Short Descriptions/History of Selected Ballroom Dances
Smooth and Standard Dances
The Foxtrot is a smooth and gliding dance in 4/4 time with combinations of slow and quick steps. It was originally known as Fox’s Trot, named for its originator, Henry Fox, a vaudeville performer in New York in 1914. Socially, it was first danced at “Jardin de Danse”, a dance hall located on the roof of the New York Theater that same summer. There it was noticed by a famous ballroom dance couple, Irene and Vernon Castle, who further refined the steps. Years later these steps were standardized by the legendary Arthur Murray. Foxtrot is usually danced to music that is similar to Big Band Swing music, though with a narrower range of (more slow) tempos. It is an easy dance for beginners to learn, and also has a great many variations for the serious student.
The American Tango originated in Latin American and is danced to music in 2/4 time. It contains gliding steps punctuated by sudden turns and pauses. Unlike in its International counterpart, couples dancing the American Tango may break dance hold to execute spins, turns and other figures. This highly stylized dance should be danced in a very dramatic fashion.
In addition to basic steps in closed dance position, American Style Waltz is characterized by turns and spins with the couple often breaking contact completely. This is in contrast to International Standard Waltz where the couple never breaks their closed dance position. Waltz is traditionally considered to be the most romantic of all ballroom dances, and all waltzes are danced to music with three counts to a measure, and are full of large, flowing movements best suited to a large dance floor. Waltz is a very easy dance to learn, and can be danced around an entire dance floor with only one basic step pattern.
Tango originated in Argentina; but when the dance traveled to Europe and The United States, it changed considerably. Both American and International Tango are danced to the same music when danced socially. International Tango is a “Standard” dance, though has no rise and fall, nor sway. Instead, it is full of contra-body staccato movement. It is the Tango seen on shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” and exhibits lots of sharp snaps and turns. It can be a very dramatic dance, and is a lot of fun to learn.
Quickstep originated in England, and is an International Style competition dance; however, it is regularly taught in the United States and danced as an American Social Dance. Like all international standard dances, the step patterns are all danced in closed ballroom dance hold. The current step list was established in the 1920’s, and though it is often referred to as a quick foxtrot due to its quick tempo that was derived from ragtime jazz music, it has step patterns that are actually more similar to those of the Waltz. Of all of the ballroom dances, none express the joy of dancing more than the Quickstep!