Monday, 2 April 2012

Ballroom Dancing - from samba to salsa

B Ballroom  dancing was the number two priority on my Top Ten List of Things To Do when I retired. But I had no idea of the range and variety of dances that the term implies. Most people think of couples in tuxedos and beautiful ball gowns whirling around in a Viennese waltz but there are so many more dances to learn. So here is a brief introduction.

 The first distinction that I discovered was that there are two major styles of ballroom dancing. These are the International – Standard and Latin, and the American – Smooth and Rhythm. International standard was developed in England and is the major style taught and danced in Europe and Asia. International standard style is danced in closed hold only - think the image of the waltzers I mentioned above. Smooth permits open positions and solo dancing. Both include foxtrot, waltz, tango and Viennese Waltz while the quickstep is unique to the International syllabus.
International Latin and American Rhythm  are also somewhat different. The dances comprising the Latin syllabus are chachacha, rumba, jive, samba and paso doble while the American rhythm has chachacha, swing, rumba, mambo and bolero.  The international rumba emphasizes straight legs whereas Cuban motion, stepping onto a bent leg, is more pronounced in the American style rumba – although the two styles seem to be merging more.
After four years of learning International standard and Latin, I went on my first ballroom dance cruise where I encountered the social dancing that is comprised of American smooth and rhythm and club dances.  I loved the freedom of the open smooth style but it was a big adjustment. I even had to adjust my counting. For example in the International rumba one steps on 2,3,4 while in American style it is 1,3,4.
Initially I found that I could follow different partners much more easily in the American style than the International style, possibly because my muscle memory in International was trained to expect certain sequences of steps from learning routines for the medal tests, and also because I had danced mainly with my instructor  with little opportunity to practice with different leads.  It would be interesting to see if that has changed with the switch to social dance and the fact that on these cruises there are different dance partners so I don’t get used to any one person’s style.
Apart from the dances already mentioned above, I have discovered the joys of West Coast Swing, East Coast swing, hustle, salsa, Argentine Tango, country –two-step and night club two step.
My usual answer to the question “what is your favorite dance?” is “the one I am dancing at the time” – but I confess that I am developing a strong partiality to Bolero- when danced with a really great partner. Do you have a favorite dance?
So that’s B for Ballroom 101, as I understand it. Questions and comments are welcome, and as I am on a dance cruise I can consult an expert before I reply. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jill! I wandered over from the A-Z Challenge. You're writing while on a cruise? That's really amazing! I hope your trip is going well.

    Best of luck in the challenge! Nice to meet you.
    Jen

    PS: New follower :D

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