The term 'ballroom dancing' is derived from the word ball which in turn originates from the Latin word ballare which means 'to dance' (a ball-room being a large room specially designed for such dances). Ballroom dancing today can represent social and competitive dancing and covers a number of partner dances following different musical styles and timings.
The International Standard consists of five dances:
Waltz - began as a country folk dance in Austria and Bavaria in the 17th century. In the early 19th century it was introduced in England and was the first dance where a man held a woman close to his body. When performing the dance, the upper body is kept to the left throughout all figures, woman's body leaves the right side of the man while the head is extended to follow the elbow. A slow and graceful dance and often the first dance students will learn.
Quickstep - The quickstep is an English dance and was invented in the 1920s as a combination of faster tempo of foxtrot and the ragtime music. It is a fast moving dance, so men are allowed to close their feet and the couples move in short syncopated steps. Quickstep includes the walks, runs, chasses, and turns of the original foxtrot dance, with some other fast figures such as locks, hops, and skips.
Tango - originated in Buenos Aires in the late 19th century and is a dance with a far more open frame (when compared to modern Argentine Tango). It utilises strong and staccato movements.
Viennese Waltz - originated in the Provence area of France in 1559 and is recognised as the oldest of all ballroom dances. It was introduced in England as German waltz in 1812 and became popular throughout the 19th century by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss (Blue Danube). It is often referred to as the classic “old-school” ballroom or as we like to call it fast waltz, as Viennese Waltz music is considerably faster that Waltz.
Foxtrot - The foxtrot is an American dance named by a vaudeville performer Harry Fox in 1914. Fox was rapidly trotting steps to ragtime music and the dance therefore was originally named as the “Fox’s trot”. The foxtrot can be danced at slow, medium, or fast tempos depending on the speed of the jazz or big band music. Due to its lack of rise, subtle timing and control to generate a smooth, gliding motion around the dance floor it is considered one of the hardest Ballroom dances.
While the five dances feature diverse historical origins, the refined and modern Ballroom is credited with its development in England. Ballroom dancing is based on structured technique and focuses on the learning and development of core elements such as control and cohesiveness.