So what dances do we do? This generic guide will give a background for each of them!
The typical wedding dance and the original ballroom dance! The Waltz is full of big turns and spins and sways, allowing you to be very experimental with the choreography. However, when you first learn the Waltz, you start off with very basic steps, with a 1-2-3 timing, but a quick progression follows. It is full of grace and elegance, and looks classical yet modern, due to the emphasis of the rise and fall within the steps. The song Moonriver is perfect for Waltz. Remember not to confuse the Waltz with the Viennese Waltz – these two are VERY different.
Tango was first danced in Europe before the World War I, in 36 bars per minute tempo. It originates fromBuenos Aires (Argentina) where it was first danced in “Barria de Las Ranas”, the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name of “Baile con corte” (dance with a rest). The “dandies” of Buenos Aireschanged the dance in two ways. First they changed the so-called “Polka rhythm” into the “Habanere rhythm” and secondly they called it Tango.
From 1900 onwards several amateurs tried to introduce the dance from Argentina into Paris, but without success. Being rather an egzotic dance, a sensuous creation of South nations, Tango initially did not become accepted by the European social establishment. It was however still danced in the suburban areas and gaining more and more popularity.Tango’s breakthrough came on a dance competition on French Riviera. The dance was so well presented there by a group of its enthusiasts that it gained immediate recognition inParis and then the rest of Europe.
Foxtrot, dance born in the twenties was named so after an American performer Harry Fox. Initially it was danced at 48 bars per minute tempo. The tempo issue led to the breakaway of Quickstep at about 50 to 52 bars per minute and the continued slowing down of pure Foxtrot to 32 bars per minute by the end of the twenties. At the end of World War I the slow-foxtrot consisted of: walks, three-steps, a slow walk and a sort of a spinturn. At the end of 1918 the wave arose, then known as the “jazz-roll”. The American Morgan introduced a sort of open spinturn, the “Morgan-turn”, in 1919. In 1920 Mr. G.K. Anderson introduced the feather step and the change of direction, figures you can not imagine today’s foxtrot without. Thirties had become the golden age for this dance. That is when Foxtrot tunes became the standards of its tempo.The great fascination of Foxtrot is the amazing variety of interpretations there can be of what is basically such a simple dance. From swingers to trotters, from smoothies to ripples, from the military to the delicate steppers and more.
The origins of Viennese Waltz are dated back to 12th/13th centuries and found in the dance called “Nachtanz”. The Viennese waltz originally comes from Bavaria and used to be called the “German”. However, other people question this origin of the Viennese waltz. An article which appeared in the Parismagazine “La Patrie”(THe Fatherland) on 17 January 1882, claimed that the waltz was first danced in Parisin 1178, not under the name waltz but as the Volta from the Provence. Presumably this is a dance in 3/4 rhythm, which the French regard as the forerunner of the Viennese waltz.Probably the first waltz melody was “Das Lied vom lieben Augustin” written in 1679 in 3/4 time. It was introduced in Pairs in 1775, but it took some time before it became popular. In 1813 Mr Byron condemned the waltz as being unchaste. In 1816 the waltz was also accepted in England. But that the struggle against it was not over yet. In 1833, a “good behaviour” book was published by Miss Celbart and according to it, although it was allowed for married ladies to perform this dance, she called it “a dance of too loose character for maidens to perform”.
Quickstep originated from the Foxtrot and is one of the most popular ballroom dances because of its speed and splendour. It can be broken down into two parts: big sweeping movements, and little hops and quicksteps. It’s tricky and intricate but leaves you with that swept away feeling as you fly around the ballroom floor. The rhythm is slow-quick-quick-slow, and as for Waltz too, the rise and fall of the steps is also very important in this dance. The timing is 4/4 with a tempo of 50 bars per minute so it is a very quick dance.
This is a fun Latin American dance, with lively music and a quick tempo and a great sense of freedom. The timing is 4 beats to a bar but it’s easier to think of it as 2-3-Cha-Cha-Cha, and the name originates from the scuffing sound of ladies shoes when they dance this step. It is similar to Rumba but with a quicker tempo. Music by Basement Jaxx is a good start for dancing Cha.
Samba originates from Brazil where it is a national dance. Many versions of the Samba -from Baion (pronounce: Bajao) to Marcha- are danced at the local carnaval in Rio. To achieve the true character of the Samba a dancer must give it a gay, flirtatious and exuberant interpretation. Many figures, used in the Samba today, require a pelvic tilt action. This action is difficult to accomplish, but without it the dance loses much of its effect.
Before 1914 it was known under a Brazilian name “Maxixe” . The first attempts of introducing samba to European ballrooms are dated 1923-24, but it was after the World War II when samba became a popular dance in Europe.
Samba has a very specific rhytm, highlighted to its best by characteristic Brazilian musical instruments: originally called tamborim, chocalho, reco-reco and cabaca.
The Rumba originates from Cuba as a typical dance of a hot climate. It has become the classic of all the Latin American dances. In its present form many of the basic figures of the dance retain the age-old story of woman’s attempt to dominate man by the use of her feminine charm. In a well choreographed dance there will always be an element of “tease and run”; the man being lured and then rejected.
Paso Doble originates from Spain. It developed on the basis of movements performed by the matadors during the bull fights. In Paso Doble the man (matador) is in focus more than in any other dance. The lady is left with playing a role of a cape (“cappa”) the red canvas of the torreador or a bull, depending on circumstances. The dance came into fashion around 1920.
This is one of the newest dances that came out of the Second World War. It incorporates many elements of lindy hop, rock and roll, swing and jitterbug but you have to maintain a level of technique otherwise it looks messy. The music is 2/4 time and has a very quick tempo, and keeping in time is important as it can look really messy if you’re out of sync. A good song to dance jive to is Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire.