International Ballroom

Categories: Standard & Latin

International Ballroom emphasizes a close partner connection, avoids open positions, and focuses on elegant movements with limited flashy figures. 

International Ballroom, is a formal style of ballroom dance characterised by its emphasis on maintaining a close connection between partners throughout the dance. It evolved from the traditional English and European ballroom dance forms during the early 20th century. The standardised syllabus for International Ballroom includes five main dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. 

These dances are celebrated for their elegance, precise footwork, and graceful movements, with dancers revolving around a common centre. Popular around the world, International Ballroom is a favoured style in competitive ballroom dance circuits and is enjoyed by both amateur and professional dancers for its timeless beauty and sophistication

American Ballroom

Categories: Smooth & Rhythm

In contrast to International style, American Ballroom allows for more open positions, incorporates a wider range of moves including dips and tricks, and encourages creativity and individual style. These differences in partner connection, moves, and overall style give each style its unique charm and appeal to dancers and audiences alike.

American Ballroom, also known as American Smooth, is a dynamic style of ballroom dance that originated in the United States. It developed in the mid-20th century as a fusion of traditional ballroom dances and American popular dance styles. The main dances in American Ballroom are Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz. 

One of the distinguishing features of American Ballroom is the use of open positions, allowing for more creative freedom and showier moves like dips, tricks, and side-by-side patterns. This style of ballroom dance has gained popularity globally and is appreciated for its versatility, blending classic ballroom techniques with a touch of American flair, making it a favourite in both social dancing and competitive dance events.

Differences between International & American Ballroom
  • International Standard Slow Foxtrot is a bit slower than American Smooth Foxtrot
  • International Standard Viennese Waltz is a bit faster than American Smooth Viennese Waltz
  • Dances not part of the International Ballroom: Mambo, Bolero and East Coast Swing
  • Dances not part of the American Ballroom: Jive, Paso Doble, Samba, Quickstep

International Latin

International Latin is a captivating style of ballroom dance that originated in Latin America and gained popularity worldwide. It emerged in the mid-20th century as a more energetic and passionate counterpart to International Ballroom. The standardised syllabus includes five thrilling dances: Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive. International Latin showcases expressive hip movements, sharp footwork, and sensual body actions, making it an electrifying and fiery dance style. 

Dancers focus on maintaining a more open partner position, allowing for greater freedom of movement and dramatic choreography. The style’s vibrant music and dynamic routines have made International Latin a beloved choice for both competitive dancers and enthusiasts, attracting attention with its lively and rhythmic performances.

Cha Cha evolved in the 1950s from a version of Cuban Mambo called Chasse Mambo. Reportedly, it got its name from the sound of women’ s shoes shuffling across the floor. The Cha Cha is a playful,  fun and flirtatious dance known for its vibrant energy. Cha Cha is a non-progressive dance that emphasises Cuban Motion and rhythm expressed through the body. Tempo 30-32 bpm

Samba originated on Brazilian plantations, where African rhythms of slaves mixed with European music. Originally, the Samba music served as an oral history, and the dance was a solo art form with rapidly moving hips and quick transfers of weight, which is still the case in Brazil. However, in 1956, iIn the U.S., Samba evolved into a partner dance that was standardised as a ballroom dance. in 1956. In Brazil, however, Samba remains largely a solo dance form. 

Samba is an upbeat, lively dance that progresses counter-clockwise around the floor. It is characterised by its bounce and rolling hip action. Tempo 50-52 bpm

Rumba is a passionate and sensual  Latin American dance with Afro-Cuban origins.  

Rumba, is characterised by its slow and romantic movements, expressing love and desire through the dancers’ body language. Its ability to convey a range of emotions through graceful movements has earned Rumba a special place in the hearts of dancers and audiences alike, making it a popular choice for a wedding dance. Tempo 25-27 bpm

The Paso Doble is a theatrical Latin dance with Spanish and French origins. It is a dramatic dance that tells a story, inspired by bullfighting, through sharp, staccato movements, striking body poses, and flamenco style footwork. Tempo 60-62 bpm

Jive was first demonstrated by Cab Calloway in 1934 and became popular in US . It caught on in the United States in the 1940s. It’s a dance and was influenced by the Boogie, Rock & Roll, African/American Swing, and Lindy Hop. The name either comes from jive being a form of glib talk or from African dance terms. Jive became a generic term for swing in the United Kingdom.

Jive is a very happy, boppy, energetic dance, with plenty of knee-lifting, bending, and rocking of the hips. The fastest of the Latin Dances, Jive is not a travelling dance and it incorporates lots of kicks, and flicks and twirls., even twirling of the woman, and doesn’t move around the dance floor like other dances. Tempo 42-44 bpm

International Standard

The name Waltz comes from the Italian work “volver”, meaning to turn or revolve. It evolved from a German and Austrian peasant dance called the Landler, and it was the first widely popular dance to feature closed hold. The Waltz dominated much of the European and American dance scene until the First World War, when Tango and Foxtrot enraptured a whole new generation.

Waltz is characterised by rise & 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. Tempo 28-30 bpm

In 1912 tango was introduced to British audiences through the successful musical comedy The Sunshine Girl.  The dance then evolved from its original Argentine roots to a new codified version which became standardised in 1922. . The resulting style was referred to as English style, but eventually took on the name International style, becoming the competitive ballroom version still practised around the world.

Tango is a dramatic dance characterised by a close hold (that is more compact than the other dances in this category), a low centre of gravity and emphasis on Contra Body Movement. Movement in Tango is stealthy, almost cat-like and has an unmistakable staccato feel.  Tempo 31-33 bpm

In 1787, Waltz began to appear in 1787, on the operatic stages of Vienna. As the popularity of Waltz increased in Vienna, so did its tempo. ISometime in the early 1800’s, Austrian composers such as Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner increased the number of measures per minute in their Waltzes which meant that. 

The faster music required dancers to update their technique and increase their endurance. This new version of Waltz became known as Viennese Waltz, now characterised by its speed (approximately twice as fast as Waltz), as well a rise, & fall and sway. (both significantly less than in Waltz). With its elegance and turns, Viennese Waltz has an air of magic about it.  Tempo 58-60 bpm

The Foxtrot was developed in the United States in the 1920s and is thought to have been developed in African American nightclubs.. The foxtrot is often associated with the smooth dancing style of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It has become one of the most popular ballroom dances in history. When the Foxtrot travelled to England, the jumps and high jinks of the original were ironed out.

Key characteristics of the Foxtrot are smooth, gliding steps with controlled movement and an easygoing look. The rise and fall action of the foxtrot comes from the long walking movements made by the dancers and it combines quick with slow steps. Tempo 28-30 bpm

The Quickstep is English in origin and was standardised in 1927. It originally evolved from a combination of the Foxtrot, Charleston, Shag, Peabody and One Step. In the twenties many bands played the slow-Foxtrot too fast. This eventually developed a quick version of the Foxtrot called Quickstep and a slower version called Slow Foxtrot. 

The dance is believed to have  become popular in Britain as a way to keep warm indoors during the winter.

Quickstep is a dynamic, energetic rhythm with dancers moving lightly and freely on their feet. It is characterised by its sudden changes in direction, rapid-fire variations, unexpected syncopation, elegant, smooth, and glamorous. Tempo 50-52 bpm

American Rhythm

In traditional American rhythm style of the Cha Cha, the hips move through the alternating, bending and straightening of the knees. In the International Latin style of the Cha Cha, the leg that holds the weight of the dancer is almost always straight. The free leg will bend to allow a natural settling of the weighted leg. Tempo 30 bpm

The rhythm rumba is faster than latin rumba and some patterns are also different. American style rumba uses counts 1, 3, and 4 while international rumba uses counts 2, 3, and 4. The hip motion varies greatly. In the American style, the dancer steps onto a bent leg instead of  a straight leg. Tempo 32-36 bpm

Jive and East Coast Swing share the same history. In addition, E. C. Swing traces its roots to the original swing dance, Lindy Hop, created in the late 1920’s by African American youth in Harlem. E.C. Swing is danced to a slower tempo than the Jive and is distinguished by its bounce, back break and “swing” hip action. Energetic and fun dance with similar characteristics to jive, there’s less emphasis on the high knees and kicks, and  less syncopation. Tempo 34-36b bpm

Bolero was originally a Spanish dance with Moroccan roots and is often called the “Cuban Dance of Love”. It is believed that the dance has evolved from Afro-Cuban and Spanish folk dances such as the Danzon, Beguine and Fandango.It is a slow and dreamy romantic dance characterised by smooth, gliding movements, graceful turns, and dramatic arm styling. Bolero has a sensual Latin rhythm and uses elements from three dances: contra body movement from Tango; rise and fall from Waltz; and modified version of Cuban motion from Rumba. Tempo 24-26 bpm

Mambo originated from the Cuban dance Danzon and was greatly influenced by Cuban Haitians and American Jazz.  Around 1947, Mambo arrived in New York,quickly becoming all the rage. Mambo was taught at schools, resorts and nightclubs. Its popularity waned with the birth of the Cha Cha and regained popularity, due  to a dancer named Eddie Torres, as well as popular Mambo songs and movies.Mambo is a fast and spicy dance characterised by strong Cuban Motion, staccato movement,  expression of rhythm through the body, and exciting swivels and spins. Tempo 47-51 bpm

American Smooth

In this style we have more under arm turns and the lines created between dance partners are more open. Dips, turns and side-by-side moves are allowed and encouraged. The dance has more drama and expression. Tempo 28-30 bpm

Characteristics are the same as the International Standard Tango: Tango is a dramatic dance  performed in  a close hold , a low centre of gravity and emphasis on Contra Body Movement. Movement in Tango is stealthy, almost cat-like and has an unmistakable staccato feel. With the addition of the American Smooth open positions, under arm turns, open lines between partners, dips, side by side moves, drama, and expression.

Following the English standardisation of their version of tango, Arthur Murray, a ballroom dance instructor in the U.S., tried his own hand at standardising the ballroom dances for instruction in his chain of social dance schools. This looser social style was referred to as American style. Tempo 30-32 bpm

In this style we have an open position, under arm turns and the lines created between dance partners are more open. Dips, turns and side-by-side moves are allowed and encouraged. The dance has more drama and expression than the International style. Tempo 30-32 bpm

The Viennese Waltz  remains a rotational dance that moves around the outside of the floor but adds elements of American Smooth allowing you to introduce some flair into the dance. Dips, turns and side-by-side moves are allowed and encouraged. The dance has more drama and expression. Tempo 54 bpm

Club Dance is an umbrella term covering the dances that are not performed in “normal ” ballroom competitions but mostly in night clubs and dance halls.


Salsa is one of the most popular Latin dances that emerged in f Cuba during the late 19th and early years of the 20th century. This country’s rich musical history enabled many Latin dances to thrive, grow, and morph into new forms, leading to modern Salsa dance and Salsa music by the 1920s.

The contemporary Salsa as we know it evolved from several earlier Cuban dance forms, including Son, Son Montuno, Mamba, Cha Cha Cha, and was also enriched with Puerto Rican influences of dances Bomba and Plena. Salsa is a sexy, energetic, and fun partner dance. It has many fast turns, exciting footwork, rhythmic hip movements, and lively music.


The original social dance, bachata was created in the Dominican Republic during the 1960s and was danced only in a closed position. From the late 1990s, dancers in the Western world started creating novel dance forms inspired by bachata music which later included more open positions.

Bachata is a playful Latin dance danced with soft hip motions, turns and side-to-side footwork. The music of Bachata is very recognizable for its predominant use of the electric guitar combined with Caribbean and Latin musical influences.. It is now increasingly danced to faster music, adding more footwork, simple turns and rhythmic free-styling with alternation between close (romantic) and open position.


There are various stories of how West Coast Swing evolved from Lindy Hope. One is that people, tired of being kicked by wild Jitterbug dancers, began to dance in a slot. Another is that the end of the Big Band era forced dancers to move into blues clubs where they modified Lundy Hop to fit the smaller spaces and slower music. Others believe WCS was created in Hollywood by dancer Dean Collins, because dancing in a slot made for better camera angles. Whatever its true origins, WCS was born in California during the 1940’s and , now it is danced widely throughout the United States and Canada.

WCS is smooth (no bounce) and danced in a slot. The dance allows room for syncopated footwork and improvisation. WCS can be danced to a wide range of music including rhythm and blues, country western, funk , disco and pop.