Types of Dances
Ballroom dancing is a man and a woman enjoying each other’s company on the dance floor, moving together to rhythmic, syncopated music, the man leading and the lady following, while in the midst of other couples also on the floor all at the same time. Some of the dances follow a “line of dance”, others remain in one spot.
The key elements that all ballroom dances share are:
- Music – a distinctive type of popular music with clearly recognizable beats, rhythm, and melodic phrasing.
- The character of each dance – the specific types of movement as responses to the unique feel of each type of dance rhythm, that the man and lady can both sympathetically respond to, whether it is Tango, Foxtrot, Swing, or any of the others.
- The hold (what the Argentineans call “the embrace”) – the specific way the man holds his partner to give her the best possible lead, and the way she accepts this “embrace” so as to allow her to follow.
- Balance – the use of good posture and poise along with the use of feet and legs that keeps the dancer moving from foot to foot in the most rhythmic, musical, and relaxed way.
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Danced to a syncopated rhythm, the Foxtrot uses slow and quick steps in various combinations. A slow to medium tempo in 4/4 time, with primary accents on 1 and 3, the music has a sophisticated rhythm, frequently playing on the 1, 4 and 7 half beats. The dance employs walking steps, closing steps, and either short, pulsing movements, or long gliding movements. It may be danced in a compact manner, barely travelling at all, or in a long, smooth arc of movements that travel around a dance floor. The dancer may decide for himself which style he prefers to use for any particular piece of music. The dance is done in closed position except in advanced forms of American style where an open position is also used. It is one of the most popular dances, often used as a first wedding dance.
The only dance in ¾ time ( counted 1, 2, 3) waltz has some of the most romantic music ever composed. A slow to medium tempo, the primary accent is on 1. In its basic form the dance employs a smooth, lilting body swing on 1, that produces a rise and fall of the two bodies, in unison with each other, culminating in a close of the feet on 3. The body swing and rise and fall are accompanied by body sway. The music and the movement of this dance make it one of the classic romantic ballroom dances, and a perennial favorite among dancers.
(See also Viennese Waltz, Vals or Tango Vals).
This is the name for the large family of dances such as East Coast and West Coast Swing, Lindy, Jive, etc. The music, typically in 4/4 time, ranges from Big Band to 50’s Rock and roll to Blues, Jump, and contemporary music. The most common form has accents on 2 and 4, with a triplet subdivision of the four beats. The dance employs figures in closed and in open position, with extensive use of underarm turns and spins. This energetic dance has been one of the most popular staples of every dancer’s repertoire since the time of WWII.
The most popular of current Latin dances, with music in 4/4 time. This music is in the same family as Mambo, Rumba, Cha Cha, Son. It is most closely related to Mambo music, but much of current Salsa does not emphasize a pronounced syncopation as Mambo does. The dance is typically danced with single or double hold (closed hold may also be used), with extensive underarm turns.
One of the earliest musical forms developed in Cuba, the Rumba is a seductive dance done to moderately slow music. It uses concise steps, sensuous body movement (called Cuban motion, or Latin motion). The music employs a definite rhythmic syncopation through the use of a range of rhythm instruments such as drums, sticks (claves), bells, rattles, gourds and the like. The most characteristic of these rhythms is that of the clave.
Developed from the Mambo, this is one the most popular Latin dances ever, with oodles of variations. The basic movement consists of a break (rock) on the 2d and 3d beats of the measure, and a chasse action on four-and-one (cha-cha-cha). The dance is light-hearted, teasing and playful.
Danced to 2/4 or 4/4 time, a slow tempo, and strong syncopation within the 2/4 meter. The dance may be done in a close hold (close embrace) or a more open position. In its Argentine form, it uses extensive improvisation by the man of both the figures and the rhythm, with the lady not only following these improvisations but also embellishing them with her own “adornments”. The dance has its own unique “atmosphere” of passion and romance.
Jive – see Swing
West Coast Swing – see Swing
Lindy – see Swing