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Dance Types and Music

     Often people ask for information concerning the origin of various dances that are taught and/or danced by WV Dance's instructors and they also ask for some songs that they can dance to while practicing their dancing.  The following information provides some background concerning various dances and provides information on how the dances are danced.

Ballad

The "nightclub" version of the ballroom dance, the Ballad is danced to slow American music in a 4/4 time meter. This dance is very easy and a perfect dance for weddings or slow night club dancing. Learning this dance will not only add a little flair to your "regular" slow dance, it will also teach the basics of lead and follow in a closed dance position. Knowing this dance will also help when learning the more advanced ballroom dances. 

Bolero

Bolero, like the Rhumba, is a slow and sensuous latin dance, but this variation is much slower and more dramatic. Also danced to the timing of quick-quick-slow, the Bolero is more advanced due to the amount of body control and balance required to dance at this slow tempo.  Bolero is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova is a style of dancing based on bossa nova music which was introduced in Brazil in the late 1950s.  Bossa nova music was first created by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto.  The bossa nova's parent dance is the samba; however the bossa nova is danced to a slower rhythm and is more relaxed than is the samba.  An additional difference is that bossa nova is danced to a 4/4 time meter while samba is danced to a 2/4 time meter.  

Cha Cha

Cha Cha is an exciting, syncopated Latin dance that originated in the 1950's at the Palladium, New York City by area dance instructors who danced the triple Mambo.  The dance gets its name and character from its distinct triple repetitive foot rhythm or cha-cha-cha. Considered a flirty dance, it is a favorite among many dancers to this day. Cha Cha can also be danced to slower country music with a more American style.  Cha Cha is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Foxtrot

The foxtrot began in the United States about 1912, originating on the vaudeville stage by Harry Fox.  Foxtrot is a distinctly "American Smooth" dance that travels counter-clockwise around the ballroom dance floor in either a "slow, slow, quick, quick" fashion or a "slow, quick, quick" fashion:  this characteristic makes body control particularly important in the Foxtrot.  Foxtrot is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Hustle

Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years.  It is a fast, smooth dance with the lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away.  John Travolta and "Saturday Night Fever" made the hustle a popular dance for many people, especially men, in the 1970s. (See the Movie Page).  Hustle is danced to a 4/4 time meter.  

Mambo

This dance was developed in Cuba from the influx of American influence into the rumba.  The mambo is the predecessor of cha cha, and many of the same steps can be done in both dances. Considered a little more difficult than cha cha, once learned, the mambo is a favorite of the dance enthusiast.  Mambo is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Merengue

This dance originated in the Dominican Republic by combining African and Latin dance styles. Merengue is danced at a moderate tempo with very basic steps and Cuban hip motion, and one can incorporate all the arm movements of the swing and salsa.  Merengue is a favorite dance on cruise ships.  Merengue is danced to a 2/4 time meter.  

Milonga

Milonga is an uptempo version of the Argentine Tango.  Unlike Argentine Tango, it is danced to a more regimented tempo.  The Milonga is fun, lively, and outgoing unlike the Argentine Tango itself which can be melancholy and more introspective.  Milonga is danced to a 2/4 time meter.

Night Club Two-Step

This is a slow dance that some say originated in the country-western dance scene; others say it originated in California. It is danced to slow music, but it is much more structured and difficult than Ballad. Night Club Two Step somewhat resembles an American version of the Latin dance, the Bolero.  Nightclub Two Step is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Polka

Polka originated as a folk dance in Bohemia and later versions spread throughout the world to become a ballroom craze in the mid-19th century. The Polka is a lively and rapid dance in a 2/4 time meter. It is one of the most enjoyable and exhilarating dances you will ever learn. The basic step is straightforward and characterized by a skipping motion and the couple spinning around the dance floor.  Polka festivals are held routinely throughout the United States including at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Quickstep

Quickstep is considered to be a Smooth dance but it is the fastest of the Smooth Dances.  A very lively dance, it is based on the up tempo music of the Big Bands of the early 20th Century.  The speed at which Quickstep is danced and the close body contact required throughout the dance make it a very challenging dance to dance.  It also requires a large space to be danced properly, but it is a great dance to dance once mastered.  Quickstep is danced in a 4/4 time meter.

Rhumba

The rhumba originated from Afro-Cuban folk rhythms and became popular in the 1930's. The steps are reminiscent of the waltz, but danced slowly and sensuously in a latin rhythm. Danced in a 4/4 time meter, the basic step is quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow. Rhumba is considered on of the sexiest of the Latin dances.

Salsa

Salsa is very closely related to the Mambo, and in fact some forms of Salsa have exactly the same footwork but moved on a different rhythm. Created by Puerto Ricans in New York City in the late 1940's, they modified the timing of the steps to occur starting at the first beat of every four counts and added other style to the existing Mambo dance.  There are three different types of Salsa commonly recognized:  Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.  Salsa is danced in a 4/4 time meter.

Samba

The samba is the national dance of Brazil. This dance incorporates the jumping actions of African dance tempered with the more sensual movements of ballroom dance to create the form it exists today. Characterized by rhythmic bouncy steps with a latin style body movement, the Samba is a favorite among experienced dancers.  Samba is danced in a 2/4 time meter.

Single Time East Coast Swing

A wonderful dance that is perfect for the beginning social dancer. This dance is very easy to lead and follow, and consists of a very basic step and a variety of turns. 4-Count Swing can be danced to most moderate tempo American music. The steady tempo of this dance makes it easy to learn, but the turns associated with it can also be used in the more advanced swing dances and hustles.  Single Time Swing is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Triple Time East Cost Swing

Time Swing is an American Folk dance originated in the 1940's and was popularized by Swing Bands, and called the Jitterbug at its much faster tempo. The version we do today is slower.  Because of its slower speed, expression and styling is more emphasized in Triple Time Swing than in Single Time Swing.  Triple Time Swing is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

American Tango

The American tango is considered one of the most passionate of the ballroom dances. I consider it to be a very intense dance.  You can see examples of Tango in such movies as "True Lies" and "Scent of a Woman".  Unlike Argentine Tango in which music typically slows down and speeds up quite often during the dance, American tango is danced to a strict tempo, to a phrasing of eight counts, and it travels counter-clockwise around the dance floor.  The more regimented tempo of American tango can make it an easier dance to dance than Argentine Tango.  American Tango is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Argentine Tango

Argentine Tango is danced in different styles:  milonguero, salon, nuevo, etc. and there are actually three different types of Argentine Tango:  Vals, Milonga, and Argentine Tango proper.  Practicioners of Argentine Tango typically do not move around the dance floor as much as dancers of American Tango.  One unique feature of the Argentine Tango is that the woman has great liberty to lead her own embellishments--more so than in the American Tango.  The Argentine Tango is danced by such luminaries as Robert Duvall.  Carlos di Sarli is one of my favorite Argentine Tango composers.  Argentine Tango is danced to a 4/4 time meter.

Vals

Vals is Argentine Tango's version of the Viennese Waltz.  The character of Vals is often hauntingly romantic and is danced to a 6/8 time meter.

(American) Waltz

Developed from a German peasant dance, Waltz is best known for its elegance and lightness as couples turn around the dance floor. It was the most popular dance of the 1800s and is still a favorite today.  Waltz is considered a "Smooth" dance, and is danced to a 3/4 time meter.  American Waltz is a slower version of waltz than Viennese Waltz and is a bit more popular because the tempo of American Waltz is significantly easier to dance to than the tempo of Viennese Waltz. 

Viennese Waltz

The Viennese waltz is the oldest and most elegant of the ballroom dances. It was first developed in Vienna as a fast paced dance to the music of Johann Strauss, from which a slower version was later developed. The Blue Danube Waltz is a good example of a Viennese Waltz.  The Viennese waltz is characterized with quick motion as couples spin around the dance floor. Note this dance is not suitable for beginners; experience with the slow waltz is highly recommended.  Viennese Waltz is danced to a 6/8 time meter.

West Coast Swing

The West Coast Swing is a bluesy form of swing danced in a 4/4 time meter to slower tempos than most other forms of swing. This dance differs from other swing styles because it is a "slot" dance. The partners move back and forth as if dancing on a railroad track, and the turns for the lady are in the form of passes.