What Are The Different Dances?

The Standard Ballroom Dances

These are the standard ballroom dances that are recognized, taught, and danced the same way around the world. The terms "Standard" and "Ballroom" refer to these dances and this style of dance. All of the standard ballroom dances progress consistently in difficulty from the beginning level to the advanced level, with the basic figures still used and danced at the advanced level. The Standard Ballroom dances are recommended for all dancers.

Waltz

The Standard Waltz, sometimes referred to as the English Waltz, is a slow and elegant dance characterized by rise and fall, swing, and beautiful turns. The Standard Waltz is both a competition dance and social dance, and is the type of Waltz best suited for social dancing. The tempo of Standard Waltz music is 28-30 BPM.

Tango

The Standard Tango is a very deliberate, aggressive, cat like dance. It has flashy head movements and quick turns. The Standard Tango is both a competition dance and a social dance and is the type of Tango best suited for social dancing. The tempo of Standard Tango music is 31-33 BPM.

Viennese Waltz

The Viennese Waltz is known for its graceful turns across the floor. Because of the speed of this dance it is not as complicated as the slower Standard or English Waltz. The Viennese Waltz is both a competition dance and a social dance and is the type of Viennese Waltz best suited for social dancing. The tempo of Viennese Waltz music is 58-60 BPM.

Foxtrot

The Standard Foxtrot, or Slow Foxtrot, is often thought of as the most difficult dance to do properly. It is characterized by very smooth long strides that make the couple appear as if they are floating on air. The long walking movements involve a subtle rise & fall action, accompanied by leg and body swing. Turning movements are similar to Waltz, but with a more moderate rise and fall, and more length-wise action. The Standard Foxtrot is both a competition dance and a social dance and is the type of Foxtrot best suited for serious social dancers. The tempo of Standard Foxtrot music is 28-30 BPM.

Quickstep

The Quickstep is the fastest of the ballroom dances. It is known for lots of hops, skips, jumps, and fast footwork. The Quickstep is both a social dance and a competition dance. The tempo of Quickstep music is 50-52 BPM.


The Latin Dances

These are the standard Latin dances that are recognized, taught, and danced the same way around the world. The term "Latin" refers to these dances and this style of dance. All of the standard Latin dances progress consistently in difficulty from the beginning level to the advanced level, with the basic figures still used and danced at the advanced level. The Latin dances are recommended for all dancers.

Cha Cha

Cha Cha is a rhythmical Latin dance which started out as a modified form of Mambo. It's fun, energetic, sexy, and flirtatious. It is easily distinguished from other dances by its unique timing. The Cha Cha is both a social dance and a competition dance. The tempo of Cha Cha music is 30-32 BPM.

Samba

Samba is a very rhythmical dance where the rhythm of the music is expressed in the whole body, rather than just in the feet and the hips. The Samba is both a social dance and a competition dance. The tempo of Samba music is 48-52 BPM.

Rumba

The Rumba is both a social dance and a competition dance. The tempo of Rumba music is 25-27 BPM.

Paso Doble

The Paso Doble is primarily danced in competitions with lots of showy movements and flashy arms. Although the beginning level figures are quite simple and are appropriate for social dancing, it is only danced as a social dance in a few places. The tempo of Paso Doble music is 60-62 BPM.

Jive

The Jive is primarily a competition dance that somewhat resembles East Coast Swing. It has a Latin leg action that is quite different from the East Coast Swing. Although the Jive is an excellent social dance, what you normally see on the social dance floor is East Coast Swing. The tempo of Jive music is 42-46 BPM.


The Smooth Dances

These are the American style dances that are primarily danced in the United States. The syllabus and mechanics of these dances vary from region to region which is why these dances are rarely danced socially above the beginning level. The term "Smooth" refers to these dances and this style of dance. The Tango and the Viennese Waltz progress consistently in difficulty from the beginning level to the advanced level, with most of the basic figures still used and danced at the advanced level. However, the Waltz, and especially the Foxtrot, change radically after the beginning level. The change is so dramatic that the beginning level of Foxtrot and Waltz are completely different dances when compared to the intermediate and advanced levels of these dances.

Waltz

The American Waltz is a slow dance characterized by rise and fall. At the beginning level it is similar to, and in many cases exactly the same as, the Standard Waltz. At the intermediate and advanced levels, many of the figures more closely resemble the Foxtrot, although the technique and character are still like the Standard Waltz. The American Waltz uses many of the figures from the Standard Waltz, and also has figures where the man and woman dance apart from each other. The tempo of American Waltz music is 28-30 BPM. At the intermediate and advanced levels, the American Waltz is primarily danced in shows and competitions and is not well suited for social dancing.

Tango

The American Tango is similar to the Standard Tango but is a bit smoother and also has movements where the man and woman dance apart from each other. The tempo of American Tango music is 30-32 BPM. At the intermediate and advanced levels, the American Tango is primarily danced in shows and competitions and is not well suited for social dancing.

Viennese Waltz

The American Viennese Waltz is very similar to the Standard Viennese Waltz, but also has movements where the man and woman dance apart from each other. These open movements require a slower tempo of music. The tempo of American Viennese Waltz music is 54 BPM. The American Viennese Waltz is primarily danced in shows and competitions and is not well suited for social dancing.

Foxtrot

At the beginning level, the American Foxtrot is an easy to learn dance that is essentially walking with rhythm. This dance is also known as "Rhythm Foxtrot", or "The Rhythm Dance". At the intermediate and advanced level, the American Foxtrot is similar to, and in many cases, exactly the same as, the Standard Foxtrot. It uses many of the same figures from the Standard Foxtrot, and also has figures where the man and the woman dance apart from each other. The tempo of American Foxtrot music is 30-34 BPM. At the intermediate and advanced levels the American Foxtrot is primarily danced in shows and competitions and is not well suited for social dancing.


The Rhythm Dances

These are the American style dances that are primarily danced in the United States. The syllabus and mechanics of these dances vary from region to region which is why these dances are rarely danced socially above the beginning level. The term "Rhythm" refers to these dances and this style of dance. All of the rhythm dances progress consistently in difficulty from the beginning level to the advanced level, with most of the basic figures still used and danced at the advanced level. The distinction between American Rhythm and International Latin is becoming less pronounced, with the trend being toward the International style.

Cha Cha

American Cha Cha is similar to the Latin Cha Cha. It has the same timing, and many of the same figures. It uses a delayed hip action rather than direct hip action. The tempo of American Cha Cha music is 30-31 BPM.

Rumba

The American Rumba is similar to the Latin Rumba. It uses many of the same figures. There are two different versions of the timing used to dance the American Rumba, which can make it confusing if you have learned one version and your partner has learned the other. Like the American Cha Cha, it uses delayed hip action rather than direct hip action. The tempo of American Rumba music is 32-36 BPM.

Bolero

Often called the dance of love, Bolero is a very slow, sensual dance characterized by rise and fall, and slow flirtatious movements. Although similar in structure to Rumba, the style and timing of Bolero give it a look and feel all its own. The tempo of Bolero music is 24-26 BPM.

Swing

The American Swing is essentially a version of the Jive. The tempo of American Swing music is 34-36 BPM.

Mambo

Mambo is related to Cha Cha but has a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The tempo of Mambo music is 47-51 BPM.


Other Popular Specialty/Night Club/Street Dances

These dances are not considered ballroom dances but are popular with many ballroom dancers.

West Coast Swing

A very popular night club dance that is very well suited for crowded dance floors. The West Coast Swing is danced in a slot and allows for an enormous amount of improvisation by both partners. West Coast Swing is typically danced in "Swing Clubs" dedicated to West Coast Swing. It has also gained popularity in the Country venues and is probably the most popular partner dance in mainstream night clubs. The tempo of West Coast Swing music is 28-32 BPM.

Hustle

Hustle is a popular night club dance that is danced in a slot and is well suited for a crowded dance floor. It is characterized by lots of turns, rolling movements, and flashy arm styling. Hustle was a very popular dance in the 1970's and 1980's but it's place in the spotlight has been replaced by other trends. Hustle is still very popular in the night clubs because it can be danced in a compact space and fits much of the contemporary music. The tempo of Hustle music is 28-30 BPM.

Salsa

Salsa can be thought of as a club or street version of the Mambo that is danced with less of a frame, less technique, and different timing. Both the Mambo and the Salsa have a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music. The dances share many of the same moves. In Salsa, turns have become an important feature, so the overall look and feel are a bit different from those of Mambo. Salsa music and Mambo music are almost identical, although Salsa music sometimes sounds a bit more like Samba music, and Mambo music is a bit more rhythmical. Salsa is typically danced in "Salsa Clubs" or on specific "Salsa Nights" at regular night clubs. The tempo of Salsa music is 47-51 BPM.

Slow 2 Step

The Slow 2 Step is a soft and romantic dance that is danced to the slower sounding night club music. It has the characteristics of a ballroom dance but gets a lot of its figures from rumba, bolero, and samba. This dance is also known by many other names including "Ballroom 2 Step", "Disco 2 Step", "Night Club 2 Step", and perhaps others. The tempo of Slow 2 Step music is 35-41 BPM.

East Coast Swing

Single Time Swing, Triple Time Swing, Jitterbug, etc. are all versions of the East Coast Swing, which in turn is a variation of the Jive. Depending on the version of East Coast Swing, the tempo of East Coast Swing music can be from 34 to 45 BPM. East Coast Swing, or Jitterbug was very popular, but has recently dropped in popularity, mostly being replaced by the slower West Coast Swing.


Measuring The Tempo Of Dance Music

The tempo of Ballroom dance music is measured in Bars Per Minute (BPM). Sometimes this is referred to as Measures Per Minute (MPM). Since dancing is closely tied to the music, particularly measures and phrases, this is a much more meaningful representation of the speed of the music than something like beats per minute. For example, a 28 BPM Waltz and a 28 BPM Foxtrot are the same speed to the dancer, although in beats per minute they would be a less meaningful 84 and 112 respectively.