Dance is changing all the time, usually in subtle little ways such as new steps, & at other times into something
distinctively different. There is a well documented event when a couple, dancing in a Charleston competition,
performed some freaky new steps. Such was their impact, the new steps became an instant US craze
known as Lindy Hop, which within a short time led to the demise of Charleston. Shame !
Lastly on this page is a little bit of advice
that may help, particualrly if you're just starting out dancing ...
In common use, "ballroom dancing" refers collectively to 2 distinct classes of dancing, namely
Ballroom — Quickstep, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango
- plus Slow Rhythm (a useful learners' dance)
Latin — Jive, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble
At public dances, the styles are usually restricted to Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Jive, Cha Cha Cha, & Rumba. The other ballroom dance styles, & indeed many of the complicated steps and flashy introductions as seen on Strictly Come Dancing - these are mainly for display or competition level dancing. Definitely not the sort of dancing for a crowded dance floor !
The ballroom tuition market is split between dance schools, & independent dance teachers hiring halls. For recreational dance tuition, either approach is equally good, and this is an excellent way to get started. However, when it comes to the finer points of dancing, such as poise & footwork (as often commented upon by the 'Strictly' judges, but goes un-noticed by almost everyone else), this is normally taught by private tuition at dance schools.
Be aware that the jump from recreational dance tuition in classes, to personal tuition is quite large, therefore start by joining a class & decide later whether you want to invest in honing your skills. If you should make the transition, there is also the competition world to become involved in!
The modern meaning of this term applies mainly to ballroom style dances, where standardised steps are danced in a sequence, and repeated several times during a particular tune. Also, everyone on the dance floor dances the same steps in synchronisation, usually going anti-clockwise around the floor. Some of these routines have become especially popular, such as the “Mayfair Quickstep”, “Square Tango”, “Saunter Together” and even the “Mod Rock Barn Dance” (which is really a party dance), and are often encountered, to a lesser or greater extent, at ballroom dances. The term 50:50 aptly describing one common combination, although rarely accurate! Beyond this, there are Sequence Dance Clubs specialising entirely in Sequence Dance styles, where the attraction is learning some of the many new variations which are introduced every year.
Swing dance is based predominantly on Jazz music as played in the inter-war years. Styles include Charleston, Lindy-Hop, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Jitterbug, Balboa, Bal-Swing, Shag, & Shim Sham. Within any of these, regional styles abound, such as Hollywood style Lindy Hop, West Coast Lindy Hop, and Savoy style Lindy Hop.
Lindy-Hop was the most successful of all Swing dances, & has again recaptured that popularity. More recently, Balboa is gaining a strong following & is poised to become the next Swing Dance revival craze.
RockíníRoll began with the likes of Bill Hayley. According to our correspondent who was there at the time — “Rock'n'Roll was learned &lquo;on the hoof&rquo; by the rock n roll kids of the 1950's & 1960's”. The steps were made up as you went along, & dancers were always trying out variations that would fit in time with music — a lot of the best ones were created by accident, never ever taught, & became guarded secrets almost. The RockĎnĎRoll taught at ballroom classes today is really only "similar".
The above probably describes the initial evolution of all dance styles. What tends to happen is that as a dance matures, it becomes "standardised" for teaching to a much larger audience. For some curious reason, RockíníRoll has never been standardised to the same degree as most other dances.
Instead, there were two further evolutions. One of these is the highly standardised Jive as taught by Ballroom dance schools. Although many of the upper body movements are virtually identical to R'n'R, the footwork is more complex, requiring a slower tempo.
Modern Jive is the latest variation in the Swing/RnR/Jive evolution chain. It derives from a popular French style known as LeRoc, which is adapted to include slower modern disco music that would otherwise be unsuitable for earlier forms of Jive. In the UK, it is better known as Ceroc, which is a franchise. A distinguishing feature of Modern Jive, is that emphasis is placed on upper body movement patterns, leaving it for the dancer to sort out what to do with their feet !
The Ceroc franchise offers dancers a highly structured and well thought out dance experience. Most weekday events begin with a session on learner moves, in which frequent partner rotation is a key element. After a short break for freestyle, advanced dancers take an intermediate lesson, while helpers siphon off outright beginners for a recap session. The evening then concludes with freestyle, in which everyone (both ladies & gents) are encouraged to ask anyone they like for a dance.
Modern Jive / Ceroc is consequently well suited to beginners in a hurry.
Fundamentally Salsa is a Latin dance rhythm to which strong sensuous dance movements are attached.
As with Ceroc, although perhaps slightly less so, many venues operate to a franchise. Classes are again well structured with an emphasis on making things easy for the beginner.
Tango has many styles, but the best known are the highly standardised Ballroom Tango, & Argentine Tango which retains its original & spontaneous character with numerous style variations. For the purposes of this web site, we have included Ballroom Tango within the generic category of Ballroom Dance, leaving Argentine Tango as a distinct classification in its own right. This reflects the fact that Argentine Tango is taught & practiced by specialist groups, whereas Ballroom Tango is almost always taught & danced within the Ballroom dance fraternity.
The main distinguishing features of Line Dancing are that it's based on Country & Western music, danced in lines, & itís a singles dance. The latter makes it especially appealing for anyone without a partner. As during an evening, several different routines will be taught, and will be in different stages of development, it is normally easy for new joiners to start immediately.
Some Country & Western Clubs teach partner dancing, which is technically more challenging but very rewarding.
Again, many Line Dance evenings are structured with classes followed by general dancing, although due to the nature of the dance, freestyle is rarely admissible.
Flamenco is the vibrant, earthy song, music & dance of the Spanish Andalucian gypsies. The emphasis in Flamenco dance is on strong rhythmical footwork & expressive arm and hand movements, accompanied by live Flamenco guitar, cajon (percussion), song & palmas (rhythmical hand clapping), urged on by jaleo (shouts of encouragement).
[ article contributed ]
Belly dancing is one of the oldest dance styles in the world, ranging from traditional Egyptian to earthy folkloric style, Turkish, Lebanese, Moroccan, American Tribal and even a fusion of Greek & Spanish influences. The dance makes exceptional use of the whole body to create the dance - hips, stomach, chest, shoulders & head move in a series of isolations which then come together to form this wonderful dance. Principally danced by women for women there are also some great male belly dancers. The dance builds on a series on foundation moves with many variations to provide an exciting and constantly changing dance, using repetition to build muscle memory so the soft flowing moves become fluid & the faster staccato moves become sharper & more accented. See Links page for more sources of information.
[ article contributed ]
The terms Historical Dance or Early Dance refer to Western European dances from the past, e.g. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Regency, and Victorian dance. Mainly danced in a courtly setting. Further reading :-
capriolsociety.org & dhds.org.uk & WIKIPEDIA
Morris Dance is a distinctive "Early Dance" of English origin, popular in rural areas until it almost died out in the late 19th century. The dance was revived in the early 20th century as folklorists began to document the style from surviving members of 19th century village teams. After the 2nd World War there was a resurgence of interest, leading to various distinct regional styles and governing organisations. Although there are a surprisingly large number of Morris dance teams in East Anglia, many we have been unable to list because of insufficient information. Most Morris teams practise in the winter months and perform at various pubs and festivals during the summer. Further reading :- WIKIPEDIA — see also our Links page ...
The term "tempo" refers to the speed of the music. Technically, this is normally measured in "beats per minute" (BPM).
A slow Waltz for example, is usually played at 90 BPM, which most people would agree is the ideal speed. A Quickstep is normally played at 200 BPM, but opinions do vary as to whether this is the ideal speed, e.g. social dancers tend to prefer a slower speed, whereas on the Continent a Quickstep is often played faster.
Just as dance styles have evolved over time, also the tempos of dance styles have changed. In particular, among music and dance aficionados there have been many heated arguments as to the tempos used by the Big Bands of the 1940ís, versus what dancers have become accustomed to today.
For some dance genres, e.g. jive, the tempo defines what dance style fits best. Ballroom Jive is best between 168 & 176 BPM, but speed the same tune up to 190+ BPM & experienced dancers will switch to RockíníRoll. Modern Jive (Ceroc) is generally slower - down to as low as 110 BPM, whereas Swing dancers often make use of tempos way above 200 BPM.
NOTE: The speed of Ballroom dance music, is often described by an alternative measurement known as "bars per minute". Most ballroom dance music has 4 beats to a bar — thus a Quickstep at 200 beats per minute can alternatively be described as having a speed of 50 bars per minute. The exception is the Waltz, which has 3 beats to a bar — thus a slow Waltz at 90 beats per minute can alternatively be described as being 30 bars per minute.
The term "strict tempo", is often used in association with Ballroom Dancing, or even as another term for Ballroom Dancing, but could equally apply to other dance styles. In essence, the term means that throughout a particular tune, the rhythm conforms to a precise regular timing & beat pattern & beat emphasis as required by the dance style. The actual speed (i.e. tempo as defined above) is therefore only a part of what dancers imply when using the term "strict tempo".
What this means in practice is that the more predictable & emphatic the beat (i.e. strict tempo), the easier the music is to dance to.
Music does not have to be strict tempo in order to apply a given dance style, but requires a high level of technical dance skill in order to maintain the necessary level of synchronisation. This brilliantly choreographed Quickstep routine from "So You Think You Can Dance" takes some beating ĽĽ click here
Tea dances have become very popular. The term refers to afternoon dances held (if you are lucky enough) at the Waldorf Hotel, but otherwise at village halls & social clubs, etc. The dancing style is mostly a combination of Sequence & Ballroom.
Check events advertised as 'Ballroom Dance'
Where this term is used in the context of going to a dance (as distinct from a dance class), it is usually necessary to enquire the theme of the evening. Otherwise there is a danger of disappointment, as these days to find a classic 'all ballroom' dance is rare. If the dance is a regular event, then Sequence Dancing is likely to feature. If itís a special event, this is often themed such as 40's, in which case Swing may dominate at the expense of Latin.
The term "aerials" describes where the lady (or man) is lifted or thrown into the air. Most commonly it's encountered with Swing / RockíníRoll / Jive styles, as these are all part of the same dance evolution path. Obviously aerials are not for the faint hearted — or unskilled. In practice, they are rarely performed, and almost always in a controlled environment. Films (such as Malcolm X) exaggerate the use of aerials. So, although nice to watch, it's unlikely that the average dancer will get to do aerials — which is perhaps just as well, if the astonishing examples of Lindy Hop in the 'Videos' section are anything to go by ! (Oh to be young again …)
The term "Freestyle" can be taken to have two slightly different meanings, namely "general dancing" and/or "doing your own thing, in any order you fancy".
This issue of what order to do dance steps in is quite important in the tuition environment, as to simplify the learning process, the teacher will normally teach dance movements in a specified order. Indeed, with dances which circulate the floor such as the Waltz & Quickstep, steps are often organised to fit nicely into the width & length of the dance floor. Which is great, until you get to dance on a different shaped floor, or you dance on a crowded floor where people get in your way !
So what needs to happen is the development of skills to make quick decisions, & dance steps to suit the occasion. Sometimes referred to as Floorcraft in the Ballroom community — but known as Freestyle within the Swing, Modern Jive & Salsa communities, who make a point of encouraging this behaviour from the outset.
Leaders & Followers
This is another often-heard dance term, especially in Swing, Modern Jive & Salsa. It simply means the man leads & the lady follows. Not much else to be said, really!
Some General Advice
"but I have two left feet"
Forget it! One of the amazing things about dance, is that no matter what your level of competence, the enjoyment is much the same — as participants of Strictly will surely agree, especially the Nationís hero John Sergeant ! If you make mistakes, so what? Practice makes (a little more) perfect.
Which style of dance to choose ?
Probably the most useful advice on this subject is "donít have any pre-conceptions". Start by looking for something local & on a convenient day of the week; then just give it a try.
When can I start ? Also, Iím a beginner & donít have a partner !
Now this definitely could affect which class to attend. All classes have to make provision for beginners, but how this works in practice is extremely varied.
With Ballroom/Latin, a beginner's course typically runs for two or three terms, so timing is important. The way it usually works is that a new class will attract a number of couples & singles. Of the singles, there are usually more female, so some end up dancing together, unless there are "helpers" available. Once "coupled", it is usual to keep with the same partner, although some changing between singles takes place as people canít attend on some weeks or drop out. Certainly it is not critical to join on the first date of a new class, as there is a leeway of a month or two where late joiners can easily catch up.
At the other extreme, and to cite particular examples such as Salsa and Ceroc, it is usually possible to join at any time or within a few weeks as beginners' courses are short-lived & designed to be easy to engage with. The partner issue is resolved by having a large number of helpers, & rotating partners frequently throughout the evening. An obvious benefit is that this obviates the problem of having to get stuck with someone you donít fancy ! But seriously, the main purpose of rotation, is that it leads to a more relaxed atmosphere, & helps people adjust quickly, as strong and less skilled dancers mingle together.
Some dance styles such as Line Dancing donít need a partner, so this tends to simplify things, & is especially attractive for females. Usually one can join in straightaway, as during the evening the class works through a number of dance routines at different stages in the learning cycle.
In-between & beyond the situations described above, there is every conceivable variation, dictated in the main by the preference of the teacher. This is especially true for the issue of keeping with the same partner or rotating. The number of "helpers" available is also important. So, if a particular class is not to your liking for whatever reason, donít get despondent - just write it off to experience & try another.