In the Ballroom dancing world there are so many different Ballroom dances that it’s hard to get an overall picture of all the different types of Ballroom dance styles that are out there.
While there are many Latin and Ballroom dances, most of them can fit in to at least one category or style. Depending on which part of the world you live in, the styles and dances may differ slightly, so keep that in mind.
Below we have included the most popular Ballroom dance styles in the following order: American Style, International Style, Latin nightclub style, Swing dances and other popular partner dances. Below you will find the specific dances that fall under each style with a brief description.This is a style that is mainly danced in the United states but it is gaining popularity in other parts of the world recently. It’s main purpose was to make social dancing easy to pick up. It is danced both socially and competitively just like the International style (below). The Ballroom dances that fall under this style are broken down into 2 more types: American Rhythm and American Smooth. Below you’ll find all the dances that fall under this style.
American Rhythm Dances & Characteristics:
This dance is a fun and cheeky dance with emphasize of quick, concise foot and leg actions. Beginner guide – Cha Cha dance steps
This dance has a sensual feeling with lots of hip and body action – referred to as “Cuban motion”. Beginner guide – Rumba dance steps
Swing (East Coast)
This dance has a very energetic feel to it with lots of turns and spins for both partners. Beginner guide – East Coast Swing dance steps
The Bolero is the slowest of the Rhythm dances and has a very graceful way of moving with rise and fall and lots of shaping.
This dance is fast with lots of body actions and ticks to accentuate the Latin music.
American Smooth Dances & Characteristics:
This dance is very slow and elegant. It’s main technique is rise and fall throughout. Beginner guide – How to Waltz dance
The foxtrot has a smooth gliding feeling across the floor with lots of passing of the feet. Beginner guide – Foxtrot steps for beginners
This dance is very dramatic dance with lots of sharp movements and mostly danced with bent knees the entire time. Tango Basic steps lesson
A quicker waltz that incorporates continuous turning around the floor.
This is a style that is danced all around the world. This style has very specific syllabus that dancers strive to master. It is danced both socially and competitively. Those that choose to study this style spend a lot of time working on the style and technique which is very strict and somewhat complex. The dances that fall under this style can be broken down into 2 more types: International Latin and International Standard.
International Latin dances & Characteristics:
The Cha Cha is one of the faster dances with lots of quick foot actions and sharp movements. Learn International Style Cha Cha
This partner dance mimics the Brazilian “Carnival” feeling and there is lot of “bounce” action created through knees and ankles. Learn International Style Samba
This is the slowest dance in the International Latin style and it’s sensual character is meant to emphasize hip and body actions. Learn International Style Rumba
This dance is very dramatic character and shaping – with the man and woman constantly challenging one another. Learn International Style Paso Doble
This is the quickest dance in this style and has lots of kicks. The idea is to show lots of energy and personality in this dance. Learn International Style Jive
International Standard dances & Characteristics:
The Waltz is very graceful in movement and character. There is a strong “rise and fall” (up and down) technique used though out the figures. Learn International Style Waltz
A very smooth dance with both partners gliding effortlessly across the dance floor as if they have “ice skates” on without them. Learn International Style Foxtrot
The International Tango has lots of quick, dramatic movements and shapes. The dancers walk with a staccato technique. Learn International Style Tango
This classy dance has fast foot actions to 1,2,3 timing, and is limited in figures to show off the spinning around the room. Learn International Style Viennese Waltz
The quickest dance in this style. It is all about moving energetically across the floor with hops, skips and flicks. Learn International Style Quickstep
As you can see both the American and International styles have very similar dances with just a few differences in the dances used. The main difference between the 2 styles are the syllabus steps and technique.
These 2 styles are the traditional types of Ballroom dance and now I will share some other styles that fall under the umbrella of Partner dancing and often associated with Ballroom dancing, but they are non-traditional Ballroom dances.
Please note: This style doesn’t belong to “the core” of Ballroom dancing style. This is a style that is mainly danced in Latin nightclubs to Latin music. People love this style because it is very fun and social.
Core Latin Club dances & Characteristics:
Salsa on 1
The Salsa is one of the hottest Latin dances out there with lots of underarm tuns, hip action and styling. Learn the Salsa basic steps
Salsa On 2
This style of Salsa has the same characteristics as the “On 1” style, but the main difference is you step fwd or back on count “2” instead of count “1”.
One of the easiest and funnest dances to learn. The Merengue music has very strong beats that tells the dancers to switch weight from foot to foot to that beat.
Learn how to Merengue
The Bachata has lots hip action and body movement that emphasizes the sensual Latin dance music.Learn how to dance Bachata basics
Cha Cha (Club style)
The dancers keep the step, step, cha, cha, cha rhythm as they lead and follow into different moves and turns.
This dance gained popularity recently and now danced all over the world. It’s character is somewhat of a mix between Argentine Tango and Salsa.
To get more details on these dances check out the complete list of Latin dances here.
The Swing dances originated from 1920’s and 1930’s and are usually filled with energetic turns, lifts, footwork flares and musical interpretations.
Swing dances & Characteristics:
West Coast Swing
This Swing dance is derived from Lindy Hop and has a sleek style that is achieved by “elastic connection” between the partners, allowing them to work off one another and improvise.
East Coast Swing
This Swing dance is also influenced by Lindy Hop and it is known for its underarm turns. There is a “triple time” swing and a “single time” Swing.
This is the dance that inspired many of the Swing dances out there. It is a partner dance that became popular during the 1930’s Swing era. It has a combination of rock steps, walks and triple steps.
Not so popular now-days swing dances:
Other Popular Partner dances:
Nightclub 2 step
Country 2 step
While there are literally tens more dances out there, I focused on the most popular ones.
Watch a Video Summary of this article:
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How to Swing Dance for Beginners
How to practice Ballroom dancing: Detailed Guide
5 types of dance classes
How to find a dance partner
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