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What Exactly is Ballroom Dance?



I know the term “ballroom dance” can be confusing and yes, even intimidating. Let me break it down into more simple categories and terms (hint–it’s a BIG umbrella). Maybe you will see yourself in one of these categories and decide to get on that dance floor.


First, ballroom can encompass many styles from traditional Ballroom, Swing and Latin dances.

Ballroom specifically falls into four categories: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Rhythm. Within those categories studios usually lean towards American or International and often are trained in all styles.


Smooth dances are Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Tango (American and Argentine)

Some of the Rhythm dances are the Samba, Cha Cha, East Coast and West Coast Swing, Country Two Step, Night Club Two Step and more.


In Swing dance there is Lindy Hop, Jive, East Coast Swing, Balboa, West Coast Swing and more.


Latin can be Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba and more. As you can see there can be overlap and it can be confusing.


Still confused? Here is more to add to the mix and probably the more important part for the average person looking to dance. There are three general categories.

  1. Social Dance This will pertain to MOST “we just want to dance and have fun” kind of people. Social dance can be done at a studio, restaurant, bar, special events and even in your kitchen. Usually Rhythm and Latin dances are more popular for these platforms. However Smooth dances are a great foundation and workout for body and brain.

  2. Competition Dance Whether you have a partner or not you can expand your knowledge and skill set enough to compete with a partner or an instructor. If you’re the competitive, driven sort of person, this may be up your alley. Most people start as social dancers and a few may decide they want more.

  3. Performance/Exhibition Dance Often done by professionals who choreograph and practice routines that they are compensated for. Also, can be done by student groups to share their skills with an engaged and appreciative audience not necessarily for compensation.


Here is the bottom line–dancing can be intimidating but only if you let it. If you want to learn to dance for any reason the hardest part is taking that first step and walking into a studio or on a dance floor. I still remember my first experience in a ballroom and our first dance lesson–the Waltz. We got the first step fairly easy but then it took a few more weeks to get beyond one step. However, we were hooked because we watched other people dance and listened to their stories of how they first started. Anything is easy if you know how, Anything is intimidating if you have not done it before. However, nothing is more rewarding than the joy experienced from this particular sport/activity. The real problem becomes how do I fit all the dance opportunities available into my life!


I hope if you have any hesitation at all you will at least consider taking that chance and I hope to see YOU on a dance floor!


MaryAnn Molloy Chief Dance & FUN Officer, Real World Ballroom






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