Traditional Ballroom

Ballroom dance is a set of partner dances, which are enjoyed both socially and competitively around the world. Ballroom dance may refer, at its widest definition, to almost any type of partner dancing as recreation. The core elements of ballroom dancing include control and cohesiveness.

  • Foxtrot
  • Quickstep
  • Tango
  • Waltz
  • Viennese Waltz

Foxtrot

The story of the Foxtrot begins at the turn of the 20th century when African American musicians such as Scott Joplin began composing syncopated ragtime music. A smooth dance like the Waltz would not do for this fervent new music. One of the first dances to evolve for ragtime music was the Turkey Trot, a one-step that included flapping the arms like a Turkey. Then came the Monkey Dance, Horse Trot, Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug and Kangaroo Dip. Ragtime demanded dances with jerky steps, emulating the walk and the wild abandon of animals.

In 1914, a young dancer named Harry Fox did his version of trotting on the stage of the Ziegfield Follies. Fox's fast and jerky trot became the hot new thing in New York. When the Foxtrot traveled to England, the jumps and high jinx of the dance more reminiscent of the Waltz than of the Trot's hyperactive past. In fact, many of the Foxtrot's patterns have been adapted straight from the Waltz.

Dance Characteristics

Key characteristics of the Foxtrot are smooth, gliding steps with controlled movement and an easygoing look. The Foxtrot can be danced to many styles of music. These are the two styles of Foxtrot: social style may be danced with a mild bounce action, while competitive style has a smoother, more Waltz-like feeling.

 

Quickstep

Foxtrot and Quickstep have a common origin. In the late 1920s many bands played the slow-Foxtrot too fast. Eventually they developed into two different dances. The slow-Foxtrot tempo was slowed down and Quickstep became the fast version of the Foxtrot. The Charleston fever began in 1925 and the Quickstep was developed with the flavor of the dance. The English developed the Quickstep from the original Charleston as a progressive dance without kicks and mixed in the fast Foxtrot. They called this dance "the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston". The Quick time Foxtrot made its first appearance at the 'Star' Championships of 1927, the English couple Frank Ford and Molly Spain danced a version of the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston without the characteristic Charleston knee actions and made it a dance for two instead of a solo.

There was a debate as to why this dance became so popular in Britain. It has been thought that the Quickstep was Brit's answer to keeping warm indoors during the winter. It is a proven fact that the energy exerted while dancing a 60 second Quickstep is equivalent to running a mile in record time!!

This dance might be termed the "joy" dance of modern dancing. While the basic figures are quite simple, the tempo of the music and the whole character of the dance seem to invite a carefree interpretation of its bright rhythm. The beginner will find the basic steps easy to learn and easy to fit the music. The advanced dancer will discover that the music lends itself to an infinite variety of steps. The dancer who masters the fundamentals of the Quickstep will have command of a dance that can never grow stale, a dance that is unquestionably the most attractive expression of rhythm the world has ever known. The Quickstep is undoubtedly the most popular dance today.

Tango

Ballroom Tango was born in the slums od Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. Argentine gauchos and migrating blacks met and mixed in the infamous Barrio de las Ranas, trading cultural rhythms and dance steps in and around the area's well-known brothels. From this melting pot emerged a highly passionate dance, one that the respectable classes of society shunned. But as with the Waltz, there is nothing like controversy to make a dance triumph.

In the United States, Tango became all the rage right before the First World War. Vernon and Irene Castle made their fortune from Tango, becoming America's sweethearts of the dance. There was a flurry of Tango dance hall openings, and Tango teas became popular in big hotels. Couples even danced between courses at the finer restaurants. Rudolph Valentino did his part, performing a sensual Tango in the silent film 'Four Horseman of the Apocalypse." The dance varied greatly from performer to performer, and was eventually standardized in the 1920s by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

Dance Characteristics

Tango is a dramatic dance characterized by a close hold (that is more compact that the other smooth dance), a low center of gravity and an emphasis on Contra Body Movement. Movement in Tango is stealthy, almost cat-like and has an unmistakable staccato feel.

Waltz

Until the 18th century, dance was strictly divided between courtly and country forms. In the courts, dance like the Minuet were refined affairs with an elaborate language of bows and curtsies. There was little physical contact between dancers, and proper form, like turned-out feet, was considered essential. Everything changed with the Waltz.

The name Waltz comes from the Italian word "volver", meaning to turn or revolve. It evolved from a German and Austrian peasant dance called the Lander, and was the first wildly popular dance to feature a closed position. Because of this close hold, Waltz was denounced as scandalous and immoral.

The Waltz was ultimately standardized with the box pattern and the dance hold we know today. The Waltz dominated much of the European and American dance scene until the First World War, when the Tango and Foxtrot enraptured a whole new generation.

Dance Characteristics

Waltz is characterized by rise and fall and sway. The feet stay in contact with the floor, creating a smooth, gliding look. Waltz has an elegant gracefulness with a romantic and sometimes melancholy feel.

Viennese Waltz

In 1787, Waltz began to appear on the operatic stages of Vienna. As the popularity of Waltz increased in Vienna, so did its tempo. Sometimes in the early 1800's, Austrian composers such as Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner increased the number of measures per minute in their Waltzes. The faster music required dancers to have greater technique and endurance.

This new version of Waltz became known as Viennese Waltz. Like Waltz, many considered the dance to be immoral. In a book written about good manners by the English author, Miss Celbart, she advised that while it was permissible to dance Viennese Waltz if a lady were married, it was "too loose of character for maidens to perform." Despite such contentions, Viennese Waltz continued to be extremely popular in Europe and America until the First World War.

Dance Characteristics

Viennese Waltz is characterized by its speed (approximately twice as fast as Waltz), as well a rise and fall and sway (both significantly less than in Waltz). With its elegance and turns, Viennese Waltz has an air of magic about it.