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Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom dancing consists of a number of styles and variations, and enjoys worldwide popularity.

Ballroom dancing includes many exciting and graceful movements. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Ballroom dancing includes many exciting and graceful movements.

Ballroom Dancing

When people think of ballroom dancing, they often envision a beautiful, traditional waltz. Waltzing is only one style of ballroom dancing, however. Other types of ballroom dancing include the Mambo, Foxtrot and Tango. Ballroom dancing is any partnered dance where one person leads and another follows.

Types of Ballroom Dances

Ballroom dancing encompasses many different and exciting dance styles. From the Latin flare of the Cha Cha and Rumba to the smooth traditional styles of the Waltz and Foxtrot, ballroom dancing offers something for everyone. Traditional styles of ballroom dancing include the Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Rumba, Cha Cha, Swing, Jive, Samba, Mambo, Bolero and Paso Doble.


The Waltz was first introduced to English ballrooms in the early 1800s and was denounced by the church, which considered it vulgar and immoral because of the way the man held his female partner so close to his body. The Waltz began as a country folk dance in Austria and Bulgaria before growing in popularity and spreading across Europe. The Waltz was introduced in the United States in the mid-1800s as a graceful dance characterized by long, flowing movements, continuous turns and rise and fall. At 28 to 30 measures per minute, the tempo is slow and the dancers appear to glide across the floor.


The Foxtrot was first introduced to the public in 1913 by a man named Harry Fox. A versatile dance, the Foxtrot can be danced to different types of music. As it has evolved over the years, the Foxtrot is one style of ballroom dancing with several different forms and techniques. It is a smooth dance characterized by long, flowing movements and can incorporate a combination of walks and chasses across the dance floor.


The Tango was born in the late 19th century in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The dance is a result of the unique mix of European, African and Argentinean cultures in the area. While the original dance was very sexual, provocative and even considered vulgar, over the years, it has been refined for mass appeal. Tango is a very dramatic and flamboyant style of dance. While the movements are sometimes slow and slithery, at other times they are much sharper.


The Quickstep was developed in suburban New York during World War I. Originally performed by Caribbean and African dancers, it quickly gained popularity in American dance halls. The Quickstep became the fast version of the Foxtrot with obvious influence from the Charleston. True to its name, the Quickstep is a dance that features a series of very fast movements and footwork.

Viennese Waltz

The Viennese Waltz was developed in the ballrooms of Vienna when composers began arranging faster versions of Waltz music. The Viennese Waltz is elegant and graceful with large, sweeping turns like the Waltz, but it is performed at a quicker tempo. The Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of 50 to 60 measures per minute.


The Rumba was originally danced to music inspired by African rhythms and Spanish melodies and has launched the beginning of the Latin and Cuban dance craze. The most distinctive element of the Rumba is the unique hip movement, known as the Cuban Motion.

Cha Cha

The Cha Cha began in the 1950s as a variation of the Mambo called the Triple Mambo. Today, it is one of the most popular Latin dances in the United States. The basic components of the Cha Cha are triple steps (chasses) and rock steps. Since the Cha Cha has its origin in the Mambo and the Rumba, the Cuban Motion hip movement plays an integral part as well.


The Swing dance craze hit America in the 1930s with the birth of swing music. Known in various parts of the country as the Jitterbug, Lindy Hop or Swing, the quick-paced dance swept the nation and grew in popularity. Each generation has embraced and altered the style of swing dancing. Characterized by a side step or triple step followed by a rock step, the Swing Dance is a carefree style of ballroom dancing performed to upbeat and lively music.


The Jive incorporates elements of the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop and is an international competitive type of swing dance. Danced to up-tempo music, the Jive is performed with triple steps, which are done primarily on the toes.


The national dance of Brazil, the Samba started as an exhibition dance in Paris in 1905. Movie star and singer Carmen Miranda is recognized for introducing the Samba to the United States in the 1940s. The Samba is a smooth dance with rolling and relaxed movements that are meant to look effortless.


The Mambo is an exciting fusion of Cuban and American ballroom dancing. Danced to wild and high-energy music, the Mambo is an earthy dance that incorporates rhythmical body movements.


With the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba, the Bolero is thought to have its origins with Spanish or Cuban folk dancers. A slow, sensual, romantic dance, the Bolero incorporates long sweeping side steps and the use of rise and fall. The dance is very dramatic while still maintaining a degree of softness.

Paso Doble

Originating in Spain, the Paso Doble was inspired by the movements of matadors during bullfights. In the Paso Doble, the man plays the role of the matador and is the central focus more than in any other type of ballroom dancing. The woman plays the role of the cape or the bull, depending on the choreography. The music and technique makes the Paso Doble a very dramatic dance.

Ballroom Dancing Competitions

Ballroom dancing competitions are available around the world for dancers at every skill level. The most prestigious ballroom dancing competitions are the US Open Swing Dance Championships, United States Dance Championships, and the International Ballroom Dancing Championships. Ballroom dancing competitions are offered in every style of ballroom dancing and for every skill level.

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