Almost anyone can learn the art of ballroom dancing which is primarily a set of partner dances enjoyed to the fullest both competitively and socially around the globe. Ballroom dance traditionally refers to five ‘International Standard’ and five ‘International Latin style dances. Both are different in terms of rhythm, technique and costumes but are similar in terms of control and cohesiveness. Both styles are regulated by the World Dance Council.
A variety of dance forms
In the United States and Canada, two more variations are included in Ballroom Dance, the American Smooth and American Rhythm. The dance technique is similar to the International styles although American Smooth permits open, closed and separated dance movements while International Ballroom only features closed dance positions. The West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, Hustle and Salsa are often included in ballroom dance. There are several dances either added or removed from ballroom repertoire, which is why there is no specific number of dance forms that can be termed as ballroom dance. Nevertheless, the waltz, swing, tango and salsa have always remained in the umbrella of ballroom dancing.
Types of ballroom dances
The term ballroom is derived from the Latin word ‘ballare’, which means ‘to dance’ while a ballroom is a large room designed to accommodate dances. It is no longer considered only for the privileged class but has in recent times elevated folk dances as well. The three main forms of ballroom dance are Social, Competitive and Exhibition. The main distinction between the three types is that they have different audiences. Social ballroom dance forms are the earliest from which today’s ballet and jazz dance have evolved. All three types of ballroom dance share similar historical roots, music and step vocabulary.
Closed-couple dancing or social ballroom dancing was the first type in the 19th century where ballroom dance specifically included the waltz and polka. The emphasis at the time was to enhance the pleasure of your dance partner and the audience. This was an era where genuine politeness and gentlemanliness were essential characteristics of ballroom dancers.
Exhibition ballroom dance
Exhibition ballroom dance followed at the end of the 19th century where performances were staged in cabarets and Vaudeville. Legendary dancers like Vernon and Irene Castle staged performances between 1912 and 1915 while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers stole the show two decades later. Competitive ballroom dance came next, which was the result of the Sequence Dancing movement in the working class suburbs of London. This was a time when the upper classes preferred freestyle dancing while the working class preferred sequence dancing and would hold weekly balls where dancers could compete against each other. Many feared that ballroom dancing would fade away but in recent times it has made an unprecedented comeback.