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All About Dance » Dance Descriptions » General Dance Descriptions

General Dance Descriptions

Date Published:
August 15, 2008

In general, Ballroom dancing is when two people dance together with one leading and the other one following.

There are two different styles of Ballroom dancing, International Style and American Style.

There is also "social dancing" with most everything done spontaneously and "competition dancing" with strictly choreographed routines, some of them with limited patterns from the syllabus catagories.

Ballroom dancing is also classified as either Ballroom, Standard or Smooth dances and Latin & American Dances or American Rhythm dances.


International Style is danced in closed position where the Lady's right hand is in the gentleman's left, her left hand is on his right shoulder, and his right hand is on her shoulder blade.

The International Ballroom Dances are:

* Waltz
* Slow Foxtrot
* Quickstep
* International Tango
* Viennese Waltz

The International Latin Dances are:

* Rumba
* Cha Cha
* Samba
* Paso Doble
* Jive


American Style is danced in both open and closed position. The dancers are free to release each other.

The American Style Smooth Dances are:

* Waltz
* Foxtrot
* Viennese Waltz
* American Tango

The American Style Rhythm Dances are:

* Rumba
* Cha Cha
* Bolero
* Mambo
* Samba
* Merengue
* West Coast Swing
* East Coast Swing


There are also partner dances which are mainly found in the clubs or special single dance venues.
Most of these have their origins in the Ballroom dances listed above.

These dances include:

* Salsa
* West Coast Swing
* Hustle
* Argentine Tango
* Two Step (Nighclub, Texas, etc.)


The five most popular Ballroom dances in the world are Foxtrot, Waltz, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Swing. A person skilled in these five dances can go anywhere in the world and find someone to dance with. Following is a little bit about each of these dances.


The Foxtrot originated in 1914 in New York City by Harry Fox. It is one of the most versatile of all the ballroom dances as it can be danced to a wide variety of music with varying tempos.

The foxtrot is a "walking" dance. The dancers express the music by movement across the floor.

The character is smooth and flowing.
The style or technique used is brush and follow through with the feet.
There are two timings: Slow - Quick - Quick and
Slow - Slow - Quick -Quick

Foxtrot shares many of the same steps with the Waltz.


The Waltz originated in the suburbs of Vienna and the Alpine region of Austria. By the Seventeeth Century it was danced in the Ballrooms of the Hapsburg Court in Germany. Today it is a popular dance at weddings and other social events.

The Waltz is also expressed by movement around the room.

The character is elegant, regal, and graceful.
The style or technique used is rise and fall.
The timing is: ONE - two - three
With the "one" being the downbeat

The basic Waltz step is the box step, a sequence of six steps which, if you were to draw a line connecting all six, would form a box.


American Rumba is a modified version of the "Son" a popular dance in middle class Cuba before World War II. It was introduced in this country in the 1920's and 1930's. It is slow and rhythmical.

The Rumba is a "spot dance". It is danced in one spot and is expressed through body movement.

The character is romantic and sexy.
The style or technique used is cuban motion of the hips.
The timing is: Slow - quick - quick

Many of the steps danced in the Waltz can be danced in the Rumba with Rumba timing, cuban motion, and Latin arm styling.


Cha Cha, originally known as Cha-Cha-Cha, has its origins in the Cuban Mambo. It gets its name from the distinctive syncopated triple step (cha cha cha) danced between 2 rock steps. It came to this country in the middle 1950's.

The Cha Cha is also a spot dance and is expressed though body animation.

The character is fun, flirty, playful
The style or technique used is cuban motion and syncopated steps.
In America, Cha Cha starts on the "two" beat.
The timing is: two - three - four - and - one

Cha Cha shares many of the same steps as Mambo or Salsa with the cha cha triple step thrown in.


There are many forms of swing. East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Lindy, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, etc. All of them originate in the 1920's with the Black community dancing Charleston and Lindy Hop to Jazz music.

Swing is also a spot dance.

The character is fast, fun, playful
The style or techique used is 1/2 time motion
There are 3 different timings used in swing:
Single time: Slow (1,2) Slow (3,4) Quick (5) Quick (6)
Double time: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6
Triple Time: 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5, 6

Swing steps are a combination of rock steps and triple steps.