This “mother of all dances” originated in Italy in the 1600′s as a round dance called the Volte. It arrived in America in the early 1800′s and was the first social dance in which a woman was actually held in a man’s arms. Learning to Waltz is elegant. The Waltz develops “graceful movement” and “poise”. Every wedding reception, social “black-tie” formal and holiday party includes Waltz steps.
Created in 1912 by Harry Fox, the Fox Trot was the first dance that permitted people to hold each other closer than arm’s length. If you think the term “dirty dancing” was a product of the 80s, think again. The Fox Trot was the first to be tagged “indecent behavior”. Today it’s still the most popular of all social dances. Some people refer to the Fox Trot as the “Slow Dance” or the “Two-Step”, or a “Conversational Dance” because of its closeness and conversation ability at the same time. The Fox Trot is good for developing “smoothness” and “ease of movement”.
Rudolph Valentino single-handedly danced this Latin import into nationwide popularity beginning in 1910. Although widely believed to have originated in Argentina, it actually may have come from Spain. It’s dramatic, exciting and known as the Dancer’s Dance. The Tango with all its staccato movements, greatly improves a man’s lead or a woman’s ability to follow (respond) and develops a strong sense of feeling for music.
As you study the Quickstep, you will soon understand why this speedy dance is the light-hearted favorite of all accomplished dancers. When this lively music is accompanied by a proficient understanding of acceleration and change of speed, the couple portrays the ultimate combination of agility and elegance.
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.
Additional Dances: Peabody
A peppery version of the Mambo laced with steps from other Latin dances. The Salsa is performed to a fiery, faster tempo. Some call it a form of Latinized Rock and Roll. It’s high-energy and all fun.
An offshoot of the Mambo, the Cha Cha (originally the cha-cha-cha) evolved out of popular movement in slow-tempo Mambo called the Triple Mambo. By 1954 it had evolved into a dance all its own. It’s a must style to know, the all time favorite latin dance.
The Rumba is an ever increasingly popular romantic Latin dance dating back some 400 years ago, and is better known as the Latin get acquainted dance or the dance with the wiggle. The Rumba sometimes substitutes for those in-between tempos and features a subtle or relaxed (lateral) hip motion and Latin styling. Rumba hip movements are used in most of the popular Latin dances as well as the free-style of disco and nightclub dancing.
Introduced by band leader Anselmo Sacaras in 1944, the Mambo – a merger of Swing and Rumba – didn’t really catch on until the 1950s and it remains very popular today.
Considered too scandalous when it was introduced to the United States in 1941, the Merengue went into eclipse until 1957 when Xavier Cugat resurrected it. Its point of origin is uncertain; both Haiti and the Dominican Republic claim it, and it contains elements of both cultures. It’s fun and exciting.
The Bachata originate in the countryside of the Dominican Republic. The dance is a direct reflection of the music being played in the night clubs during the 1960s. The Bachata has close ties to the Cuban Bolero.
Originally a Spanish dance in ¾ 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.
Swing/East Coast Swing
First known as the Lindy (in honor of Charles Lindberg and his historic hop across the Atlantic), this perennially popular dance emerged in the late 1920′s. lt combined steps from the Black Bottom; it was also the Bop and Push, the Hustle and Boot Scoot, Shag, Charleston and Hop. During the war years it re-emerged on the East Coast as the Jitterbug-jive and on the West Coast as Swing. You can Rock & Roll with Swing.
A kind of dancing more than a specific dance, Disco has strong roots in Swing, Samba, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Merengue, Fox Trot and Tango. The most popular version, the Hustle (of “Saturday Night Fever” fame), is believed to have originated in New York in 1970. This free form style is still one of the most popular at all night clubs and socials.
Jitterbug is also known as single-time swing. It is usually done to faster Swing music and is a highly energetic and expressive dance. It could also be referred to as a toned down Lindy Hop. It is also a spot dance and highly useful on crowded dance floors.
West Coast Swing
West Coast Swing is a stylized Swing dance popular west of the Mississippi from Kansas to California. Danced to slow or medium tempo Swing or Disco music and characterized by slot movements, taps and shuffles, coaster steps, and push and pull action of the dancers.
Popular musical groups of today have revived interest in the musical styles from the original Lindy Hop Era and have fired the imagination and enthusiasm of a whole new generation of Lindy Hop dancers. However, the acrobatic style used for exhibitions is not the same as the quietly rhythmic Lindy enjoyed by most dancers on the ballroom floor.
Additional Dances: Jive
Two-step is a Western dance whose popularity has spread all over the United States. The Two-Step originated in the 1800’s by people who arrived here from Europe. It was an offspring of the minuet and they danced it as QQSS.
Texas Two-Step is a modified version of the popular Country Two-step done to slower tempos of music. The primary difference between the two styles is an exaggerated brushing action done side to side during the two slow counts of the basic.
Country Shuffle is the Western version of Polka. The primary difference is that the style of Shuffle is less hoppy than the Polka. The basic step consists of a triple to the left followed by a triple to the right.
Additional Dances: Country Swing, Country Triple, Country Western Waltz
This dance was introduced to society in 1844. Every now and then it is revived because of it’s boisterous charm. It is supposed to have been originally created by a Bohemian girl. The basic step consists of a preparatory hop followed by a chasse done first to the left and then to the right. Curiously enough, it reappeared again in the 1940’s in the Cha-Cha as one of the more popular steps. The Polka is still danced quite often throughout the country.
This dance originated in the West Indies where it was danced only by the lowest classes. The name is from the African Tanganya. The dance found its way into Argentina where it was re-created by the Gauchos in Buenos Aires. It was actually an attempt on their part to imitate the dance except that they danced it in a closed ballroom position. The Tango caused a sensation and was soon to be seen the world over in a more subdued version.
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.
This dance is an easy playful dance that can be done to many pop songs. It is done to 4/4 time music and has similar patterns to those found in Salsa, although the style of this dance is much slower and smoother. This is a popular dance among wedding couples as it is usually a good tempo for the slower romantic ballads.
This dance is related to Fox Trot but is done with even timing and on smaller crowded nightclub floors. This is a great dance for couples who want to get out on the dance floor immediately. It is useful in jazzy nightclubs or lounges.