The Foxtrot is one of the most deceiving dances as it looks very easy, but is one of the most difficult dances to do. The dance originated in the Victorian era as the "One Step" or "Two Step". It was later introduced as the "Castle Walk" by the American performers, Vernon and Irene Castle. Then, in 1913, a Vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox performed a little trot, which appealed to the social dance teachers in New York and thus the Foxtrot was born. It has gone through many changes since that time and is now comprised of more soft and fluid linear movements.
The Quickstep or Fast Foxtrot began as a quick version of Foxtrot. As the music changed in the 20's with the introduction of "Ragtime" dances, (the Charleston, Shimmy and Black Bottom), so too did the dance. When Paul Whiteman and his band visited and performed in London in 1923, the faster Foxtrot then became known as the Quickstep.
Originally a light, spirited dance from Spain, the Tango became very popular in the slums and bordellos of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Spanish Tango, together with the African "Tangano", a dance imported with the slaves, and the "Habanera" from Havana in Cuba were merged in the late 1800's and became known as the "Milonga". In the early 1900's the "Tango" was demonstrated in Paris, then London and New York. Rudolph Valentino further popularized this dance in 1921 with the making of the movie "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". Although evolving in a different direction in Europe and America, the Tango has remained a firm favorite.
The word "Waltz" originates from the German word "Waltzen", meaning "to revolve". An offspring of the faster Viennese Waltz, this slower version known as the "Landler" became popular in Austria and Germany in the late 1700's. In America, a version known as the "Boston" became popular in the late 1800's. The present form of the dance was born around 1920 in England and was derived from both the "Landler" and the "Boston". The slower tempo allows more time for syncopations and picture steps, giving light and shade, and makes it more interesting to perform and watch.
Although commonly believed to have originated in Austria in the early 1800's, it is known that a dance with similar characteristics was popular with French peasants in the mid 1500's. The dance was known at that time as the "Volta", (Italian for "the turn"). The dance as we know it was immortalized in the 1800's by such composers as Johann and Joseph Strauss. In the middle of the 20th century, the German, Paul Krebs choreographed the Viennese Waltz style to which we dance today. The dance enjoys a great deal of popularity not only in Europe but also in America, and has been used in many Hollywood productions.
The Cha Cha Cha evolved from one of three versions of the Mambo, a dance born in Cuba and introduced to the west in 1947. The "Triple Mambo", one of those versions, became very popular in the early 1950's and was subsequently renamed the Cha Cha Cha. As the music always dictates the dance, the triple or split-beat steps were inserted when a slower version of Mambo music was being played.
The Rumba mostly evolved in Cuba in the 16th century with great influence from the African slaves. Although the Spanish/African mix is considered to be Cuban, versions of this dance were seen on other Caribbean islands and in Latin America. In the late 1920's, many famous Band Leaders introduced the Rumba in the United States. This dance is built around the famous "Cuban Box", and features "Cuban Motion".
Known to have originated in Brazil, and to this day exhibited in the street festivals and celebrations there, the Samba, a free spirited, festive dance, was made famous in the United States, by the movies of Carmen Miranda in the late 1930's. This version, very unlike the original, has evolved into the American and European Style Samba of today. This dance has been greatly influenced by the music of the times. From the South American Bands of the 40's and 50's through the Ballroom Orchestras to the Disco style music of the 90's, the Samba has continued to change and keep pace with the current musical styles.
One of many folk dances associated with the Spanish way of life, the Paso Doble, (Spanish for "Two Step") is based on the Bullfight. The man portrays the part of the Matador and the lady the part of his cape. The style of music is a "march" or "two step", played during the procession before the Bullfight. The survival of this dance is due to its popularity in Paris in the 1930's, accounting for many of the figures having French names.
A true "American Dance", the Jive started out in the southwest United States and ran through a variety of names such as "The Cake Walk", "Turkey Trot", "Bunny Hop", "Lindy Hop" and "Jitterbug". It followed the development of "Ragtime" and then "Swing" music, and to this day the American Style version of this dance is known as the Swing. During World War II, American Forces brought this dance to Britain. Sometime after war's end, this faster "Swing" version stayed in Europe and became known as the Jive.
Like so many dances that evolved from Cuba and the Caribbean, the Bolero was a Spanish/African dance with a very slow Rumba style rhythm. Traditionally associated with romantic Spanish love songs, the Bolero is not only a sensuous dance of love, but also a style of love song very popular today especially in the Spanish speaking communities.
West Coast Swing
The West Coast Swing is directly related to East Coast Swing and was undoubtedly born due to the style of music being played in the 1940's , and the need for a dance that did not take up so much room. The West Coast Swing has evolved into a "Slot" dance that allows more dancers into a small area, but encourages more individuality from the participants.
East Coast Swing
A true "American Dance" and descendant of Lindy Hop and Jitterbug, this dance is also known as Triple Swing. It dates back to the 1920's where the black community discovered the Charleston and Lindy Hop while dancing to Jazz music. It followed the development of "Ragtime" and then "Swing" music. This dance continues to be popular with all age groups as music is available from all time eras.
The Mambo grew from the Danzon, a Cuban national dance, but not before serious influence by the Cuban Haitians, (in Haiti, a Mambo is a Voodoo Priestess) and American Jazz. The first known Mambo was presented in 1943 in Havana and many Latin American Orchestras of the time picked it up and developed their own style. Just a few years later, it gained momentum and popularity in New York. In more recent years, due to successful "Mambo" songs and movies, this dance has become popular once again.
The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic. That is the only fact that we have concerning its origin other than it was probably born in that country and/or Haiti, the neighboring island. There are many tales of its conception. Stories are told of a Dominican Republic soldier that was wounded in one leg and could only shuffle sideways with a pronounced limp. The others, not wishing to offend the hero, copied him out of sympathy. Another story tells of shackled slaves working in the sugar fields cutting down the cane. They had to take small side steps as they worked down the rows. However it came to be, this dance was very popular in the Dominican Republic in the mid 1800's. it is not clear just when this dance was introduced into the United States but it has enjoyed limited but consistent success for many years.
In this day and age, "Salsa" is used as a general term to describe all the different styles and rhythms this music has to offer. Some say that dancing Mambo is the grandfather of the way we dance Salsa. However, dancing Mambo means that you have to have to specifically "break" on 2, while dancing Salsa means that you can "break" on whatever beat you like. Besides the different styles of dancing Salsa, (Cuban, New York, LA, Puerto Rican, etc.), it is the music and its history that gives us the different feelings of how we dance Salsa today.
In early 1973, at a discotheque called "The Grand Ballroom" women were exhibiting a new and nameless "touch dance". The dance had a basic form with a simple 6-count step and featured inside and outside turns. This was the birth of what would later be called "The Hustle". The young men at the club took notice instantly. They were interested in the new "touch dance" that represented the return to romance and was, quite simply, a great way to meet women. From that time on the Hustle gained enormous popularity and has continued to evolve to this day.
The Argentine Tango originated in the late 1800's in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was a fusion of the various ethnicities of the immigrants to Argentina including many Europeans and Africans. It was then considered a dance only of the impoverished and was not accepted by the upper class until the famous Tango singer Carlos Gardel became a hit in Paris, leading to the popularity of Argentine Tango in Europe as well as Buenos Aires. The "Golden Area" of Tango in the 1930's and 40's saw the dance halls of Buenos Aires overflowing with dancers but the onset of Rock and Roll caused Tango's popularity to wane and it wasn't until stage shows like "Tango Argentino" and "Forever Tango" began to tour the world in the late 1980's that Argentine Tango entered its latest phase of popularity. Today you can find communities of Argentine Tango dancers in every major city in the world.
Nightclub Two-Step, (not to be confused with Country Western Two-Step), is one of the most practical and versatile social dances ever conceived. It is designed to be used with contemporary soft rock. This type of music is common just about everywhere like nightclubs, radio, etc. The rhythm of the dance is very simple. This simple romantic dance fills a gap where no other ballroom dance fits. It gives the dancer, either beginner or advanced, the opportunity to express and create without a rigid technique being required.