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Home » Ballroom Dancing Introduction
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.

Ballroom Dances
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 American-style counterparts. The American Smooth dances consist of: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz.

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.

Latin Dances

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 Mambo.

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 musical rhythms.

Club Dances
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.
International Style

Standard Division
  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Foxtrot
  • Quickstep
Latin Division
  • Cha Cha Cha
  • Samba
  • Rumba
  • Paso Doble
  • Jive

American Style

Smooth Division
  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Viennese Waltz

Rhythm Division
  • Cha Cha Cha
  • Rumba
  • East Coast Swing
  • Bolero
  • Mambo

Social & Nightclub


  • East Coast Swing
  • West Coast Swing
  • Lindy Hop
  • Salsa