Smooth and Standard Dances
Two main categories of classic ballroom dances exist - The International Standard and American Smooth. Each style have their own precise elements of technique: footwork, rise and fall, etc. The International Standard style includes five dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. It is the style used widely in competitions throughout the world. The International Standard style is danced in closed position only and requires the couple to maintain contact at the mid-section of the body. "Gapping" at the mid-section is considered one of the cardinal sins of International competitive dancing.
There are four International Standard dances which have counterparts in the American Smooth: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. They may be danced in closed or open position, allowing for additional innovative tricks and creative arm and hand styling. In the American Smooth style, partners experience more freedom and expression and often separate from closed dance position utilizing underarm turns and changes in position. People tend to view the American Smooth style as more of a social dance style due to its tremendous adaptability, but this style is danced at all major competition events across North America.
While Ben De La Vega teaches both styles in his private lessons, only American Style Smooth Dances are taught in group classes at PJ's Dancetique.
The Following American Style Smooth Dances are taught in group classes at PJ's Dancetique:
- FoxTrot - The Foxtrot remains the most popular social dance in the world today. Little did Harry Fox realize that his trotting on a New York stage in 1913 would become an overnight success. The Fox Trot provides a good foundation for all dances and is sometimes called the "get-acquainted" or "first impression" dance. As this dance develops it ultimately becomes an extremely skilled dance that can be challenging at the highest levels of Smooth and Standard. Fox Trot can begin as a basic dance from which you can acquire a strong foundation of movement. Learning to combine steps easily and smoothly teaches variety and maneuverability. Being able to dance to slow, medium, and fast tempos will add confidence and great social adaptability to your dancing. This dance is one of the easiest dances to learn in the American Style.
- Waltz - The Waltz first appeared in Europe in the late 1700's. The basic Waltz patterns are the foundation for most ballroom dances. The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz develops strong balance and control, and the ability to move with ease. Danced in 3/4 timing, the recurring, even beats of music send dancers whirling around the floor enjoying the thrill of the Waltz movement. Correct posture, rise and fall, and smooth movements should be stressed to achieve good styling. Waltz remains to this day as the standard "honour dance" at various formal occasions, weddings, anniversaries and graduations.
- Tango (American Style only - Not Argentine Tango) - The American Style Tango is progressive, moving along the line of dance using staccato movement of the feet and flexed knees. It is one of the most beautiful of all the dances. The unique rhythm of the music is great training for timing and phrasing which develops as the dancer becomes more proficient. Tango practice is essential towards becoming a good dancer.
- Viennese Waltz - This dance originated in Mid-Europe some 400 years ago. The music is fast in tempo and sends the couples whirling around the floor-first one way and then the other. The Viennese Waltz has developed into an elegant, smooth and gliding dance. The refined image of the tuxedo for the man and the graceful lilt of the flowing skirt for the lady gives us today's Viennese Waltz. Its music was perfected by such wonderful composers as Johann Strauss.
Rhythm and Latin Dances
The Latin dance styles are grouped into two main categories: American Rhythm and International Latin. The American Rhythm style consists of six dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, Salsa, East Coast Swing, Bolero, and Mambo. At PJ's Dancetique, we have added the Salsa, Rumba, Bolero, and Cumbia as additional Rhytm style dances. The International Latin style consists of five dances: Cha-Cha, Rumba, Jive, Paso Doble, and Samba.
The various dance styles comprising the American Rhythm and International Latin differ from their counterparts, in subtle ways, mostly having to do with technique. There are competitive events in each style.
While Ben De La Vega teaches both styles in his private lessons, only the American Style Rhythm dances are taught in group classes at PJ's Dancetique.
The Following American Style Rhythm Dances are Taught at PJ's Dancetique:
- Cha Cha - An exciting, syncopated, Lating dance, which originated in the 1950s as a slowed down Mambo. The Cha Cha is also a step child of the swing, as it is danced in 1-2-3 step rhythm. It has syncopated steps, many open movements and interesting combinations. You and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating upbeat Latin rhythms which make this dance so exciting. Cha Cha is a dance you will be able to use often and its energetic rhythm encourages you to cut loose on the dance floor.
- Mambo - The spicy Mambo as we now know it grew out of the Danzon (national music of Cuba), and grasped the imagination of the American dance scene at the close of World War II. Later, fast Swing-Jazz and up-beat Latin music joined in to form the updated and uninhibited Mambo. Mambo is an exciting earthy dance, similar in its basic structure to Salsa, with more highly staccatto styling and more "grounding" into the floor. The exciting music and rhythmical body movements make the Mambo irresistible.
- Bolero - Bolero uses a very slow type of Rumba rhythm danced to music played in the melodic style of a Latin ballad. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is often a favorite of higher-level dancers, as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance.
- Merengue - The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It has festive party appeal and is essential for dancing at a Latin Club or in preparation for a tropical vacation destination. Merengue is a terrific foundation Latin dance which also develops the "cuban motion" body action. Its uncomplicated timing makes the Merengue easy to feel the music and adapt to any partner.
- Samba - The Samba is a lively Brazilian dance which was first introduced in 1917 and was finally adopted as a ballroom dance by Brazilian society in 1930. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. The Samba is associated with the Brazilian "Carnaval" and the music embodies its lighthearted rhythm and sensuality. This dance provides an upbeat and rhythmical dance, unique among the Latin dances, and is a very practical dance for social dancing.
- Salsa - The word Salsa means sauce, denoting it a 'hot' flavor and 'spicy'. It was developed by Puerto Rican musicians in New York City. Originating from Mambo, its exciting music also reflects the fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz textures. Salsa is a casual, adapatable dance with varied texturing and a 'must learn' for anyone wanting to go out to a Latin club or travel to a Latin American destination.
- Cumbia - This dance is originally from Columbia where is still danced as a folk dance. The dance is a musical expression of three converging ethnicities: African, Spanish and Colomian's natives fused their love of nature, spirit, their roots and the freedom in their hearts to create this form of graceful, gentle and proud dance that grounds the spirit and lifts the heart. Cumbia is a Latin club dance, danced in partnership, similar to Salsa but with a bouncier light spirited feel. The music is a fun, rhythmic blend of indigenous African and Spanish influences which has a very distinctive sound.
Bachata - This dance originated in the countryside and the rural neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. It is a sexy sensual Latin dance that is the latest current trend in Latin dance clubs. The character of the dance is achieved through the sensual movement of the hips and close body contact. The music grew from the music of the Bolero and the Merengue and most often features a distinctive use of electric guitar. The music is sometimes referred to as the blues music of the Dominican Republic.
Nightclub Dances and other Fun Dances
The following are miscellaneous dances that are taught at PJ's Dancetique:
- East Coast Swing - This dance is frequently referred to as Triple Step swing due to the rhythm of the basic triple step. The dance consists of six and eight count patterns, which require a rock step back by both man and woman to begin. Sometimes referred to as Jive, Jitterbug, Rock-n-Roll or Boogie Woogie, this dance is more formally known in North America as the East Coast Swing. The Swing is extremely adaptable, danced with a carefree style and a lot of circular rotation. The various possible rhythms are excellent training for quick footwork and spontenaeity, adding comfort and ease to other rhythm dances.
- West Coast Swing - This dance consists of six and eight count patterns. Although it can be danced to fast tempos, this dance is usually done to medium tempo swing music, frequently slower than East Coast swing, and is characterized by slot movements, anchoring, syncopations, rippling body actions and a push and pull connection of the dancers. This dance has no bounce and has a very smooth feel. The man leads, but otherwise moves very little. The man's job is to make the lady look good. It's the lady who shines in this dance. WCS is a club dance primarily, popular all along the west coast of North America and slowly gaining a wider following throughout the rest of the continent and beyond.
- Hustle - The Hustle (Disco) is a member of the Swing family and is like the West Coast Swing in pattern. Hustle originated in the 1970's disco era and although the white suits and gold chains have long since faded away, the dance has stayed, giving us the fusion of Swing and disco. In its simplest form it is a dance where even a moderately skilled leader can lead virtually anyone right away. Largely because of its tremendous adaptability to social dance music the Hustle is still one of the most popular nightclub dances across North America today.
- Polka - This dance was introduced to society in 1844. Every now and then it is revived because of its boisterous charm. It is supposed to have been originally created by a Bohemian girl. The basic step consists of a preparatory hop followed by a chasse done first to the left and then to the right. The Polka is still danced quite often throughout North America particularly in more rural areas, sometimes at functions such as wedding dances, etc. as one of the main social dances.
- Nightclub 2-Step - This dance is an easy playful dance that can be done to many pop songs. It is done to 4/4 time music and has similar patterns to those found in Salsa, although the style of this dance is much slower and smoother. This is a popular dance among wedding couples as it is usually a good tempo for the slower romantic ballads.
Romantic Slow Dance - The steps are the “One Step” pattern and an adaptation of the waltz and foxtrot. The patterns are easy to learn, but are intended to show you how to jazz up your slow dance. These dances can be used in a wide variety of social settings and can be thought of as "foundation dances" for your foray into ballroom dancing. This is a great dance for couples who want to get out on the dance floor immediately. It is useful in jazzy nightclubs or lounges.
- Country and Western Progressive Two-Step - Probably the most popular and well known of the Country Western dances. It originated in North America in the 1800's among European settlers. Named for its fast progression around the room, it is a fun and pacey dance characterized by smooth gliding steps with lots of turns and intricate patterning.
- Texas Two-Step - Texas Two-Step is a modified version of the popular Progressive Two-step done to slower tempos of music. The primary difference between the two styles is an exaggerated brushing action done side to side during the two slow counts of the basic.