Ballroom dance, in the most general sense, includes a
wide variety of dances and styles. A rich variety of dances and
styles fall under the generic designation of "ballroom dance."
Even one dance like waltz or cha cha can be danced in two
different styles — International and American. And while
different, they are alike in being expressive forms of art,
competitive tests of sport, and enjoyable recreation.
Here is an outline of some of the most popular dances, and a
brief description of the main categories and styles of ballroom
dance: International Standard, American Smooth, International
Latin, and American Rhythm.
The type of dancing traditionally referred to as
"ballroom" includes such dances as the waltz and
tango. More specifically, it consists of two main styles
— International Standard and American Smooth.
If you've ever watched
Championship ballroom dancing
on PBS (channel 11 in Chicago), then you've seen
International Standard. 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 (as
opposed to American Smooth style, where couples often
open up, and dance apart from each other). 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 listed above have their
The American Smooth dances
consist of: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and
In the American Smooth style, partners often separate
from closed dance position, and dance apart from each
other. This could be described as a more showy, 'Fred
Astaire' style. American Smooth is quite popular at
social dances, and is danced at major competition events
across the United States. This expressive style is
beautiful watch and fun to dance.
Like Standard and Smooth, the Latin dance styles are
grouped into two main categories: International Latin
and American rhythm.
The International Latin
style consists of five dances: Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba,
Paso Doble, and Jive.
The American style also consists of five dances:
Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero and
Again, the International style is the one you may have
seen on PBS's televised
"Championship Ballroom Dancing."
When comparing the two styles, International and
American, the most obvious difference is that they each
have a few unique dances. While jive and swing and
somewhat similar, both the Paso doble and the mambo are
strikingly unique. All the dances in one style do differ
from those of the other, including the cha cha and rumba,
in more subtle ways, which have to do with technique.
You'll find competitive events in each style. All of
these are danced to some of the most fascinating of
In addition to the more conventional ballroom and
Latin dances, other dances can be found in both social
events and some competitions, including salsa, hustle,
west coast swing, nightclub two-step, and others.