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Latin American dances are danced to a Latin American beat. "Latin"
is the term for the International Style, "Rhythm" is the term for
the American Style. You may hear the terms Standard, Modern and
Smooth in relation to the Ballroom dances and wonder how they
differ. They all represent the dances with the man holding the
lady in his arms and moving around the floor. The term
"Standard" has replaced "Modern" as the name for the International
Style dances. "Smooth" is the term used for dancing in the
The step lists (also called the syllabus) in American Style are
traditionally longer, while in International Style they are shorter.
- International Style Standard
- Slow Waltz: Danced in European courts in the mid 1700s, the romantic
Slow Waltz is an offspring of the faster Viennese Waltz in 3/4 time.
The rhythm was gradually slowed down over time as songwriters of
ballads and love songs chose to compose in a slower and more
comfortable tempo. This dance has continued to rise in popularity at
anniversaries, graduations, and weddings.
- Tango: The Tango originated in the bordellos of Buenos Aires,
Argentina, and is done in a slightly different manner than other
dances. The hold is very different, with the lady's arm under the
man's, which creates a tighter hold for a quick staccato action and
stylized poses. (Not to be confused with Argentine Tango.)
- Viennese Waltz: The Viennese Waltz is a fast Waltz which originated
in Austria. Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss wrote the first waltzes
in the early 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, the
German, Paul Krebs choreographed the Viennese Waltz style to which
we dance today. The dance enjoyed a great deal of popularity not
only in Europe, but also in America, and has been used in many
- Foxtrot: The Foxtrot is one of the most
deceiving dances. It looks very easy, but is one of the most
difficult dances to do. The dance originated in 1913 when a
vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox performed a little
trot which appealed to the social dance teachers in New York and
thus the Foxtrot was born. It has gone through many changes since
that time, and is now comprised of more soft and fluid linear
- Quickstep: As the name implies, the Quickstep is a very quick and
lively dance, comprised of hops, skips and kicks. The dance began as
a quick version of Foxtrot mixed with the Charleston, and musical
- International Style Latin
- Cha Cha: During the 1950s, the Cha Cha was made famous by many
Latino bands such as Xavier Cugat and Perz Prado. Cuban in origin,
the Cha Cha rhythm is found in much of today's popular music.
- Samba: The Samba originated in Brazil and, unlike the other Latin
dances that are stationary, it has a traveling action around the
floor with lots of spins and controlled bounces.
- Rumba: The Rumba is Cuban in origin and is often referred to as
the "dance of love". Sultry and romantic, the music is a mixture of
African and Latin rhythms.
- Paso Doble: The Paso Doble is a theatrical Spanish dance that
characterizes the man as the matador and the lady as his cape. Based
on Flamenco dancing, the character of the dance is arrogant and
- Jive: The Jive is a very fast, acrobatic, lively dance made
popular during World War II by the swing music of Benny Goodman,
Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller.
- American Style Smooth
- Foxtrot: The Foxtrot remains the most popular social dance in the
world today. Little did Harry Fox realize that his trotting on a New
York stage in 1913 would become an overnight success. The Foxtrot is
the foundation for many of the social dances that followed. It is
enjoyed by all age groups for its ease of movement and smooth style.
Foxtrot music is played by most social dance orchestras and is one
of the easiest dances to learn in the American Style.
- Watlz: The Waltz appeared as a fashionable dance in Bohemia,
Austria, Bavaria and other parts of Europe in the late 1700's.
Danced in 3/4 timing, the recurring, even beats of music send the
dancers whirling around the floor enjoying the thrill of the Waltz
- Tango: The American Style Tango is progressive, moving along the
line of dance using body movement. A staccato movement of the feet
and flexed knees highlight the dramatic style of the Tango.
- Viennese Waltz: This dance originated in Mid-Europe some 400 years
ago. The music is fast in tempo and sends the couples whirling
around the floor--first one way and then the other.
- Peabody: A fast Foxtrot during which the dancers may use many quick
steps set against the figure called "open box." It was popular in
the larger ballrooms where dance space was not a problem.
- American Style Rhythm
- Cha Cha: An exciting, syncopated, Latin dance, which originated in
the 1950s as a slowed down Mambo, the Cha Cha gathers its
personality, character, rhythm, basis, and charm from two major
dance sources. It is a derivation of the Mambo through its Latin
music, and it is also a stepchild of the Swing, as it is danced to a
1-2-3 step rhythm. The Cha Cha gets its name and character from its
distinct repetitive foot rhythm.
- Rumba: The Rumba was originally a court-ship, marriage, and street
dance that was African in origin. The Rumba met some opposition
from society's upper crust because of the suggestive body and hip
movements. The characteristic feature is to take each step with-out
initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a
slightly bent knee which, when straightened causes the hips to sway
from side to side, in what has come to be known as "Cuban Motion."
- Samba: The Samba is a lively Brazilian dance which was first
introduced in 1917 and was finally adopted as a ballroom dance by
Brazilian society in 1930. It is sometimes referred to as a Samba,
Carioca, a Baion or a Batucado. The difference is mainly in the
tempo, since the steps in all four dances are very similar. The
style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. They say that
the Samba was introduced in the United States in 1939 by the late
- Bolero: Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in
Cuba, initially into 2/4 time, then eventually into 4/4. It is now
presented as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. The music is
frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion
effect, usually using Congas or Bongos.
- Mambo: The spicy Mambo as we now know it grew out of the Danzon
(national music of Cuba), and grasped the imagination of the
American dance scene at the close of World War II. Later, fast
Swing-Jazz and upbeat Latin music joined in to form the updated and
uninhibited Mambo. The Mambo is a spot dance and the steps are
- Merengue: The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican
Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance. There is an old tale
about a very brave and famous military officer who was wounded in
battle and developed a limp. A celebration dance was given for the
great hero returning from the war. Rather than embarrass their hero,
who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present
favored their leg as well, & thus the Merengue was born.
- Bossa Nova: The music was born of a marriage of Brazilian rhythms
and American jazz. The dance, which is said to have originated at
Carnegie Hall in 1961, is based on the slower, more subtle Salon
Samba and features either type of Clave Beat or a jazz Samba in 4/4
- East Coast Swing: This dance is frequently referred to as Triple
Step swing due to the rhythm of the basic triple step. This dance
consists of six and eight count patterns, which require a rock step
back by both man and woman to begin. It is a circular dance that is
danced with a bounce and is very grounded and not high in the legs.
This bounce requires the dancer to stay very smooth and not jump
around much. East Coast swing is the base for all swing dances.
- West Coast Swing: This dance consists of six and eight count
patterns, which are done in a slot. The woman no longer rocks back
as in East Coast swing, but instead she always walks forward on
count one. This dance is usually done to medium tempo swing music,
frequently slower than East Coast swing. However, those who achieve
a high skill level in this dance can and do dance it to faster tempo
music. This dance has no bounce and a very smooth feel. Rarely will
you see high kicks or moves which require the dancer to leave the
- Jive: This dance is the European version of East Coast swing. Six
and eight count pat-terns make up this dance as in East Coast swing,
but it is quite bouncy with very sharp kicks and flicks. Unlike East
Coast swing, Jive is danced to faster tempo swing music and is meant
for competitive style dancing.
- Lindy Hop: This dance came about with the big band era and is danced
to fast tempo swing. All Lindy steps are eight count pat-terns done
in a circular fashion with a lot of kicks, flicks, hops, lifts, and
drops. It's been said that this dance gained its name from Charles
Lindbergh and his flight to the United States.
- Single Time Swing: Single Time Swing is East Coast except without
the triple step. It is basically taught to beginners in order to get
them dancing quickly. It is also done when the music is too fast for
the East Coast Swing.
- Jitterbug: Jitterbug is Single Time Swing. Single time Swing is East
Coast Swing except without the triple step. It is basically taught
to beginners in order to get them dancing quickly. It is also done
when the music is too fast for the East Coast Swing.
- Rock'n Roll: A popular form of Swing or Lindy Hop, Rock'n Roll
began as a dance done mostly by teenagers who were fans of artists
like Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
- Collegiate Shag and Balboa: Collegiate Shag and Balboa are light dances
which can travel quickly across a dance floor. Shag and Balboa steps
can easily be incorporated into your Lindy Hop. These are great
dances for fast music, and are often used to provide a rest period
during long up-tempo songs. If you've ever seen cartoons which show
dancers pressing their faces and torsos together while their feet
move madly underneath them that's Collegiate Shag.
- Shag: Not to be confused with the Carolina Shag, which is a slow,
laid back type of Swing. Shag became popular in the late 30s along
with the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. The dance was done to up-tempo
Swing or Foxtrot music, and was instantly recognizable by the
flicking of the feet backwards with a pronounced hopping action.
- St. Louis Shag: Fast and Flashy, the St. Louis Shag involves a lot
of kicking and is sure to be noticed on the dance floor! This dance
originated in St. Louis and is still danced there today. St. Louis
Shag is danced to very fast swing music (approximately 45-55
measures per minute) with the leader and follower in a side by side
position dancing the mirror opposite of one another. Fun and
Aerobic, everyone enjoys St. Louis Shag!
- Charleston: The Charleston is the dance we associate with the
flamboyant flapper of that era, however, Charleston had been around
long before then. There are accounts of people dancing the
Charleston in the South as early as 1900. Charleston became a
national dance craze when it was danced on Broadway in 1922, and it
remained popular until the Black bottom, a new dance to the same
music, hit the scene in 1926. Charleston can be done solo or with a
partner. Paul and Sharon's 20s Charleston video teaches the students
solo Charleston and some Black bottom steps that are arranged into a
fun, simple routine.
- Back Charleston: Back Charleston (sometimes referred to as Tandem
Charleston) is a dance position in Lindy Hop where the follower
stands in front of the leader with her back to him and both leader
and follower dance the basic Charleston step starting with the rock
step on the left foot. There are many moves and variations that can
be danced from this position. Back Charleston is such a popular part
of the Lindy Hop vocabulary that workshops are often devoted to it.
Paul & Sharon's Back Charleston video includes an entrance and exit
as well as many fun variations in the dance.
- OTHER DANCES
- Club Dancing: The best way to describe why we list these videos/DVDs
under club dancing is the style of the way it is danced. It can be
easily done in nightclubs, on smaller dance floors, or on a very
crowded dance floor.
- Nightclub Two-Step: Nightclub
Two-Step, not to be confused with country western two-step, is one of the most practical and
versatile social dances ever conceived. It is designed to be used
with contemporary soft rock ("Love Song") music. This type of music
is common just about everywhere, night-clubs, radio, etc. The rhythm
of the dance is very simple and rarely changes from the 1& 2 count.
This simple romantic dance fills a gap where no other ballroom dance
fits. It gives the dancer, either beginning or advanced, the
opportunity to express and create without a rigid technique being
required. It's attractive, romantic, and a real asset to learn since
it will be used often.
- Argentine Tango: The Argentine Tango is a beautiful, simple language
of improvisational social dance that has developed over the last
century in the City of Buenos Aires. It is a true dance of leading
and following. Argentine Tango, with it's dramatic character and use
of leg and foot actions, uses slower music and is more of a spot
dance, which makes it easier to dance on smaller floors.
- Salsa: The word Salsa means sauce, denoting a "hot" flavor, and is
best distinguished from other Latin music styles by defining it as
the New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians in New York.
The dance structure is largely associated with mambo type patterns
and has a particular feeling that is associated mainly with the
Clave and the Montuno.
- Hustle: The Hustle (Disco) is a member of the Swing family, and is
like the West Coast Swing in pattern. It has a distinct flavor,
utilizing Disco style music & revived partner style among nightclub
dancers in the 70s. Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance
music of the last 20 years. It is a fast, smooth dance, with the
lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close
and sends her away.