The Waltz is often known as the Slow Waltz. When introduced to the United States in the mid 1800s the tempo was much faster but composers started writing music much slower. A new style evolved to fit the slower tempo called the Boston. During the 20th century this developed further with figures such as the Natural and Reverse turns and became the Waltz as we know it today.
Characteristics – The Waltz is a smooth, graceful and elegant progressive dance with a pendulum swing action, rise & fall and long, flowing movements with continuous turns.
Timing – 3/4 and at a tempo of 28-30 bars per minute.
The Foxtrot was introduced in Europe in 1913 by Harry Fox and is noted for being the first dance to use a “slow” taking 2 beats. The European teachers felt it had rather a wild character and came up with a modified version in the 1920s with a more flowing movement which became known as the Slow Foxtrot.
Characteristics – It is a linear dance characterised by smooth, long, gliding movements.
Timing – 4/4 and at a tempo of 29-30 bars per minute.
The Tango originated in the late 19th century in Buenos Aires when the area was filled with immigrants and transients from Europe and Africa. A new style of music came about formed from African beats, Indian rhythms and Latin influences. The new music was dubbed Tango and the dance became popular in brothels. When the Tango was introduced in Europe by the Argentine community in Paris, it was felt that the dance was too erotic and until 1907 was not accepted in London. The Ballroom Tango that is now danced has moved away from its origins but has a unique character totally different to the other ballroom dances.
Characteristics – It has staccato actions, sharpness and sudden stillness and is danced at one level rather than having rise and fall.
Timing – 2/4 and at a tempo of 31-32 bars per minute.
The Quickstep evolved in England in the 1920s from the Foxtrot. Many bands at this time played the Slow Foxtrot too fast and the long flowing steps could not be danced at this speed. The Quickstep developed which was a mix between the Foxtrot and the original Charleston.
Characteristics – Fast, fun.
Timing – 4/4 and at a tempo of 50-52 bars per minute.
The Viennese Waltz is the oldest of all the ballroom dances and evolved from a dance called the Ländler which was an Alpine folk dance. It emerged in the second half of the 18th century in Austria and moved from the countryside to the great ballrooms of Vienna. Johann Straus is the most well known of all composers for this dance with works such as the Blue Danube.
Characteristics – Fast travelling turns with smooth, sweeping, gliding movements.
Timing – 3/4 and at a tempo of 58 to 60 bars per minute.
Cha Cha Cha
The Cha Cha Cha is a Latin American dance that originated in Cuba and evolved from the Mambo. The name Cha Cha Cha is said to be a sound imitation of the “shoes” from dancing Cuban women.
Characteristics – Cheeky, fun dance with lots of hip action and syncopated timing.
Timing – 4/4 time and at a tempo of 31 bars per minute.
Although the roots of the Samba are in Africa, it developed in Brazil where it became the carnival dance. In 1925 the Samba came to Europe and developed in to a partner dance while retaining the festival character.
Characteristics – Fun, playful with different rhythms and a strong bounce action.
Timing – 2/4 time and at a tempo of 50 bars per minute. The dance progresses round the room.
The Rumba is a composite of several dances from Cuba such as the Cuban Son, Guaracha, Cuban Bolero which have their roots in the rhythms brought to America by African slaves. These dances have been altered by contact with other cultures. The “Square Rumba” developed in Europe and was danced on beats 1, 2 and 3. However after World War II monsieur Pierre and Doris Lavell travelled to South America and brought back the Cuban Rumba which is danced on beats 2, 3 and 4. This became the internationally accepted version we dance now.
Characteristics – seductive, sensual with lots of hip action produced by bending and straightening the legs. Steps are taken on beats 2, 3 and 4 with only the hips moving on beat 1.
Timing – 4/4 time and at a tempo of around 25 bars per minute.
The Paso Doble originated in Spain and tells the story of a Spanish bullfight. The male plays the part of the matador and the female plays the part of the matador’s cape being swirled to attract the bull.
Characteristics – Strong shaping and lines, drama. It is said to be the dance for the man as he should show strong shapes and movements danced with masculinity and pride.
Timing – 2/4 time and at a tempo of 60 bars per minute. Many Paso Doble songs are different versions of Espana Cani which has different phrasing to most but with breaks which highlight the drama of the dance.
The Jive developed in the 1940s in America and is a variation of the Jitterbug. During the war years the dance went underground due to its “Corrupting influence”. However, the American G.I’s brought the dance with them to Europe and after the Second World War it became a very popular dance. In 1968 the Jive became the fifth International Latin dance in competitions.
Characteristics – energetic, fast and fun with chasses, turns, flicks and with a pumping action at competition level.
Timing – 4/4 time and at a tempo of 42-44 bars per minute.