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red-fleur-de-lis-mdThe Five Ballroom Dances
Waltz - Tango - Foxtrot - Quickstep - Viennese Waltz
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These dances are danced the world over both socially and in DanceSport competitions. The word "ballroom" denotes a room where balls may be held, or simply, formal social dances. Balls were important social events in the days before radio and television (as in "having a ball"). The word "ball" derives from the Latin "balare" meaning "to dance." This is also the origin of the related words ballet, ballerina, ballad, etc. Note that this origin is quite different from that of a "ball," a round object used for games. This derives from the Old Norse "bollr," meaning "to inflate."
The figures in the modern ballroom dances have now been standardized and categorized into various levels for teaching, with internationally agreed vocabularies, techniques, rhythms and tempos.


The forerunner of waltz was Boston, a dance imported from the USA and introduced in England by a very influential "Boston Club" around 1874. However, only after 1922 did this dance become as fashionable as the tango. The strange thing about Boston was that couples danced next to each other, nothing like what we do now. Immediately after World War I the waltz got more shape. In 1921 it was decided that the basic movement should be: step, step, close. In 1922, when Victor Sylvester won the championship, the English waltz program consisted of not more than a right turn, a left turn and change of direction (less than what is learned by a beginner nowadays). In 1926/1927 the waltz was improved considerably. The basic movement was changed into step-side-close. As a result of this, many more variations became possible. They have been standardized by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). Many of them are still dancing.


Tango was first danced in Europe before World War I, in 36 bars per minute tempo. It originates from Buenos Aires, Argentina where it was first danced in "Barria de Las Ranas," the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name of "Baile con Corte" (dance with a rest). The "dandies" of Buenos Aires changed the dance in two ways. First they changed the so-called "polka rhythm" into the "Habanere rhythm" and secondly they called it tango.
From 1900 onward, several amateurs tried to introduce the dance from Argentina to Paris without success. Being rather an exotic dance, a sensuous creation of Southern nations, the tango initially did not become accepted by the European social establishment. It was however still danced in the suburban areas and gaining more and more popularity.
Tango's breakthrough came in a dance competition on the French Riviera. The dance was so well presented by a group of its enthusiasts that it gained immediate recognition in Paris and then the rest of Europe.


The foxtrot, a dance born in the twenties, was named after an American performer Harry Fox. Initially it was danced at 48 bars per minute tempo. The tempo issue led to the breakaway of quickstep at about 50 to 52 bars per minute and the continued slowing down of pure Foxtrot to 32 bars per minute by the end of the twenties. At the end of World War I the slow-foxtrot consisted of walks, three-steps, a slow walk and a sort of a spin turn. At the end of 1918 the wave arose, then known as the "jazz-roll." The American Morgan introduced a sort of open spin turn, the "Morgan-turn," in 1919. In 1920 Mr. G.K. Anderson introduced the feather step and the change of direction, figures you cannot imagine today's foxtrot without. The thirties had become the golden age for this dance. That is when Foxtrot tunes became the standards of its tempo.
The great fascination of Foxtrot is the amazing variety of interpretations there can be of what is basically such a simple dance. From swingers to trotters, from smoothies to ripples, from the military to the delicate steppers and more.


Developed during the World War I in suburban New York, initially performed by Caribbean and African dancers. It eventually made its debut on the stage of American music halls and immediately became popular in the ballrooms.
Foxtrot and quickstep have a common origin. In the twenties many bands played the slow foxtrot too fast, which gave rise to many complaints. Eventually they developed into two different dances, slow foxtrot tempo has been slowed down and quickstep became clearly the fast version of foxtrot, danced at 48 bars per minute tempo. The Charleston had a lot of influence on the development of Quickstep.

Viennese Waltz

The origins of Viennese Waltz date back to the 12th and13th centuries and found in the dance called "Nachtanz." The Viennese waltz originally comes from Bavaria and used to be called the "German." However, other people question this origin of the Viennese waltz. An article which appeared in the Paris magazine "La Patrie" (The Fatherland) on 17 January 1882, claimed that the waltz was first danced in Paris in 1178, not under the name waltz but as the Volta from the Province. Presumably this is a dance in 3/4 rhythm, which the French regard as the forerunner of the Viennese waltz.
The first waltz melodies date from 1770. It was introduced in Paris in 1775, but it took some time before it became popular. In 1813 Mr. Byron condemned the waltz as being unchaste. In 1816 the waltz was also accepted in England. But the struggle against it was not over yet. In 1833, a "good behavior" book was published by Miss Celbart and according to it, although it was allowed for married ladies to perform this dance, she called it "a dance of too loose in character for maidens to perform."

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