With shows like Dancing With The Stars and Strictly Come Dancing hitting our screens year after year, not to mention films like Strictly Ballroom, it seems we are all expected to understand the intricacies of ballroom dancing. At Arthur Murray, we don’t want to bamboozle you, so we’re going back to basics to get our head around the phenomenon that is ballroom.
A little bit of history
The word ‘ballroom’ is derived from the Latin ‘ballare’ meaning to dance, and the term was given to the large halls of 17th century Europe, which were specifically designed for private social dances. Distancing itself from country or folk dancing, ballroom was an elite gathering, often held before battle to send the troops off in high spirits. By the 19th century, ballroom dances were invitation-only events, highly sought-after on the social calendar, and many novels of the time detail the customs and practices of a dance, such as titles by Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert and Leo Tolstoy.
A whole lot of style
Ballroom dancing itself isn’t one genre of dance, but a collection of partner dances in a wide range of styles. The original dance was the Waltz, and then the Viennese Waltz added extra revolutions. Other styles under the ballroom umbrella in the early 20th century included the faster moves of the Foxtrot and Quickstep. The traditional Tango (not to be confused with the street-style ‘Argentine Tango’) completes the International Ballroom suite of dances. However, ballroom dancing also includes the International Latin suite of Samba, Cha Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive, making a core 10 ballroom styles in total.
Although it might seem overwhelming to master all those styles, each genre has a handful of basic steps, enabling the student to quickly get out of the studio and onto a dance floor. Social dance is non-choreographed and a couple communicates through physical contact, initiated by leaders and accepted by the followers. With just a little knowledge and a lot of practice, you’ll be surprised how smoothly you can spin around the dance floor with just a few easy ballroom dancing instructions under your belt.
Fads and fashions
If ballroom dancing was the thing for the elite in the 19th century, the sublime pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the early 20th century broadened its appeal to the wider population. The rock’n’roll revolution didn’t harm ballroom, as elements of Jive and Lindy Hop were incorporated, but the arrival of the Twist in the swinging sixties heralded an era of solo dance, spilling into the discos of the 1970s and 1980s. Partner dancing however has had a massive revival through the popular TV contests and dancers are now reconnecting with social dances as a great way to keep fit, learn a new skill, let your hair down and make friends.