most sensual of the Latin dances. Motion is produced through a transfer of body weight and not from direct movement of the hips.
Couples dance very closely together, using their body language to express emotion between them. The Rumba is sometimes referred to as the “Dance Of Love” because couples stare deeply into each other’s eyes while they dance.
The spirited Samba always gets feet tapping! Originally from Brazil, the festive Samba was popularized in the movies of Carmen Miranda. The Samba is characterized by a steady bounce in 2/4 meter achieved by flexing and straightening the knees while weight is transferred from the ball to the flat of the foot. This happy and bouncy dance is always fun!
- Argentine Tango
- Country Western Polka
- Country Western Two Step
- Country Western Waltz
- Line Dancing
- West Coast Swing
An improvisational, social form of Tango, Argentine tango is loved by dancers and audiences for its beauty, passion, drama and excitement.
The essence of Argentine tango is about life and, especially, about the relationship between a man and a woman.
Graciela Gonzales, a leading tango instructor, calls the dance “the history of love—for three minutes.”
Bachata is a style of dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. It is danced widely all over the world but not identically.
The basics to the dance are two-steps with a Cuban hip motion, followed by a tap including a hip movement on the 4th beat. The knees should be slightly bent so the performer can sway the hips easier.
Generally, most of the dancer’s movement is in the lower body up to the hips, and the upper body moves much less.
In partnering, the lead can decide whether to perform in open or closed position. Dance moves, or step variety, during performance strongly depends on the music (such as the rhythms played by the different instruments), setting, mood, and interpretation.
Country Western Polka
Country Western Polka music and dance came to Texas with the immigrants from eastern Europe, principally the Czech, German and Polish cultures. It’s a fun and energetic dance that is easy to learn and is considered as a music for happy times.
Polka is believed to have originated in Prague (Czechoslovakia) about 1830 and became popular in Europe throughout the mid-1800’s. This set the stage for waves of immigrants that entered by the ports of Galveston to bring it to Texas.
Country Western Polka Dance couples circle the dance floor using a continuous series of step-close-step (shuffle) and hop technique. A shuffle step pair is followed by a step on one side, and then a repeat of a shuffle step followed by a step on the other. It is executed at a seemingly swift speed. One of the most common versions of this dance is the “heel and toe and away we go”.
Country Western Two Step
The country music dance called the Texas Two-Step is a modified Foxtrot. Some call it a Foxtrot with a swagger! It started as a simple barn dance and is notable for two quick steps and two slow steps.
Starting with the popularity of movies like Urban Cowboy, country-western partner dancing came back in style in the late 1980s.
Gliding your feet across the floor, the two-step is always fun dance to learn and enjoy with your partner!
Country Western Waltz
Country Western Waltz dance has the same basic step as its elegant Ballroom counterpart, but the Country Waltz is more relaxed.
It is danced progressively around the dance floor and consists of gliding steps that are consistent with wearing cowboy boots, rather than on the balls of the feet as in the classic version.
The 1970s was the time to do the Hustle! Predated by the line dance with the same name, the Hustle exploded onto the scene after John Travolta danced his way to stardom in the famous movie, Saturday Night Fever. The Hustle is a fast moving, energetic dance characterized by its many turns. The lady spins almost constantly while her partner draws her close and sends her away. Although disco has come and gone, the hustle is here to stay!
Line Dancing is a choreographed dance with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group of people dance in lines or rows.
Although line dancing is associated with Country-Western music and dance, it has similarities to folk dancing.
Line dances have accompanied many popular music styles since the early 1970s, including Pop, Swing, Rock, Disco, Latin, and Jazz.
The Merengue, the national dance of the Dominican Republic, was created in the mid-1950s. With its simple steps and 1-2 march-like rhythm, it was rumored to be initially performed by the guests of a crippled general in the Dominican Republic who wanted to imitate him as he dragged his lame right leg across the floor!
The Merengue is known for its liveliness, with a step on every beat, knee action, and wiggles from side to side. Since it doesn’t move around the dance floor, it’s perfect for small, crowded dance floors.
Salsa, a fusion of Cuban, Puerto Rican and American styles, describes the fast, Latin music coming out of New York City in the late 1960s. Salsa dancing is characterized by a complicated rhythm, small steps, Cuban motion, and a compact hold. Salsa has a recurring 8-beat pattern, with patterns using 3 steps during each 4 beats. The skipped beat is usually marked by a tap or a kick. Salsa Salsa has a recurring 8-beat pattern, with patterns using 3 steps during each 4 beats. The skipped beat is usually marked by a tap or a kick. Salsa dancing is always sassy, sexy, and fun!
West Coast Swing
The official state dance of California, the West Coast Swing originated from the Savoy Style Lindy dance. Brought to Hollywood by Dean Collins, a famous movie dancer and choreographer, this dance soon became popular in California nightclubs during the 1930s and 1940s.
The West Coast Swing is known for its “dancing in a slot” appearance where the man dances in place while the woman travels back and forth.
Theater Art Dance Performances
This exciting course was developed by the Fred Astaire Dance Studios many years ago to offer the creative dancer an opportunity to express individual choreography in conjunction with the standardized ballroom dances, thus ever insuring fresh and innovative interpretations of the common dances.
The dramatic movements of lifts and drops and techniques drawn largely from Ballet, Modern Dance and Jazz were carefully selected for appropriate adaption to ballroom dancing. The elements taught are used within the framework of any dance to bring a new dimension to the art of ballroom dancing.
Exhibition Style Dance Performances
Exhibition dancing is an exciting form of choreographed ballroom dancing, where movements and lines of a theatrical nature are used to enhance the atmosphere of a dance.
Students elect to learn an Exhibition derive much pleasure from the preparation of specialized dance material used to choreograph routines in the dances of their choice.