At UEA Dancesport, we learn five main ballroom styles; the Viennese Waltz, the Slow Waltz, the Tango, the Foxtrot and the Quickstep. Keep reading to get little insight into the background of these styles!
As the oldest of the current ballroom dances, the energetic yet supremely poised Viennese waltz is impressive to behold. Originating in Germany and Austria in the late 18th century, the dance was particularly popular in Vienna itself, despite being highly controversial: the closeness of the bodies and the sheer speed were scandalous at the time. After reaching England in around 1812, however, it cemented its status as one of the most stylish and influential dances in history and a golden trophy of modern dancers, with simple choreography yet demanding technique. It consists solely of turns and changes, but is a true test of endurance, whilst also feeling incredible to both dance and watch.
Popular Viennese Waltz Songs
Oom-Pah-Pah – Oliver!
Caribbean Blue – Enya
Main Theme – Game of Thrones
The dance known by English speakers as simply ‘the waltz’ is known as the ‘slow waltz’ or ‘English waltz’ in European countries where ‘the waltz’ refers to the faster Viennese variety. The slow waltz is similar in terms of its triple meter and choreography of turns and changes, but is around half the speed. By reducing the speed, the waltz instead emphasises rise and fall and light and shade, with a much more substantial syllabus and capacity for freestyle. In fact, it is the slowest of the ballroom dances, but thus features the strongest range of motion with dramatic swinging and shaping.
Popular Waltz Songs
Nocturne – Secret Garden
If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Simply Red
Three Times a Lady – Lionel Richie
The ballroom tango is a modified version of the original Argentinian social dance. A cross between the close, sensual street dance and the more prim-and-proper ballroom style, it forms a truly unique modern dance unlike any other. By flexing through the knees and offsetting into a closer hold, all rise and fall is eliminated for a low, stalking movement, characterised by staccato motions in the feet and head in particular and striking transitions between the tantalisingly slow and blisteringly fast.
Popular Tango Songs
Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics
El Tango de Roxanne – Moulin Rouge!
Spectrum – Florence + The Machine
The foxtrot premiered in 1914, taking its name from the vaudeville actor Harry Fox who helped to popularise it. Originally danced to ragtime, modern foxtrot is characterised by the big band swing music it’s most often danced to. Featuring iconically long, continuous motions across the whole floor and exceptionally smooth rise and fall and swing and sway, the foxtrot is often considered the most technically demanding of the dances due to its irregular timing and footwork, but looks almost as incredible as it feels to dance.
Popular Foxtrot Songs
Wade in the Water – Eva Cassidy
Let’s Get Away From It All – Frank Sinatra
Main Theme – The Pink Panther
The fastest of the ballroom dances, the quickstep originated in England from the American-imported foxtrot – whilst the American Style retains their faster foxtrot, the International Style features a slower foxtrot and a faster quickstep. The modern quickstep has since diverged more heavily, contrasting against the foxtrot by having regular closing of the feet and syncopated locks and chassés. Danced to very fast swing music, a basic quickstep will have plenty of locks and turns, whilst a more advanced quickstep will carve blistering lines of travel both around the line of dance and straight down the room, with an incredible capacity for freestyle which can even re-introduce elements of the ever-popular Charleston.
Popular Quickstep Songs
Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman
Show Me How You Burlesque – Christina Aguilera
Main Theme – Monsters, Inc.
Written by Sam Griffiths
Image 1: Sam Griffiths and Hannah Jones
Image 2: Jamie Taylor and Katherine Ingram, credit to Chantelle Leanne Evans