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BALLROOM DANCER (to line dance and other music)

Types of dances (Page One)

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Types of dances (Page One)
Summary of dances (Page Two)
Ballroom and Latin American dance sheets (Page Three)
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Ballroom dancing videos (Page Seven)
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The Ballroom and Latin American Dances - Brief description of Types
 

I detail below information about the various dance styles as taken from the official website of the Eurovision Dance Contest.

 

The essential feature of partner dances is the coordinated choreography between two partners as opposed to individuals “doing their own thing”. As a rule the partners maintain contact, for some dances in a loose “dancehold”, and in others with body contact, called “dance frame”. One partner, typically the man, is the leader with the other partner as the follower.

 

There are five Standard dances: Viennese Waltz, Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Tango, and five Latin Dances: Samba, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. 

 

Viennese Waltz

The Viennese Waltz is the oldest of all ballroom dances even if it hasn’t always been that popular: originally, it was considered to be too indecent to be danced by young, single girls. Only married women were allowed to waltz in the up-tight years before the French Revolution. Dancing masters saw the Waltz as a threat to their profession, and rejected it as the basic steps of the Waltz could be learned in relatively short time, whereas the Minuet and other court dances required considerable practice, not only to learn the many complex figures, but also to develop suitable postures.

The Viennese Waltz was also criticised on moral grounds by those opposed to its closer hold and rapid turning movements. Religious leaders almost unanimously regarded it as vulgar and sinful. Continental court circles refused to accept it.

In England, the Viennese Waltz was accepted even more slowly. Only through  endless balls, receptions and “rendoutes” (less formal balls) during the time of the Vienna Congress in 1814 and 1815, did the Viennese Waltz start to become socially respectable. Several composers picked up the dance and created endless variations. Most notably Josef Lanner and his rivals Johann Strauss the Older and Johann Strauss the Younger were the promoters of the Viennese Waltz.

The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance, danced at about 180 beats per minute. A true Viennese Waltz consists only of turns and change steps, where the dancers are constantly turning either in a clockwise (natural) or anti-clockwise (reverse) direction. Furthermore, in a properly danced Viennese Waltz, couples turn continuously left and right while dancing counter clockwise around the floor.

Waltz (Slow Waltz or English Waltz)

At the end of the 19th century, two modifications of the Viennese Waltz were developed. The first was the Boston, a slower Waltz with long gliding steps. Although the Boston disappeared with the First World War, it did stimulate the development of the English or International style which continues today. The second was the Hesitation, which involves taking one step to three beats of the measure. Hesitation steps are still widely used in today's Waltz. It is danced to slow, (preferably 28-30 measures per minute,) waltz music in 3/4 time. It is expected that the first beat of a measure is accented..

Most of the basic figures have 1 step per 1 beat, i.e. 3 steps per measure. Advanced figures may have 4-6 steps per measure, and this, coupled with various turns, makes the dance very dynamic despite the relatively slow tempo. At the same time, advanced dancers often use slow steps and elegant poses to create contrast (sometimes referred to as "light and shade").

Waltz is usually the first dance in the Dancesport competitions in the "Standard" category. The dance is danced exclusively in the closed position and like all dances of Standard category, it is a progressive dance. Waltz is characterised by the pendulum swing body action. Other general elements of ballroom technique important for Waltz are foot parallelism, rise and fall, contra body movement and sway.

Foxtrot

The Foxtrot is a ballroom dance which takes its name from its inventor, the vaudeville actor Harry Fox. According to legend, Fox was unable to find female dancers capable of performing the more difficult two-step. As a result, he added stagger steps (two trots), creating the basic Foxtrot rhythm of slow-slow-quick-quick.

The dance was premiered in 1914, quickly catching the eye of the talented husband and wife duo, Vernon and Irene Castle, who gave the dance its signature grace and style.. 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 won competitions with Josephine Bradley, he created the real style of the Foxtrot. At the beginning, the Foxtrot was danced to ragtime. Today, the dance is customarily accompanied by the same big band music to which Swing is also danced.

The Foxtrot was the most significant development of all 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 Foxtrot than in any other dance, and in some ways it is the hardest dance to learn! Over time, Foxtrot split into slow (Foxtrot) and quick (Quickstep) versions.

In the context of International Standard Category of ballroom dances, for some time Foxtrot was called Slow Foxtrot, or Slowfox. These names are still in use, to distinguish it from other types of Foxtrot. It is danced in a smooth, fluid and continuous movement around the floor without pronounced rise and fall. It is considered the most difficult of the 5 Standard dances, both technically and musically.

Quickstep

The Quickstep evolved from a combination of the Foxtrot, Charleston, Shag, Peabody and One Step in the 1920s. This dance is English in origin and was standardised in 1927.

The Quickstep now is quite separate from the Foxtrot. 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 fast as it was developed to ragtime era jazz music which is very quick paced compared to other dance music performed by advanced dancers has increased even more, due to the extensive use of steps with eighth note durations. While in older times quickstep patterns were counted with "quick" (one beat) and "slow" (two beats) steps, many advanced patterns today are cued with split beats, such as "quick-and-quick-and-quick-quick-slow".

Tango

Tango is one of the most fascinating of all dances. Originating in Spain or Morocco, the Tango was introduced to the New World by the Spanish settlers, eventually coming back to Spain with Black and Creole influences. The dance spread throughout Europe in the 1900's. Originally popularized in New York in the winter of 1910 - 1911, Rudolph Valentino then made the Tango a hit in 1921.

 

Ballroom Tango, divided in recent decades into the "International" (English) and "European" styles, is descended from the Tango styles that developed when the Tango first went abroad to Europe and North America. The dance was simplified, adapted to the preferences of conventional ballroom dancers, and incorporated into the repertoire used in International Ballroom dance competitions.

Subsequently the English Tango evolved mainly as a highly competitive dance, while the American Tango evolved as an unjudged social dance with an emphasis on developing “leading” and “following” skills. This has resulted in some principal distinctions in basic technique and style but mutual borrowing of technique and dance patterns happens all the time.

Ballroom Tangos have lots of staccato movements and the characteristic "head snaps". The body is initially set in motion across the floor through the flexing of the lower joints (hip, knee, ankle) while the feet are delayed, then the feet move quickly to catch the body, resulting in snatching or striking action that reflects the staccato nature of this style's preferred music.

Samba

The Samba originated in Brazil. It was and still is danced as a festival dance during various street festivals and celebrations. It was first introduced in the U.S. in a Broadway play called "Street Carnival" in the late 1920s. The festive style and mood of the dance has kept it alive and popular to this day.

Samba is a fun dance that fits most of today's popular music as it is a lively, rhythmical dance in 2/4 time. Its origins include the Maxixe and there are two major streams of Samba dance that differ significantly: the modern Ballroom Samba and the traditional Brazilian Samba.

The Ballroom Samba is danced to music in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The basic movements are counted either 1-2 or 1-a-2, and are danced with a slight downward bouncing or dropping action. This action is created through the bending and straightening of the knees. The dance movements, which do not change regardless of the style of samba music being played, borrow some movements from Afro-Brazilian traditional dances.

Cha-Cha

The dance was originally known as the Cha-Cha-Cha. In 1951, Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín introduced the Cha-Cha-Cha to Cuban dance floors while playing with Orquesta América. According to Jorrín, the sound made by the shoes of the dancers on the floor sounded like "cha-cha-cha", while they tried to follow the new rhythm. The dance is an offshoot of the Mambo.

As in the slow Mambo tempo, there was a distinct sound in the music that people began dancing to, which was then called the "Triple" Mambo. Eventually it evolved into a separate dance, known today as the Cha-Cha. The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or Cha Cha Cha) and two slower steps on the one beat and two beat. The tempo of the Cha-Cha is 128 beats per minute which makes it a medium tempo Latin dance. The basis of the modern Cha-Cha dance was laid down in the 1960s by Walter Laird and other top competitors of the time.

Rumba

Rumba is a dance originally related to the Rumba genre of Afro-Cuban music. There are two sources of the dance: 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 being brought in from Africa. The native Rumba folk dance is essentially a sex pantomime danced extremely quickly 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 with vigorous expressive movements of the dancers. Accompanying instruments include the maracas, the claves, the marimbola, and the drums.

In Europe, the introduction of Latin American dancing, and Rumba in particular, was launched by the genius of Monsieur Pierre who popularized Rumba dancing in London together with his partner Doris Lavelle. The couple introduced the true "Cuban Rumba" which was finally established as the official recognised version in 1955 after lots of arguments. Some dancers consider Rumba the most erotic and sensual Latin dance because of its relatively slow rhythm combined with the hip movement.

Paso Doble

Paso Doble or Pasodoble is a lively style of dance to march-like music. It originated in southern France, but is modelled after the sound, drama, and movement of the Spanish bullfight during the bullfighters' entrance (paseo) or during the passes (faena) just before the kill.

The leader of this dance plays the part of the matador. The follower generally plays the part of the matador's cape, but can also represent the bull or a flamenco dancer in some figures. Paso Doble, like Samba, is a progressive International Latin dance. The Paso Doble is the Latin dance most resembling the International Standard style because forward steps are taken with the heel lead, the frame is wider and more strictly upright, and there is significantly different and less hip movement.

Because of its inherently choreographed tradition, ballroom Paso Doble is mostly danced only competitively, almost never socially, at least not without sticking to some sort of previously-learned routine. This said, in Spain, France, Vietnam and some parts of Western Germany it is danced socially as a lead but not choreographed dance.

Jive

Jive is a dance style in 4/4 rhythm that originated from African-Americans in the early 1940s. Among its influences are the Lindy Hop from the 1930s, Blues Swing, Boogie Jive Woogie from the 1940s and the Jitterbug and the Rock'n'Roll from the 1950s.

American soldiers brought these dances to Europe around 1940, where they swiftly found a following among the young. However, it was never far from criticism as a foreign, vulgar dance. The famous ballroom dancing guru, Alex Moore, said that he had "never seen anything uglier". Jive was adopted in 1968 as the fifth Latin American dance.

In competition it is danced at a speed of 44 bars per minute, otherwise at between 32 and 40 beats per minute. English instructors developed the elegant and lively Jive, which was then danced to slightly slower music.