Latin and Ballroom Dances

In the United States, there are 16 different “social dances”. These are the dances that would be done to the music you are most likely to hear when you go out. However, most people do not learn all of them… Six of the dances make up approximately 90% of the music played at clubs and parties. At Champion Latin and Ballroom Dance Studio, during your introductory lessons, you will be introduced to these most popular dances so that you can determine which ones you like most and are interested in learning. Below are descriptions of some of that dances we teach. Don’t see what you are looking for? Give us a call for our full dance catalog.

 

Rhythm and Latin Dances

For competitive dancing, the Latin dance styles are grouped into two main categories: American Rhythm and International Latin. The American Rhythm style consists of five dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, and Mambo. The International Latin style also consists of five dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, Jive, Paso Doble, and Samba. When comparing the two styles, the most obvious difference is that they each have some unique dances. However, all of the dances in each style do differ from their counterparts in subtle ways, mostly having to do with technique. You will find competitive events in each style. Socially, the following dances fall under the category of Latin and/or rhythm:

 

Rumba

Characteristics

The distinctive hip movement introduced in the Rumba, called Cuban Motion, is one of the most important elements of this dance. Cuban Motion is essential in most Latin dances, and learning the Rumba is a prerequisite for good Latin dancing. The Rumba provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control.

 

History

The Rumba was at the beginning of the Cuban and Latin American dance crazes. Danced to music inspired by African rhythms and Spanish melodies, the Americanized Rumba was the basis for the Mambo and Cha Cha in the United States. Rumba dance rhythms have found their way into Country Western, Blues, Rock & Roll, and other popular forms of music.

 

Music

Rumba music is usually written in 4/4 time and may be played over a wide variety of tempos. Often in rumba music, there may be an underlying pulsation of “&1 &2 &3 &4.” The basic Rumba dance steps are counted Slow, Quick, Quick (SQQ). Rumba songs and artists include: And I Love Her – The Beetles, It’s Now or Never – Elvis Presley, Besame Mucho – Xavier Cugat, Neon Moon – Brooks and Dunn, and Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters.

 

Cha-cha

Characteristics

The Cha-Cha adds fun to your dancing through its syncopated steps and many open movements. When you can dance many interesting combinations with ease, you and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating Latin rhythms, which make this dance so fascinating. Triple steps (Chasse) and rock steps are the basic components of the Cha-Cha. Since the Cha-Cha is derived from the Rumba and Mambo, Cuban Motion is an important aspect of this dance. The energetic rhythm of the Cha-Cha encourages you to cut loose and let your personality show.

 

History

One of the most popular Latin dances in the U.S., the Cha-Cha began as a variation of the Mambo called triple Mambo. It was so easy and so much fun that it became the rage of the early 1950’s. Its infectious one-two, one-two-three rhythm demands that sitters become dancers. Everybody can learn the Cha Cha!

 

Music

Cha Cha music is written in 4/4 time and may be played over a wide range of tempos. Often in Cha Cha music, a rhythmical link can be heard between each measure resulting in an overall rhythm of 1, 2, 3, 4 & repeated over and over. Cha Cha songs and artists include: Oye Como Va – Tito Puente, Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White – Perez “Prez” Prado and His Orchestra, Black Magic Woman – Santana, Bang Bang – David Sanborn, and Jezebel – Ricky Martin.

 

Swing/East Coast Swing/Jitterbug

Characteristics

Perhaps the most uniquely American of all dances, the Swing brings forth a buoyant, carefree movement that is truly contagious. The Swing is a spot dance with a relaxed style that can be easily mastered by most people. The various speeds are excellent training for quick footwork and good leading & following, which will add comfort and ease in other rhythm dances. A side step or a triple step (shuffle), followed by a rock step, done to lively music is the fundamental pattern for this dance. After mastering the patterns, both men and women will find the Swing a fun and exciting dance to learn and practice.

 

History

The Lindy (Swing) picked up where the Charleston left off. It had “swing-outs”, “break-aways”, and “shine-steps”. With the birth of Swing music in the mid 1930s, the Lindy climbed the social ladder. In August of 1935 at the Palomar Ballroom, bandleader Benny Goodman played a Fletcher Henderson arrangement of “Stompin’ at the Savoy”. The rest, as they say, is history. The dance craze swept the nation, and depending on where you lived, it was the Jitterbug, the Lindy Hop, or the Swing. Since those days, each successive generation has discovered the fun of Swing. This most uniquely American dance is enjoyed all over the world.

 

Music

Swing, Jitterbug, Jive, Shag, Lindy Hop, etc., are normally written in 2/4 or 4/4 time with the musical accents occurring on the second, or second and fourth beats of a measure. Swing includes two general rhythms: Swing Rhythm – 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6 or its equivalent or Lindy Rhythm – 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 or its equivalent. Swing may be danced comfortably over a wide range of tempos. Swing songs and artists include: In The Mood – Glenn Miller, Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets, Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones, Jump and Jive An’ Wail – Louis Prima or the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

 

Merengue

Characteristics

Merengue is the simplest dance to learn. Its uncomplicated timing makes it easy to feel the music and adapt to any partner. It is the only Latin dance that combines one-step timing with Cuban Motion, therefore, it can help you develop Cuban Motion for all other Latin dances. Walking steps and side steps (chasse) are the basic components of Merengue. The march-type beat sharpens timing & coordination, and the proper use of the accent will develop a clearer interpretation of musical rhythm. With Cuban Motion and animated movements, the Merengue has a festive party appeal.

 

History

There are two schools of thought as to how this captivating dance began. One says it started as a peasant dance in the Dominican Republic by African Slaves. Another says a returning war hero, General Maringie, danced dragging an injured leg. Whatever its origin, the exciting rhythm of the Merengue inspires dancers all over the world to move to its intoxicating beat.

 

Music

Merengue music is written in 2/4, 4/4 or 6/8 time. The rhythmical accent will occur on the first beat of each measure. Merengue songs and artists include: Hot, Hot, Hot – Buster Poindexter, Jump in the Line – Harry Belafonte, Cuban Pete – Jim Carey.

 

Hustle

Characteristics

The Hustle originated in the 1970’s Disco Era and was popularized by John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Both the music and the dance swept the country like wildfire, and although the white suits and gold chains have faded away, the dance has stayed, giving us the fusion of Swing and Disco. Turns, spins, and wraps are the primary components of Hustle dance steps. The more accomplished dancers will use syncopated timing and fakes, along with elaborate arm styling. The Hustle is still one of the most popular nightclub dances across the country today.

 

History

Discotheques (Discos) with high quality sound systems and flashing lights became a popular form of entertainment in Europe and America in the late 1960s and throughout the 70s. In the early 1970s, a new dance craze became popular on the crowded dance floors of New York. This “Touch Disco” was called the Hustle. The Hustle marked a return to popular dances in which the couple danced touching each other. The popularity of modern and “retro” music with “disco” beats keeps Hustle dance steps exciting and full of energy for today.

 

Music

Disco Music is normally written in 2/4 or 4/4 time with a strong bass beat. The melody and beat are based on rhythm and blues and the accent on each of the bass beats makes the music hard to resist. Hustle songs and artists include: I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor, Last Dance – Donna Summer, and Believe – Cher.

 

West Coast Swing

Characteristics

West Coast Swing is a stylized Swing dance popular west of the Mississippi from Kansas to California. Danced to slow or medium tempo Swing or Disco music, it is characterized by slot movements, taps and shuffles, coaster steps, and push and pull action of the dancers. The West Coast Swing differs from other swing dances because of its distinctive “dancing in a slot” approach, where the lady’s movement takes her towards the man, not away, such as in a rock step. The sophisticated style and ease of movement makes this dance a popular favorite.

 

History

In the 1940s, with the wild abandonment of the Jitterbug being banned from dance halls due to too many injuries, Arthur Murray developed and documented several swing steps that he later called “Sophisticated Swing”… This was the beginning of what is now called West Coast Swing. Arthur Murray is credited with the first codifications of West Coast Swing and used such names as “Under Arm Pass, The Whip and The Sugar Push” to describe the patterns. The ladies taking “two walking steps forward” towards the man at the beginning of each pattern was standardized in his studios. In 1989, California selected the West Coast Swing as its state dance. Today, there are over 5,000 documented West Coast Swing step patterns and more are added every year.

 

Music

West Coast Swing can be danced to almost any music written in 4/4 time, from the Blues to Disco, Jazz, Pop, Country or Big Band. It is considered a “living dance” in that it is constantly evolving, growing and changing to the music styles currently in vogue. West Coast Swing songs and artists include: Addicted to Love – Robert Palmer, All Shook Up – Elvis Presley, Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin, Fever – Peggy Lee, and Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones.

 

Samba

Characteristics

Sometimes called the South American Waltz, the Samba pulsates to a unique Latin rhythm. The Samba’s rolling action improves the flexibility of the body and helps achieve easy movement and lightness. It teaches the body to be supple, to move lightly, quickly, and smoothly without effort. Walking steps and side steps are the basic components of the Samba, and the major characteristic of the Samba is the vertical bounce action…steps are taken using the ball of the foot. In the accomplished dancer, knee action along with body sway and “pendulum motion”, makes the Samba look effortless and carefree. Although considered a good exercise, Samba should be danced smoothly and in a relaxed manner giving the appearance of effortless movement.

 

History

This national dance of Brazil became the rage of its society in the 1930s, though it began as an exhibition dance in Paris in 1905. Movie star & singer Carmen Miranda is credited with making the dance popular in the U.S. in the early 1940s.

 

Music

Today’s Samba music is influenced by Jazz and Latin rhythms. It is written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The music is festive and fast paced, with a sound associated with Rio’s Carnival. The basic count is “Slow and Slow” or “1 & 2”. Samba songs and artists include: One Note Samba – Antonio Carlos Jobim, Macarena – Los Del Rio, Copacabana – Barry Manilow, and Quando, Quando, Quando – Engelbert Humperdinck.

 

Mambo

Characteristics

Mambo is an exciting dance which allows you to develop your own feeling and expression. Because Mambo is such a fun dance, good Mambo dancers are always popular and in demand as partners. The wild, exciting music and rhythmical body movements make the earthy Mambo irresistible.

 

History

Mambo is a fusion of Cuban and American dancing.

 

Music

Mambo music is characterized by a stirring Afro-Cuban beat.

 

Salsa

Characteristics

Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce” denoting a “spicy” and “hot” flavor to this popular dance style that is done to a complex mix of many different rhythms.

 

History

There are indications that the term Salsa was coined by radio disc jockeys in Puerto Rico as early as the 1960s. Later associated with a New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians, Salsa is considered the national music and dance of Puerto Rico.

 

Music

The fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz textures results in an aggressive, high-energy pulse which has become popular everywhere. Many of the patterns are closely related to those of the Mambo and Cha-Cha.

 

Bolero

Characteristics

The romantic Bolero is the slowest of the Latin dances. It combines controlled movement with dramatic expression of the music. It is now presented as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. The Bolero has some different characteristics from its Cuban relative the Rumba. Its long sweeping side steps and use of rise and fall create a softness that makes this dance unique among the Rhythm dances. The expanding and contracting dance position makes a very dramatic and romantic statement. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is a favorite of dancers as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance.

 

History

The Bolero has the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba, and is thought to have originated from Cuban or Spanish folk dances, such as Danzon and Beguine. Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba to 2/4 time and then eventually into 4/4 time.

 

Music

The Bolero is usually played in 4/4 time and its tempo is slower than that of the Rumba. While Rumba music is very rhythmical, the lyrical Bolero sounds more like a Latin Ballad. Bolero songs and artists include: Con Los Anos Que Me Quedan – Gloria Estefan, Perfidia – Nat King Cole, Sin Excusas Ni Rodeos – Julio Iglesias, From Here to Eternity – Frank Sinatra.

 

Smooth and Standard Dances

There are two main categories when talking about Standard Dancing – The International Standard and American Smooth. The International Standard style includes five dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. This style is danced widely in competitions, both in the United States and throughout the world. The most obvious trait of the International Standard style is the dancers’ constant closed position, where the two dance partners never lose contact. The Standard dances are also characterized by their very precise elements of technique: footwork, rise & fall, amounts of turn, etc. From this technique, emerges a unique elegance and beauty. Four of the Standard dances have their American-style counterparts. The American Smooth dances consist of: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz. In the American Smooth style, partners often separate from closed dance position, and dance apart from each other. American Smooth is quite popular at social dances, and is danced at major competition events across the United States. The ballroom dance steps in this expressive style are creative and can be extremely fun to dance and watch. The following are dances that fall under the category of standard and/or smooth:

 

Fox Trot

Characteristics

The Fox Trot is often called the “get-acquainted” or “first impression” dance. It is a basic dance from which you can acquire a foundation of Smooth dancing. Learning to combine dance steps easily and smoothly teaches variety and maneuverability. The Fox Trot posture is attractive in appearance and helpful inĀ all other dances. The basic components of Fox Trot are walking steps and side steps. Being able to dance to slow, medium, and fast tempos will add confidence to your dancing and will assure fun and relaxation for your partner.

 

History

In 1913, Harry Fox, a vaudeville comedian, introduced a trot to a ragtime song in the 1913 Ziegfeld Follies that pushed other trots into the background. It became America’s most popular dance and remains to this day the standard of social dances.

 

Music

Fox Trot music is written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The first and third beats are accented in 4/4 time. The range of Fox Trot tempos makes it possible to consider Foxtrot as though it were three dances: Slow Fox Trot, Medium Fox Trot, and Fast Fox Trot (also called Society Tempo). Crowded dance floors or night club conditions require that all three tempos be expressed with short steps. In larger ballrooms the slow Fox Trot is characterized by longer, smooth, gliding steps, demanding ease of movement and control in order to give this dance an unhurried appearance. Fox Trot has two major teaching rhythms: Magic Rhythm – Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick (SSQQ) and Box Rhythm – Slow, Quick, Quick (SQQ). Fox Trot songs and artists include: New York, New York – Frank Sinatra, My Baby Only Cares For Me – The Brian Setzer Orchestra, and It Had To Be You – Harry Connick Jr.

 

Waltz

Characteristics

Waltz develops balance and control. The basic Waltz steps are the foundation patterns used in most ballroom dances. The basic components of Waltz are walking steps and side steps. Rise and Fall, and Body Sway are some of the styling characteristics, which make the simplest Waltz patterns elegant and beautiful. Correct posture, rise and fall, and flowing movements should be stressed to achieve good styling. The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz gives dancers a chance to practice balance and to move lightly with ease.

 

History

Considered the mother of present day dances, the Waltz began in southern Germany in the seventeenth century. The popularity of the Waltz grew with the music of Johan Strauss and eventually blossomed in the 20th century. It is the basis for many dances and is popular today all over the world.

 

Music

The Waltz is written in 3/4 time and has a slow to medium tempo, with the musical accent occurring on the first beat of each measure. The basic count for Waltz is 1, 2, 3. Faster tempo Waltz is called Viennese Waltz. Waltz songs and artists include: Moon River – Andy Williams, Open Arms – Mariah Carey, Could I Have This Dance – Anne Murray, and Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley.

 

Tango

Characteristics

The Tango is one of the most beautiful of all the dances. Its earthy and dramatic movements characterize it. In order to achieve the distinctive style of Tango, it is important to develop controlled staccato footwork along with fluid, graceful movements. The hold in Tango is more compact than in other moving dances. The walk in Tango differs from walks in other dances in that it is a staccato action obtained by delaying the follow through of the free leg and foot. The unique rhythm of the music is great training for timing and phrasing, which develops as the dancer becomes more proficient. Tango practice is essential towards becoming a good dancer.

 

History

The Tango began in the West Indies and found its way to Argentina, where the Gauchos stylized it. It became the rage in 1921 after the silent screen star Rudolph Valentineo brought this romantic dance to millions in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. More recently, it has been danced in movies such as “True Lies” and “Scent of a Woman”. Today, the Tango is considered the “dancer’s dance” and becomes a favorite of all who learn it.

 

Music

Tango music is usually written in 2/4 or 4/4 timing. The first teaching rhythm in tango is slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Tango songs and artists include: Hernando’s Hideaway – from “The Pajama Game”, Whatever Lola Wants – from “Damn Yankees”, La Cumparsita – Julio Iglesias, and Por Una Cabeza – from “Scent of a Woman”.[/one_third_last]

 

Viennese Waltz

Characteristics

With such wonderful composers as Johan Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and others, the Waltz became more and more refined. The steps became smaller with the turns smoother and more compact. Adding the graceful lilt of the flowing skirts we have today’s Viennese Waltz. Sweeping turns that gracefully move around the floor characterize this dance. The Viennese Waltz is known for its rotational movement, which is simple and elegant.

 

History

The Waltz developed in Central Europe from the Austrian dance known as the Landler. The fast whirling of partners held as if in an embrace shocked polite society. The music of Johan Strauss and the famous ballrooms of Vienna popularized the faster version known as the Viennese Waltz.

 

Music

Viennese Waltz music has inspired people to dance for generations. Viennese Waltz is basically Waltz music played at a much quicker tempo. While slow Waltz is played at 28-36 measures per minute (MPM), Viennese Waltz is played at 50-60 MPM. It is usually played in 3/4 time, but some Viennese Waltz’s are written in 6/8 time. Viennese Waltz songs and artists include: Blue Danube – Johan Strauss, Kiss From A Rose – Seal, Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? – Bryan Adams, and That’s Amore – Dean Martin.