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Social versus ballroom dance – an introduction

May 21, 2009

Social, partnership, ballroom dance.  For those of you just entering the world of dance, here is a starting point to get you familiar with a little history and some of the basic concepts.

So what exactly does that include?  From here, the range of dances is pretty broad – we have the numerous dances that fall under the category of ballroom (such as waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, samba, cha cha, etc.) as well as dances dubbed “street” or social dances which include swing (west coast, lindy hop), hustle, night club two-step, modern jive, Argentine tango, and salsa.

Social dances for the most part come out of clubs and social settings, to be danced to popular music played in those venues and for the purpose of enjoying the company of those in attendance.  Most of the styles are specific to a genre of music.  As the name implies, social dancing is a way to be social with those around you, where the conversation takes place to music and through movement.

Ballroom dance is really just social dance that has been formalized.  Most of the dance styles encompassed in ballroom started out as social dances and indeed may still be danced strictly in that context.  What typifies ballroom dance is that steps have been codified with names, levels and “correct” footwork and technique for executing.

It is important to note that neither social nor ballroom dance is superior to the other (despite what some may say).  Experienced and advanced dancers of both usually have considerable training and have dedicated many, many hours to practicing their steps, musicality and technique.  Almost all styles of social and ballroom dance also have competitive and performance elements to them, if one wishes to go that far.

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