WHAT IS SOCIAL DANCE?
Social dance is a major category or classification of dance forms or dance styles, where sociability and socializing
are the primary focuses of the dancing.
Many social dances are partner dances. In fact,quite often when spoken about social dances, ballroom or other
partner dances are kept in mind. However it is natural to include in this category such groups of dances as circle
dances,line dances,novelty dances,or simply club dancing in solo.
The term 'ballroom dancing' is derived from the word ball,which in turn originates from the Latin word ballare
which means 'to dance' (a ball-room being a large room specially designed for such dances). In times past, ballroom
dancing was social dancing for the privileged, leaving folk dancing for the lower classes. These boundaries have
since become blurred, and it should be noted even in times long gone, many ballroom dances were really elevated
folk dances. The definition of ballroom dance also depends on the era: balls have featured popular dances of the day
such as the Minuet, Quadrille, Polonaise, Polka, Mazurka, and others, which are now considered to be historical
Ballroom dance, depending on how it is defined, may refer to a wide variety of partner dances. Typically it
includes Standard (also termed Smooth or Modern) dances such as waltz or foxtrot, and Latin (also termed
Rhythm) dances such as cha cha and rumba. Standard dances are normally danced to straight-beat, Western
music; couples dance around the floor; and when formalized, the lady wears a long gown and the gentleman
a bow-tie and tails. Latin dances are normally danced to off-beat, latin or jive music; couples may dance
more-or-less in one spot or move around the floor; and when formalized, the woman wears a short-skirt latin
outfit and the man dresses in black.
Ballroomdance may refer,at its widest definition, to almost any type of partner dancing as recreation.
However,with the emergence of dancesport in modern times, the term has become narrower in scope.
Traditionally, the term refers to the five International Standard and five International Latin style dances..
Early Modern Age
The first authoritative knowledge of the earliest ballroom dances was recorded toward the end of the 16th century,
when Jehan Tabourot, under the pen name "Thoinot-Arbeau", published in 1588 his Orchésographie,a study of late
16th-century French renaissance social dance. Among the dances described were the solemn basse danse, the livelier
branle, pavane, and the galliarde which Shakespeare called the "cinq pace" as it was made of five steps.
In 1650 the Minuet, originally a peasant dance of Poitou, was introduced into Paris and set to music by Jean-Baptiste
Lully and danced by the King Louis XIV in public, and would continue to dominate ballroom from that time until the
close of the 18th century.
Toward the latter half of the 17th century, Louis XIV founded his 'Académie Royale de Musique et de Danse',where
specific rules for the execution of every dance and the "five positions" of the feet were formulated for the first time
by members of the Académie. Eventually, the first definite cleavage between ballet and ballroom came when
professional dancers appeared in the ballets, and the ballets left the Court and went to the stage. Ballet technique
such as the turned out positions of the feet,however, lingered for over two centuries and past the end of the Victoria
The waltz with its modern hold took root in England in about 1812; in 1819 Carl Maria von Weber wrote Invitation
to the Dance,which marked the adoption of the waltz form into the sphere of absolute music. The dance was initially
met with tremendous opposition due to the semblance of impropriety associated with the closed hold, though the
stance gradually softened. In the 1840s severalnew dances made their appearance in the ballroom, including the
Polka, Mazurka, and the Schottische. In the meantime a strong tendency emerged to drop all 'decorative' steps such
as entrechats and ronds de jambes that had found a place in the Quadrilles and other dances.
Early 20th century
Modern ballroom dance has its roots early in the 20th century, when severaldifferent things happened more or less at
the same time. The first was a movement away from the sequence dances towards dances where the couples moved
independently. This had been pre-figured by the waltz, which had already made this transition. The second was a
wave of popular music, such as jazz, much of which was based on the ideas of black musicians in the USA. Since
dance is to a large extent tied to music, this led to a burst of newly invented dances. There were many dance crazes in
the period 1910–1930.
The third event was a concerted effort to transform some of the dance crazes into dances which could be taught to a
wider dance public in the US and Europe. Here Vernon and Irene Castle were important, and so was a generation of
English dancers in the 1920s, including Josephine Bradley and Victor Silvester. These professionals analysed,
codified, published and taught a number of standard dances. It was essential, if popular dance was to flourish, for
dancers to have some basic movements they could confidently perform with any partner they might meet. Here the
huge Arthur Murray organisation in America, and the dance societies in England, such as the Imperial Society of
Teachers of Dancing, were highly influential. Finally, much of this happened during and after a period of World
War, and the effect of such a conflict in dissolving older social customs was considerable.
Later,in the 1930s, the on-screen dance pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers influenced all forms of dance in
the USA and elsewhere. Although both actors had separate careers,their filmed dance sequences together,which
included portrayals of the Castles, have reached iconic status. Much of Astaire and Rogers' work portrayed social
dancing, although the performances were highly choreographed (often by Astaire or Hermes Pan),and meticulously
staged and rehearsed.
Competitive dancing - DANCESPORTS
Competitions, sometimes referred to as Dancesport,range from world championships, regulated by the World Dance
Council (WDC),to less advanced dancers at various proficiency levels. Most competitions are divided into
professional and amateur, though in the USA pro-am competitions typically accompany professional
competitions.The International Olympic Committee now recognizes competitive ballroom dance. It has recognized
another body, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), as the sole representative body for dancesport in the
Olympic Games. However,it seems doubtful that dance will be included in the Olympic Games, especially in light
of efforts to reduce the number of participating sports.
Ballroom dance competitions are regulated by each country in its own way. There are about 30 countries which
compete regularly in international competitions. There are another 20 or so countries which have membership of the
WDC and/or the WDSF, but whose dancers rarely appear in international competitions. In Britain there is the British
Dance Council, which grants national and regional championship titles, such as the British Ballroom Championships,
the British Sequence Championships and the United Kingdom Championships. In the United States,amateur dance
proficiency levels are defined by USA Dance (formerly United States Amateur Ballroom Dance Association,
Ballroom dancing competitions in the former USSR also included the Soviet Ballroom dances,or Soviet Programme.
Australian New Vogue is danced both competitively and socially. In competition there are 15 recognised New Vogue
dances,which are performed by the competitors in sequence. These dance forms are not recognised internationally,
neither are the US variations such as American Smooth, and Rhythm. Such variations in dance and competition
methods are attempts to meets perceived needs in the local market-place.
Internationally, the Blackpool Dance Festival, hosted annually at Blackpool, England, is considered the most
prestigious event a dancesport competitor can attend.
Formation dance is another style of competitive dance recognised by the IDSF. In this style, multiple dancers
(usually in couples and typically up to 16 dancers at one time) compete on the same team,moving in and out of
various formations while dancing.
Elements of competition
In competition ballroom, dancers are judged by diverse criteria such as poise, the hold or frame, posture, musicality
and expression, timing, body alignment and shape, floor craft,foot and leg action, and presentation. Judging in a
performance-oriented sport is inevitably subjective in nature, and controversy and complaints by competitors over
judging placements are not uncommon. The scorekeepers—called scrutineers—will tally the total number recalls
accumulated by each couple through each round until the finals, when the Skating system is used to place each
couple by ordinals, typically 1–6, though the number of couples in the final may vary. Sometimes, up to 7 couples
may be present on the floor during the finals.
During competitions, dancers are not all judged at the same level. There are 2 categories of levels. They are called
the syllabus or open levels. Open levels are reserved for higher-skilled dancers and it usually takes quite a while to
get to that caliber of dancing. There are three levels in the open category; novice, pre-champ, and champ in
increasing order of skill. At those levels, dancers no longer have restrictions on clothing, so all those beautifully
gowns covered in jewels are now allowed in the smooth and standard dances. The fringe dresses with huge cutouts
and elaborate designs are now allowed in the rhythm and latin categories. Women also tend to wear extremely
intricate hairstyles and bright makeup, often with jewels glued on in patterns. Moving on to the syllabus category,
there are three levels there as well. They are bronze, silver, and gold; gold being the highest and bronze the lowest. In
these levels, moves that you can do are restricted to moves that are clearly written in syllabus, and illegal moves can
lead to disqualification. Each level, bronze, silver, and gold, has different moves on their syllabus increasing in
difficulty. At these levels, the elaborate costumes are not allowed, as there are very strict clothing restrictions. Jewels
on costumes or hair can lead to disqualification.
Medal examinations for amateurs enable dancers' individual abilities to be recognized according to conventional
standards. In medal exams, which are run by bodies such as the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD),
each dancer performs two or more dances in a certain genre in front of a judge. Genres such as Modern Ballroom or
Latin are the most popular. Societies such as the ISTD also offer medal tests on other dance styles (such as Country
& Western,Rock 'n Roll or Tap). In some North American examinations, levels include Newcomer,Bronze, Silver,
Gold and Championship; each level may be further subdivided into either two or four separate sections.
There is a part of the ballroom world dedicated to college students. These chapters are typically clubs or teams that
have an interest in ballroom dancing. Teams hold fundraisers, social events, and ballroom dance lessons. Ballroom
dance team’s goals are to have fun and learn to dance well. There is a strong focus on finding a compatible dance
partner and bonding with teammates. There is also a competitive side to collegiate ballroom.
In competitive collegiate ballroom, competitors go to competitions at different schools or events, such as Arnold
Dancesport Classic and MIT Open Ballroom Dance Competition. Dancers can compete in four different categories.
The categories are American Rhythm, International Latin, American Smooth, and International Standard.
Competitors dance at different level based on their abilities. The levels of dance,in order of difficultly, are
newcomer,bronze, silver, gold, novice, pre-championship, and championship. Bronze through gold is considered
syllabus. Novice through Championship is considered open. Individuals and teams as a whole compete against each
other. For example, the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Team has won the National Collegiate
Championships for nine consecutive years.
"Ballroom dance" refers most often to the ten dances of International Ballroom (or Standard) and International
Latin, though the term is also often used interchangeably with the five International Ballroom dances. Sequence
dancing, which is danced predominantly in the United Kingdom, is also sometimes included as a type of Ballroom
The cha-cha-cha, or simply cha-cha, is the name of a dance of Cuban origin.
It is danced to the music of the same name introduced by Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín in 1953. This
rhythm was developed from the danzón by a syncopation of the fourth beat. The name is onomatopoeic, derived from
the rhythm of the güiro (scraper) and the shuffling of the dancers' feet.
The ballroom style of dancing the cha-cha-chá comes from studies made by dance teacher Monsieur Pierre (Pierre
Zurcher-Margolle), who partnered Doris Lavelle.
Pierre,then from London, visited Cuba in 1952 to find out how and what Cubans were dancing at the time. He noted
that this new dance had a split fourth beat, and to dance it one started on the second beat, not the first. He brought
this dance idea to England and eventually created what is now known as ballroom cha-cha-cha.
The validity of his analysis is well established for that time, and some forms of evidence exist today. First, there is in
existence film of Orquesta Jorrin playing to a cha-cha-cha dance contest in Cuba; second, the rhythm of the Benny
More classic Santa Isabel de lasLajas written and recorded at about the same time is quite clearly syncopated on the
fourth beat. Also, note that the slower bolero-son ("rumba") was always danced on the second beat.
Cha-cha-cha may be danced to authentic Cuban music, or to Latin Pop or Latin Rock. The music for the international
ballroom cha-cha-cha is energetic and with a steady beat. The Cuban cha-cha-chá is more sensual and may involve
Styles of cha-cha-cha dance may differ in the place of the chasse in the rhythmical structure. The original Cuban and
the ballroom cha-cha-cha count is "two, three,chachacha"or "four-and-one, two, three". The dance does not start on
the first beat of a bar, though it can start with a transfer of weight to the lead's right.
Nevertheless,many social dancers count "one, two, cha-cha-cha"and may find it difficult to make the adjustment to
the "correct" timing of the dance.
Basic step of cha-cha-cha
The basic pattern involves the lead (usually the man) taking a checked forward step with the left foot, retaining some
weight on the right foot. The knee of the right leg must stay straight and close to the back of the left knee, the left leg
having straightened just prior to receiving part weight. This step is taken on the second beat of the bar.Full weight is
returned to the right leg on the second step (beat three).
The fourth beat is split in two so the count of the next three steps is 4-and-1. These three steps constitute the cha-cha-
cha chasse. A step to the side is taken with the left foot, the right foot is half closed towards the left foot (typically
leaving both feet under the hips or perhaps closed together), and finally there is a last step to the left with the left
foot. The length of the steps in the chasse depends very much on the effect the dancer is attempting to make.
The partner takes a step back on the right foot, the knee being straightened as full weight is taken. The other leg is
allowed to remain straight. It is possible it will shoot slightly but no deliberate flexing of the free leg is attempted.
This is quite different from technique associated with salsa, for instance. On the next beat (beat three) weight is
returned to the left leg. Then a cha-cha-cha chasse is danced RLR.
Each partner is now in a position to dance the bar their partner just danced. Hence the fundamental construction of
Cha-cha-cha extends over two bars.
In the International Latin style, the weighted leg is almost always straight. The free leg will bend, allowing the hips
to naturally settle into the direction of the weighted leg. As a step is taken, a free leg will straighten the instant before
it receives weight. It should then remain straight until it is completely free of weight again.
International Latin style Cha-cha-cha
Cha-cha-cha is one of the five dances of the "Latin American" program of international ballroom competitions.
As described above, the basis of the modern dance was laid down in the 1950s by Pierre & Lavelle and developed in
the 1960s by Walter Laird and other top competitors of the time. The basic steps taught to learners today are based
on these accounts.
In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is danced generally without any rise and fall. The modern ballroom
technique of Cha-cha-cha (and other ballroom dances) does undergo gradual evolution, particularly in competition
dancing, but in essence is still firmly based on its Cuban origin in the 1950s.
Samba (ballroom dance)
The international Ballroom version of samba is a lively, rhythmical dance with elements from Brazilian samba. It
has recently been exposed to the American public in television programmes such as Strictly come dancing and
Dancing with the stars. It differs considerably from the original samba styles of Brazil, in particular it differs from
Ballroom Samba in Brazil itself. It is often not always danced to music with a samba rhythm and often danced to
music with less complex 2/4 and 4/4 time. In particular in the popular television programmes Strictly come dancing
and Dancing with the stars it almost never danced to samba music or a samba rhythm. Moreover its performance
does not necessarily include the characteristic steps from Samba no Pé. In many other ways it though been
influenced by the Brazilian version of samba, in particular maxixe, and subsequently developed independenty from
samba in Brazil.
The ballroom samba has its origins in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. Many steps can be traced back to
the Maxixe danced in the 1910s. A book published in France in 1928 described how to perform the samba.
As a ballroom dance,the samba is a partner dance. Ballroom samba,even more than other ballroom dances,is very
disconnected from the origins and evolution of the music and dance that gives it its name.
The ballroom samba is danced to music in 2/4 or 4/4 time. It uses severaldifferent rhythmic patterns in its figures,
with cross-rhythms being a common feature. Thus, for three-step patterns,common step values (in beats) are:
Samba usually refers to the typical Brazilian dance and rhythm. As is typical of many Brazilian cultural
manifestations, samba is the result of the fusion of european and african influence (in particular rhythms such as
batuque and lundu).
It sometimes seen as controversial, calling a dance samba (a word, which in international popular culture is
intimately connected to the very cultural essence of Brazil), that is so disconnected from any dance or music, which
would be called samba in Brazil itself.
The ballroom samba is danced under severaldifferent rhythms, including the original Samba (music). It is also
possible to dance ballroom samba with flamenco, zouk, and other South American rhythms.
rumba is a dance term with two quite different meanings.
In some contexts, "rumba" is used as shorthand for Afro-Cuban rumba, a group of dances related to the rumba genre
of Afro-Cuban music. The most common Afro-Cuban rumba is the guaguancó. The other Afro-Cuban rumbas are
Yambu and Colombia.
In other contexts, "rumba" refers to ballroom-rumba, one of the ballroom dances which occurs in social dance and in
international competitions. In this sense,rumba is the slowest of the five competitive International Latin dances: the
paso doble, the samba, the cha-cha-cha and the jive being the others. This ballroom rumba was derived from a Cuban
rhythm and dance called the bolero-son; the international style was derived from studies of dance in Cuba in the pre-
The Afro-Cuban rumba is entirely different from the ballroom rumba, both in rhythm and dance. See guaguanco.
Rumba outside Cuba
The ballroom rumba derives its movements and music from the son,just as do the salsa and mambo. The Peanut
Vendor was the first recording of Cuban music to become an international hit: it was incorrectly described on the
label as a rumba,perhaps because the word son would not be understood in English. The label stuck, and a rumba
craze developed through the 1930s. This kind of rumba was introduced into dance salons in America and Europe in
the 1930s, and was characterized by variable tempo, sometimes nearly twice as fast as the modern ballroom rumba.
Early American rumba
This kind of rumba was introduced into American dance salons at the beginning of the 20th century, characterized by
high tempo, nearly twice as fast as the modern ballroom rumba, typical examples being the tunes The Peanut Vendor
The modern international style of dancing the rumba derives from studies made by dance teacher Monsieur Pierre
(Pierre Zurcher-Margolle), who partnered Doris Lavelle. Pierre,then from London, visited Cuba in 1947, 1951 and
1953 to find out how and what Cubans were dancing at the time.
The international ballroom rumba is a slower dance of about 120 beats per minute which corresponds, both in music
and in dance to what the Cubans of an older generation called the bolero-son. It is easy to see why, for ease of
reference and for marketing, rumba is a better name, however inaccurate; it is the same kind of reason that led later
on to the use of salsa as an overall term for popular music of Cuban origin.
No social dances in Cuba involve a hip-sway over the standing leg and, though this is scarcely noticeable in fast
salsa, it is more pronounced in the slow ballroom rumba. In general, steps are kept compact and the dance is danced
generally without any rise and fall. This style is authentic, as is the use of free arms in various figures. The basic
figures derive from dance moves observed in Havana in the pre-revolutionary period, and have developed their own
life since then. Competition figures are often complex, and this is where competition dance separates from social
dance. Details can be obtained from the syllabuses of dance teaching organizations and from standard texts.
Pasodoble,or paso doble,(literal meaning in Spanish: double-step) is a traditional couple's dance from Spain. It is
danced to the type of music typically played in bullfights during the bullfighters' entrance to the ring (paseo) or
during the passes (faena) just before the kill. It corresponds to the pasodoble dance (traditional and ballroom).
Pasodoble is a lively style of dance to the duple meter march-like pasodoble music. It is modelled after the sound,
drama, and movement of the Spanish and Portuguese bullfight.
Famous bullfighters have been honoured with pasodoble tunes named after them. Other tunes have been inspired by
patriotic motifs or local characters.
Pasodoble is based on music played at bullfights during the bullfighters' entrance (paseo)or during the passes (faena)
just before the kill. The leader of this dance plays the part of the matador. The follower generally plays the part of the
matador's cape,but can also represent the shadow of the matador, as well as the bull or a flamenco dancer in some
figures. Its origin dates back to a French military march with the name “Paso Redoble.” This was a fast paced march,
which is why this is a fast-paced Latin American dance modeled after the Spanish bull fight. Bull fighting was well-
known around this time.
A significant number of Paso Doble songs are variants of España Cañi.The song has breaks in fixed positions in the
song (two breaks at syllabus levels three breaks and a longer song at Open levels). Traditionally Paso Doble routines
are choreographed to match these breaks,as well as the musical phrases. Accordingly, most other ballroom Paso
Doble tunes are written with similar breaks (those without are simply avoided in most competitions).
In Ballroom dancing, Jive is a dance style in 4/4 time that originated in the United States from African-Americans in
the early 1930s. It was originally presented to the public as 'Jive' in 1934 by Cab Calloway. It is a lively and
uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug, a form of Swing dance. Glenn Miller introduced his own jive dance in 1938
with the song "Doin' the Jive" which never caught on.
Jive is one of the five International Latin dances. In competition it is danced at a speed of 176 beats per minute,
although in some cases this is reduced to between 128 and 160 beats per minute.
Many of its basic patterns are similar to these of the East Coast Swing with the major difference of highly syncopated
rhythm of the Triple Steps (Chasses),which use straight eighths in ECS and hard swing in Jive. To the players of
swing music in the 1930s and 1940s "Jive" was an expression denoting glib or foolish talk. Or derived from the
earlier generics for giouba of the African dance Juba dance verbal tradition.
American soldiers brought Lindy Hop/Jitterbug to Europe around 1942, where this dance swiftly found a following
among the young. In the United States the term Swing became the most common word used to describe the dance. In
the UK variations in technique led to styles such as Boogie-Woogie and Swing Boogie, with "Jive" gradually
emerging as the generic term.
Richardson P.J.S. 1960. Social dances of the 19th century in England.p44
Sachs, Curt. 1937. World history of the dance. Norton.
How to become a Good Dancer by Arthur Murray 1947 Simon and Schuster. revised edition. page 175.
Paul Bottomer. 1997. Black Dog & Leventhal. page 157. ISBN 1-57912-049-0
rovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p50
Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. p281
Blatter, Alfred 2007. Revisiting music theory: a guide to the practice p28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing 2004. 100 years of dance: a history of the ISTD Examinations
Board. London. p62