Dance is one way to build a passion between two people and what an artistic way it is… When you dance with your partner, at the very moment you are in the world that consists of just the two of you. And for the outside world, you speak an unknown language, which is not audible, yet understandable at its beauty.
This article will mostly focus on the ballroom dance and the origins of this genre, as well as classification and short descriptions of the main ballroom dances. The name “ballroom” can be associated with a ball, where the main entertainment is, of course, dancing. However, the name comes from the Latin word ballare which means simply “to dance”.
You need two people to perform ballroom dance. One in the pair always leads the way, giving unspoken signals to the partner about the intentions of another step to take. The more you know your partner, the more fluent the dance is. It’s like reading each other’s minds and doing exactly what your partner think of without him/her saying it out loud. Having a passionate conversation where the looks and the bodies speak.
The modern form of ballroom dance bloomed its way in the 20th century when the privileged class started to practice partner dances on the famous balls or other dance parties. However, earlier in the past, the lower class was organizing dance parties, developing all different kinds of social dancing. Some sources prove then that the social dance in its first form came to the cities from the villages and peripheries. The social dance developed then to its more elegant form. The burst of ballroom dance is also connected with jazz gaining popularity in the ‘20s of the 20th century – a lot of dances, such as waltz or swing, were created to keep up with the rhythm of jazz music. Only after World War II, ballroom dance had a full room to take over the world and make its way to develop even more.
Ballroom dances are mainly divided into two groups of dances: Standard and Latin dances. The easiest way to distinguish both groups is to describe standard dances as relatively slower and more elegant, while Latin dances are faster and more energetic. When you watch the dance tournaments, you can also notice differences in outfit between two groups of dances. In standard dances, the outfit is more classy, men wear tailcoats and women longer, sometimes tighter, and sometimes princess-like dresses in calmer colors. In Latin dances, there is more freedom with the outfit, dresses are shorter, often finished effectively with fringes or feathers, and the colors of clothes of both partners are more vivid, sparkling with sequins and glitter.
So, we have two groups of dances and each group consists of five different dances. Standard dances are English and Viennese waltz, tango, quickstep, and foxtrot. Latin dances are samba, cha-cha, rhumba, jive, and pasodoble. This is the main categorization and all the above mentioned dances are included in the ballroom dance tournaments. There is a third group of dances existing, including dances like salsa, bachata, kizomba, merengue and many else. The world of dance is so rich, after all.
English waltz, also called slow waltz, comes from England and is connected with the Viennese waltz, from which it originates. For the first time performed in London, in 1910. English waltz is the first dance to open dance tournament in ballroom dance. The impression of the waltz could be a couple raising and falling slowly like a water wave. The story told by this dance is very romantic and innocent like first love. The music is dreamy and elegant, often sounds like coming from the old movies soundtrack or slow variations of jazz classics.
Viennese waltz is a faster type of waltz and a whole century older than English, as well as the oldest from all ballroom dances. First presented on the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and from the beginning having quite a stormy history. Since the dance requires partners to hold each other tightly and closely, it was considered inappropriate to perform in public. Nowadays, the thoughts on dancing the Viennese waltz may associate more with the snowflakes swirling in the air one around another. Depends on imagination. And just to think about the beauty of the waltz music, like Johan Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” or Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”.
Tango, is classified by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. It was developed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay in the late 19th century among people coming from the lower class. The history of tango is rich enough for a separate article and the lists of styles is long also. Every style of tango has something unique, but one thing they have all in common: tango is always fiery passionate. All the sweet and sorrowful moments of love can be expressed in just one dance – excitement, joy, passion, jealousy, and despair of one abandoned by a lover.
Another English originated dance is quickstep. There is a lot of running and joyful jumping happening in this dance, yet as much as it seems to be carefree and amusable, it’s still elegant and smooth. It looks like the dancing couple is all the time above the dancing floor.
Foxtrot is the older brother of quickstep, coming from America. It’s called “the most difficult walk in the world” and reminds a bit of moody weather. What is characteristic in foxtrot is that dancers change the pace from fast to slow.
From standard dance, we shall move to Latin and the first one to talk about is Brazilian samba, which has African origins. When you think of samba, you picture Carnaval in Rio, with dancers in colorful clothes, covered with fringes and feathers vibrating in the rhythm of the dance. Samba is a fast dance based on energetic moves of feet and hips. It seems to be a mating dance of newly met pair of people, trying to show everything the best to attract the other’s attention.
Vamos a Cuba! This is where cha cha comes from. Next to samba, this one is another dancing flirt. Fast and strong footwork engages hips – well, it should, if you dance it right. What is difficult in cha cha is bending and straightening the knees all the time.
Rhumba is called the dance of love. It’s a slow and sensual game between the partners, where the main topic is seduction. The origins come from African tribes in Cuba and date back to 1886 when slavery was put to an end. People who regained freedom moved to the peripheries of the towns and cities and created small communities called solares. From there started dance parties called rhumba, although today’s tournament version of rhumba is so much different than the dance performed by solares. The current rhumba was developed on the East Coast of the U.S., but in the music, we can still hear Afro-Cuban drums and rhythm.
Pasodoble comes from Spain and is a full of passion spectacle of corrida and flamenco in one. In this spectacle, one is always a matador and the other is matador’s cape or bull. The rhythm of the dance seems to be alike a marching parade.
Jive was created in America in the first decade of the 20th century and was first introduced to Europe by American soldiers over 30 years later. Known previously under the name jitterbug, where “jitter” means “to jump nervously”. Jive is a fast dance with characteristic movements of jumping and kicking. Sure you have to be in shape to jump and kick for few minutes.
It was just a few brief stories of dances, but you should not be brief on choosing which to dance – just try them all!