Ballroom dance refers collectively to a set of partner dances, which originated in Germany and are 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. In times past, ballroom dancing was “social dancing” for the privileged, leaving “folk dancing” for the lower classes. Many “ballroom” dances were really elevated folk dances. In spite of its historical image as a pastime for the privileged; formal competitions, sometimes referred to as DanceSport, often allow participation by less advanced dancers at various proficiency levels. Ballroom dance competitions take place worldwide at different levels. Ballroom dancing isn’t mainly enjoyed by only adults but it is taught to youngsters at an early age of 10-11 in the 5th grade in some US states. Not only are they taught, but they participate in city wide competitions. They are taught dances randomized from tango, rumba, swing (jitterbug), foxtrot and the merengue as a celebration to their senior year in elementary school. This competition is called “colors of the rainbow.”
In competition ballroom dancers are judged by diverse criteria such as connection, frame, posture, speed, timing, proper body alignment, proper usage of weight, ankles, feet, and grooming.
In one common usage “ballroom dance” refers to the ten dances of International Standard and International Latin, though the term is also often used interchangeably with the five International Standard dances . In the United States, the American Style (American Smooth and American Rhythm) also exists.
Slow Waltz - Tango - Viennese Waltz - Slow Foxtrot - Quickstep
Cha Cha - Samba - Rumba - Paso Doble - Jive
Waltz - Tango - Foxtrot - Viennese Waltz
Cha Cha - Rumba - East Coast Swing - Bolero - Mambo
Waltz - Polka - Schottische - Tango - One-Step - Foxtrot
The dances I enjoy seeing performed the most are the Samba, Paso Doble, and the Viennese Waltz.
Samba: The Samba is an all-out party dance with origins from Brazil’s Rio Carnival. It is made up of many different South American dances incorporated into one. It is very rhythmical with lots of hip action. Walking Samba steps and side steps are the basic components of this dance. The major characteristic of the Samba is the vertical bounce action. Steps are taken using the ball of the foot. The accomplished dancer is made to look effortless and carefree with knee action, body sway and “pendulum motion.” My favorite part of the Samba is the Samba roll - a rolling movement from the waist up. The upper body circles as you create a six-step turning group. The Samba has a distinctive climax, it ends with throwing of heads back and arms splayed out to the side.
Paso Doble: The Paso Doble on the competition floor should create a Spanish Bull Fighting atmosphere. The Paso Doble is the dance of the Man, which allows him to fill the “Space” with strong three-dimensional shapes and movements danced with “Pride and Dignity.” The woman’s role varies depending on the interpretation of the dance. The woman can take the role of the matador’s cape, the bull or even the matador at different times within the dance. Characteristics of the Paso Doble are the “Marching” flavor given to the steps and the cape movements creating the required tension between both dancers. It is one of the only dances that is danced only in the ballroom world. It is one of the most dramatic of the dances.
Viennese Waltz: The Waltz developed in Central Europe from the Austrian dance known as the Landler. The fast whirling of partners held as if in an embrace shocked polite society. The music of Johann Strauss and the famous ballrooms of Vienna popularized the faster version known as the Viennese Waltz. Distinctive moves: sweeping turns that gracefully move around the floor characterize this dance. The Viennese Waltz is know for its rotational movement, which is simple and elegant. There should be no foot rise on the inner turns; rotating and swinging spatial movements.