Waltz – When the waltz was introduced into Britain in 1812 from Austria, it was met with much opposition and ridicule. It was not taken seriously until 1816, Emperor Alexander danced it at Almack’s. Eventually it became the most popular dance of the last 4 decades.
Foxtrot – Although the name was not recognised until just after the First World War, and the dance was not standardised until many years later, the idea behind it had been developing in America for quite a time, created in response to the ‘new beat’. It is thought that the ‘fox’ came into it through Harry Fox, a Vaudeville entertainer who trotted across the stage thus becoming Harry Fox’s Trot, shortened to foxtrot in later years. By 1910, New York was buzzing with excitement over a fantastic dance called the foxtrot.
Quickstep – The quickstep originated in America at around the turn of the 20th century, in response to the ‘new beat’, in the form of the one-step. As big bands became more popular, the music of the one step, with its lack of syncopation, gradually faded out. Then came the Charleston explosion, which left a vivid impression on dancers of the day. By the 1927 championships, the one-step had been replaced by the quick-time foxtrot, which soon became the quickstep.
Tango – The dance was born in the backstreet Bordello’s of Buenos Aires over 100 years ago. It was danced by single men and local prostitutes, creating the original sexual choreography. In 1910, Tango fever hit Paris, where more erotic features were smoothed out. Within a year or so ‘Tango Teas’ in London became popular, and during the 1920s, the steps were standardised into their present-day form.
Viennese Waltz – The Viennese waltz can be traced back to the Alpine folk dances of Austria and Germany. For hundreds of years, the dance existed in inns and taverns in a form where the couples rotated on the spot with close body contact often on tables. When the dance was urbanised in the late 18th and early 19th century into the great ballrooms of Vienna, the space and smooth floors brought about a transition from the previous hopping and stamping to smooth, gliding movements that has become world-famous.
Cha-Cha-Chá – The dance originally came from Cuba where it was developed into the triple mambo, gradually slower, more pronounced and clearer interpretation of the rhythm was evolved, called the cha-cha-chá. The dance almost speaks for itself through the music where the beat of the bongo drums and maracas seem to say: ‘step, step, cha, cha, cha’. Music arrangers are able to adapt many popular melodies into the cha-cha-chá rhythm creating its continuous
Jive – During the Second World War, when big band swing was at the height of its popularity, the American GIs brought us a new style of improvised dance called jitterbug. From this very popular style, and with the influence of rock and roll, which burst onto the unsuspecting world in 1954, our present-day jive has developed.
Rumba – The rumba is a generic term covering a variety of dances, from many sources. The main growth was in the 16th century, in Cuba, when African slaves were inspired by the walk of the cockerel. In this primitive form, it scandalised the whites, and so over the years became syncopated and more refined. The Spanish bolero was later incorporated into Cuban dancing, and became popular in American dance halls between 1920 and 1950 as the Cuban rumba. The rumba was officially recognised in its present-day form in
Modern Sequence Dances
Modern sequence is any modern ballroom or Latin dance that is constructed in a 16-bar repeatable sequence. Each dance is given a name and some have become very popular. Most people who dance modern sequence do so at ‘tea dances’ where it can become a status symbol to know the latest dance. In Britain, there are usually about 40 new dances produced each
Classical Sequence Dances
Classical sequence is different from modern sequence in that the dances are not the same as in the ballroom and Latin branches. Almost all the dances are constructed in a 16-bar repeatable sequence, but there are some exceptions, the most notable of which being the Latchford Schottische that is only 12 bars long.
Many classical sequence dances were constructed in the 1950s, although there are some much older ones and some newer ones. Much of the terminology is derived from French ballet terms. May dances also use 1st to 5th positions of the feet, which requires the feet to be turned out at an angle of 45 degrees from the alignment of the body.
Old-Time Waltzes – These are danced to faster that the modern waltz, and all use old-time waltzing rotations through 180 degrees every 3 steps, and is usually danced to 5th position.
Two-Steps – Two-steps are danced to a lively rhythm, and also use old-time waltzing. Most have pas de basque within their 16 bars. There is a feeling of bounce when dancing a two-step.
Tangos – Similar to modern ballroom tangos, tangos are not danced with such a strong staccato action and do not use the same figures. They do use a more compact close hold than the other dances, but the lady’s left hand is not placed in a normal tango position, rather, it is placed in a usual waltz position.
Samba – Originally this was a Brazilian carnival dance, whose name came from the dances performed by African slaves. It was introduced in a modified ballroom version at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and became popular in Europe after the Second World War.
Saunters – Saunters do not use old-time waltzing, instead they usually have a lot of walks, all danced with CBM (contra body movement). Saunters have a similar feeling to a modern foxtrot, but they are not alike in their figuration.
Blues – Originally a slower version of foxtrot, blues has now developed its own identity.
Swings – These aren’t anything to do with US swing, but are similar to quicksteps.
Gavottes – Also using old-time waltzing and a figure called pas de gavotte, they are danced quite slowly and sedately and have feeling of gentle elegance.
Mambo – Mambo enjoys a rich past, originating in the fertile mixture of Afro-Caribbean and Latin-American cultures found in Cuba. By the 1940s, a new sound was emerging with a mixture of Latin and heavy jazz influence, and the style was developed by Dámaso Pérez. By the 1945, mambo was the latest dance craze. The dance, named after voodoo priests, was originally condemned by the church but like any forbidden fruit, the mambo gained popularity and flourished. By the 1950s, Pérez Prado initiated the mambo’s popularity in the USA where it exploded onto the wider dance scene to become the lasting favourite it is today.
Salsa – Salsa is a generic term adopted in the 1970s to cover a diverse mixture of Latino music styles previously known as ‘son’: cha-cha-chá, pachanga, rumba, and mambo. This simple word made Latin music more marketable. Salsa the dance became a mixture of many previously recognised dances, being loosely based on mambo, but with a much more relaxed nature.
Merengue – The merengue has now established itself as one of the most popular Latin American dances. It comes from the Dominican Republic and the mood of the dance reflects the holiday atmosphere. It has a strong one-two rhythm so the steps are very easy and this results in many people being able to get up and just dance the merengue.