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Ballroom dance style – American versus International

June 29, 2009

American and International style refer to two broad categories of dance styles that are available in ballroom dancing.  American style, as the name implies, was developed in the U.S. and for the most part is only danced in that country.  In general, it is more adaptable to social dance settings and can appear to have a more showy aspect.   International style is the danced throughout the world and is the standard for competitive dancing.   It tends to emphasize clean lines, with a stronger focus on technique at the outset.

Here is a quick summary of the dances found in these categories

  • Smooth (American) – waltz, foxtrot, tango, and Viennese waltz.
  • Rhythm (America) – cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo.
  • Standard (International) – waltz, foxtrot, tango, Viennese waltz and quickstep.
  • Latin (International) – cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, and jive.

Smooth and Standard overlap in the types of dances they include.  The defining visual difference between the two is the hold.  In Standard, the partners remain in a closed hold where they are in body contact throughout the entire dance.  Partners may not separate at any point.  With Smooth, partners dance both together and apart.  Both styles involve wearing long gowns which emphasize the flowing movement of the dances.

Latin and Rhythm include some of the same dances, but also have unique dances as part of the set.  The easiest difference to see between these two styles is leg action.  In Latin, a straight leg is emphasized as much as possible; while in Rhythm the knees are often bent to create action.   Both dance styles emphasize hip movement and in general have a more flirtation nature than smooth and standard.  Partners dance together and side by side.  Dresses are usually short to allow the legs to move freely and also to enhance the visibility of the hip action.

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