Dance Styles and Descriptions

Click On Any Dance Below For A Description:


Smooth Dances


This dance was born in the United States in the early 1900's and is based on patterns or combinations of quick steps and slow steps. Foxtrot can be danced to a wide variety of music; we enjoy dancing it most to slow swing or to the loungy music of the 1950's (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee....).



While the popularity of waltz in recent years has not exploded anywhere near the Swing or Salsa phenomena, if you ask any of the best swing, salsa, tango or other social dancers what their "second favorite" dance is...chances are they'll say waltz. It's a fabulous dance. Waltz is a 3/4 tempo of music, and the dance is always danced in this time. Waltz can be done in a box step (as many of us learned as kids) or in spinning circular fashion as in Viennese Waltz. Dancing a fast waltz is like flying!



Tango is earthy and dramatic. Although walking movements dominate, Tango walks, having a "stalking" or "sneaking" character, are unlike the walks of other ballroom dances. Movements are sometimes slow and slithery, and other times sharp and stacatto, such as a quick foot flick or a sharp head snap to promenade position. Tango has the same counter clockwise flow of movement around the dance floor, but with a lesser sense of urgency in comparison to the smoother and more continuous ballroom dances. American Style Tango, especially at highly-developed skill levels, makes great use of open and alternate dance positions to further showcase Tango's dramatic nature.


Late 19th century Buenos Aires teemed with immigrants from Europe and Africa, many of whom found themselves lonely and looking for companionship in their new home. These forlorn people found their way to the salons, seeking drinks to drown their sorrows, temporary friendship, and any entertainment to help ease their depression. The mix of cultures combined to bring about a new style of music, formed from African beats, Indian rhythms, Latin influences, and the popular music of the pampas (flatlands) in Argentina. This new music was dubbed Tango. Some historians beleive that Tango gets its name from the African candomblé drum beat known as "tan-go", while others argue that it is derived from Latin word tangere (to touch). The dance that began as a pantomime of communication between prostitute and pimp was filled with emotions, sexual energy and suggestive gyrations. This choreography was accented by the melancholy drone of the bandoneon, a German instrument very similar to the accordion. In the early 1900s, a less vulgar form of tango was exported to France, where it was further refined and quickly gained popularity with the Parisian high society. Adding classy clothes, ballrooms, lyrics, and an orchestra, the Tango was revolutionized for the rich and became popular all over Europe, the USA, and was even embraced by the upper class of Argentina---the same people who once shunned its odious beginnings.


A simplified version of the Tango, intended for mass consumption, was adapted by Arthur Murray. Although criticized by Tango enthusiasts for its lack of authenticity and charater, it was this version that introduced many Americans to the world of ballroom dancing. Before long, the American style Tango was being influenced by famous dancers of the stage and screen. It was this influence which contributed the most to its flamboyant and theatrical character. The American Style Tango continues to evolve. Among those influences, the technical International (English) style Tango, the dramatic Paso Doble, and even the orginal Argentine style continue to contribute to its evolution. But American is still best known as both the simplest and the showiest of all Tangos.


Tango music comes from a mixture of cultural influences including Africa, India, France, Spain, and Latin America. Modern Tango music comes in two distinct flavors: The melodic Argentinian style, and the rhythmical European style. At the heart of the Argentinian style is the bandoneon, which is often accompanied by a small band, including a piano, guitar, one or two violins, and sometimes a singer. True Argentine Tango music never has a heavy drum beat, if drums are used at all. The European style, in contrast, is a strong march with a steady, consistent downbeat played by a snare drum. The music is often played by a large orchestra with or without the bandoneon. American style Tango is danced to music of either variety, sometimes to something in between. It may be written in 2/4 or 4/4 time, but to the dancer it usually feels as though beats occur in groups of 8. The tempo is medium; 120 - 128 beats per minute (30-32 mpm at 4/4) is recommended for competitions and examinations at all levels. Because of the way most of the syllabus figures are configured, the best music for Bronze and social dancing shoud have steady, predicatble two-measure (8-beat) phrases with a strong cadence.


Viennese Waltz

Is about twice the speed of Waltz, and features simple footwork with lots of twirls and arm expression. Viennese Waltz is the dance most often seen in movies depicting Ballroom Dancing.



The Quickstep evolved in the 1920s from a combination of the Foxtrot, Charleston, Shag, Peabody, and One Step. The dance is English in origin, and was standardized in 1927. While it evolved from the Foxtrot, the Quickstep now is quite separate. Unlike the modern Foxtrot, the man often closes his feet, and syncopated steps are regular occurrences (as was the case in early Foxtrot). In some ways, the dance patterns are close to the Waltz but are danced to 4/4 time rather than 3/4 time.

This dance gradually evolved into a very dynamic one with a lot of movement on the dance floor, with many advanced patterns including hops, runs, quick steps with a lot of momentum, and rotation. The tempo of Quickstep dance is rather brisk as it was developed to ragtime era jazz music which is fast-paced when compared to other dance music.





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