Ballroom,. Latin & Sequence Dancing
Dancing is for Life . . . Life is for Dancing . . .
The Standard Ballroom Dances
The five "Standard" Ballroom Dances are Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango and Viennese Waltz, just as you see currently in the various Dancing Programmes
on Television worldwide.
The Waltz is a form of music in 3/4 meter or time. The first beat of each bar or measure is dominant with a strong downbeat accent, while beats two and three are
lighter. Waltz music is slow, sweet, melodic and fluid, often orchestral music, mostly lacking in heavy percussion or drums, relying on the melodic instruments to carry
the rhythmic progression. The music can be vocal or instrumental.
The Waltz is a smooth progressive dance characterized by long, flowing movements, continuous turns,
and rise & fall. Graceful and elegant, Waltz dancers seem to glide around the floor almost effortlessly. At 30-32 bars or
measures per minute, the tempo is slow, but the expressive quality of the music often invites graceful, yet powerful and
dynamic movement from dancers. Almost always played as the last dance for those romantics amongst us all!
The Quickstep developed during World War I in suburban New York, likely performed by
Carribean and African dancers. It eventually made its debut onto the stage of American music-hall and immediately became
popular in the ballrooms. Note that Foxtrot and Quickstep have a common origin. In the twenties many bands played the
slow-foxtrot too fast, which gave rise to many complaints. Eventually they developed into two different dances, with the
slow-foxtrot tempo slowed down and the Quickstep becoming clearly the fast version of Foxtrot, danced at 50 - 52 bars per minute tempo.
The Charleston had a deal of influence on the development of Quickstep. A bright, upbeat and often cheeky dance, the Quickstep
is danced at all levels from Social through to competition ballroom dancing.
The Slow Foxtrot
The Foxtrot was first introduced into the mainstream in 1913 by an American
named Harry Fox. It has since become one of the most popular and lasting dances of the twentieth century, but not before
going through many stylistic changes. Compared with today's standards, the original Foxtrot was moderately fast, simple and
unrefined, not unlike the music of the time. The popularity of the dance stemmed from its overall versatility and rhythmic
variation (Foxtrot is believed to be the first dance to introduce the "Slow" count, previously the popular dances such as
the Waltz and the One-Step used only a single-count rhythm). In the early 30´s Foxtrot began to take on a smoother and
more flowing quality in contrast to the new and exciting Latin dances hitting the scene.
A modified version called
the Slow Foxtrot was evolved in England, and is the technical basis for the version at around 30 bars per minute that we now have. This dance did not catch
on quickly in the social mainstream, however. The long, smooth, continuous movements did not lend themselves well to crowded
nightclub situations, and the many patterns required just to get around the floor took quite a bit of time and effort to
learn. The Foxtrot remains one of the hardest Ballroom dances to master, but perhaps the most elegant and delightful to watch.
The Tango was first danced in Europe before World War I, in 33 or 34 bars per minute tempo. It originates from Buenos Aires (Argentina)
where it was likely first danced in "La Barria de Las Ranas", the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name
of 'el Baile con Corte' (the dance with a rest). The "dandies" and dancers of Buenos Aires changed the dance in a
couple of ways. First they changed the so-called "Polka rhythm" into the "Habañera rhythm" and then
called it Tango.
From 1900 onwards several attempts were made to introduce the dance from Argentina into Paris, but
without success. Not only an exotic dance, but almost certainly a bit risqué from its background in the bordellos and
dance clubs of "ill repute", a sensuous creation of South America, Tango was not initially accepted by European society and the establishment. It was
still however, being danced in suburban areas and gaining more and more popularity. The breakthrough for the Tango came during
a dance competition on the French Riviera. The dance was so well presented there by a group of Tango enthusiasts that it gained
immediate recognition in Paris and then the rest of Europe quickly followed suit.
Many of the more formalised steps of the Ballroom Tango are based on those used in the original Argentinian Tango as shown here.
The Viennese Waltz
The Viennese Waltz remains in the
Ballroom section, but is now mainly danced at competition level. It is less free and more structured than the other dances,
by comparison having a more limited selection of steps and groups to learn, but danced at a much faster tempo [56 to 60
bars per minute], and so requires both technique and stamina to master. Often used completely out of historical context in
costume drama by Hollywood, but nevertheless, an attractive and colourful dance. Similar steps occur in various circle waltzes
worldwide, pointing to a common origin. Interestingly, the waltz was originally regarded in the same manner as the tango, being
the first dance where partners danced in the closed position with their arms around each other, and thus sure to lead to all
forms of sin and debauchery! [Have things changed much?]
The Standard Dances used in ballroom dancing are also used as bases
for Modern Sequence dancing.
Click here for more information about Classical and
Modern Sequence dancing generally.