Ballroom Dance

What is ballroom dance? The term involves several sets of partner dances performed both socially and competitively all over the world. These styles are also widely featured on stage, on television, and in numerous movies. You may have seen beautiful ballroom dance pictures as a part of advertisement campaigns.

Here, in Canada, both ballroom dancing and related dancesport are immensely popular. You can enjoy picturesque performances and professional classes at the “Hips Don’t Lie” dance studio, a prominent ballroom dance company in Toronto and GTA and the entire of Canada.


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      What Is a Ballroom Dance?

      It is difficult to provide an accurate ballroom dance description. There are many dance styles in the ballroom dance sets that require a lot of skills, stamina, and practice. All of them are highly coordinated partner dances practiced between two performers in accordance with the predetermined routines and step patterns. The most important components here are the posture and technique of a ballroom dancer. They require a lot of mastery, so there are many individual classes, private studios, and public dance clubs that offer lessons to everybody who is interested in this ballroom dance style. Ballroom dance in Toronto is a big part of the overall entertainment industry.

      Sometimes, such non-traditional or social dances as Salsa, Bachata, Argentine Tango, Merengue, West Coast Swing Dance, and the Hustle are referred to as the most popular ballroom dances. In some countries, they are even danced as a part of competitions. There are several other popular club styles, like the nightclub two-step, the polka, or the jitterbug, that are technically considered ballroom dance types. However, they are not meant for competition and function only socially.

      There are two main schools and associations of this dance in the world. They are the International School and the American School.

      The International School

      This school is regulated by the World Dance Council (WDC) and the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF). They are widespread in Europe and include Standard and Latin dance categories. This school started in England and continued worldwide. It emphasizes the close connection between partners and mainly excludes such moves as dips, turns, or side-by-side routines.

      ballroom dance style 1

      The American School

      This school is regulated by the USA Dance and Canada Dancesport (CDS) Associations. These styles are very popular in North America. They include Smooth and Rhythm dancing instead of Standard and Latin categories. The American ballroom style is more open. It allows separate movements and no close connection between partners.

      ballroom dance style 2

      Four Categories of Ballroom Dances

      In general, more than 20 dance styles comprise the category of ballroom dancing. The ballroom dance meaning is multifaceted. These are performed socially and in competitions and can be divided into four major groups of styles.

      American Smooth Ballroom Dance

      This style focuses on smooth and fluid movements that look very gracious and elegant. The dances are performed to Western music, though have much in common with traditional International Standard dances. The partners do not dance close to each other, allowing them to separate for dips, turns, and individual footwork. Many ballroom dance companies in Canada feature this style. The category includes four dance types - the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz.

      American Rhythm Ballroom Dancing

      This category is almost equivalent to Latin dances practiced in Europe and worldwide. If you want to get this type of ballroom dance explained in a few words, the dances here are more energetic than Smooth ones, and they are performed to distinctly upbeat music. It involves Latin American and modern rhythms. The category includes the Cha-Cha-Cha, Bolero, Mambo, Rumba, and East Coast Swing. You can enjoy these dances from different ballroom dance troupes for hire near me in Toronto and GTA.

      International Standard Ballroom Dancing

      These dances are partnership routines performed with the rigid position of the upper body that allows one partner to lead and the other to follow. The movements are smooth and elegant. The style involves Slow Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and Quickstep. The most prominent ballroom dance teams in this category come from England, Italy, and Lithuania.

      International Latin Ballroom Dance

      This style reminds us of American Rhythm. It is competitive and performed all over the world. The dances consist of long leg lines and a more intimate partnership cooperation that highlights the close connection between the two partners. The dances here involve the Cha-Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive. It is impossible to imagine ballroom dancing in Toronto without these fantastic styles.

      All these four styles are competitive. It means the ballroom dancers perform in front of the jury. The adjudicators (judges) assess the routines and assign points for technical presentation, musicality, routine complexity, pair cooperation, and artistic presentation. To win the competition, it is important to follow standardized routines, meet all the requirements for steps and figures, and look beautiful on the floor. Choreography is deliberately composed and rehearsed before the competition to provide the most competitive and impressive performance.

      As a rule, competitions in the USA and Canada are based on American School styles, while ballroom dance groups in the international dancesport competitions use the International Ballroom Dance school.

      ballroom dancing

      Where Does Ballroom Dancing Come From?

      As for the ballroom definition, the term comes from the word “ball” which originates from “ballare” meaning “to dance” in Latin. Up to the 20th century, a ballroom was a large hall where people could gather for dancing. Initially, ballroom dancing was practiced by rich people, and it was social. It opposed folk dancing that was practiced by the lower classes. Normally, they danced the Quadrille, Minuet, Mazurka, Polka, or Polonaise at the balls. Nowadays, these dances belong to history.

      Ballroom history started with the first record of ballroom dancing practices belonging to the 16th century. At that time, Jehan Tabourot published his study of the French Renaissance social dance. The dances described there were basse danse, branle, pavane, and the galliard. The Minuet was introduced in 1650, set to music, and became popular at the King Louis XIV Court. Since then, the Minuet was the main ballroom dance until the late 1700s. Louis XIV is also known as the founder of the “Academie Royale de Musique et de Danse.” The specific dance rules and five positions of feet were developed there. Later on, they were used in ballet.

      According to further ballroom information, the 19th century is known as the time when the waltz conquered England beginning in 1812. However, this dance was initially severely opposed because of the improperly closed hold. Only in the 1840s, some other dances appeared like mazurka, polka, and the Schottische. All decorative steps and rounds disappeared, and the Quadrille was introduced.

      ballroom dancing 1

      The roots of modern types of ballroom dance are found in the early 20th century. The couple dances started developing independently from the sequence dances. Many popular music styles, like jazz, appeared at that time. It caused the evolution of newly invented dances. Efforts were also made to teach these dances to a wider public in Europe and the USA in 1910-1930. The entire generation of English dancers in ballroom style and choreographers appeared, for example, Victor Silvester or Josephine Bradley. They codified different standard dances for their further use. Such reputable dance organizations as Arthur Murray’s company in America or the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in England were set up.

      Their traditions and recommendations are observed and followed by many European, American, and Canadian dance companies till nowadays. “Hips Don’t Lie” is not an exception. We are happy to introduce you to the amazing world of ballroom dancing, entertainment acts for hire, and ballroom dance classes with professionals.

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      The Most Popular Ballroom Dance Routines and Techniques: Brief Dance Lessons

      We at “Hips Don’t Lie” believe that it is especially interesting and entertaining both to see the ballroom dance performance and learn more about these styles’ routines. So, what is ballroom dancing in a more detailed view? Let’s speak about the most popular and loved dances worldwide.

      Slow Waltz

      The origin of Slow Waltz is a country folk dance in Bavaria and Austria. It was popular in the 17th century there. The dance appeared in England at the beginning of the 19th century, and it was the first dance where a man held a woman close to his body.

      This ballroom dance means entire elegance and perfection. The upper body is kept to the partner’s right side throughout all the figures. The head follows the left elbow. The combination of rises and falls with rotations and contractions features the peaks at the second count. Sways at this count make steps longer and slow down the rises with the feet placed together. Slow Waltz is characteristic of both Standard and American Smooth competitions.

      Slow Waltz


      Tango appeared in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century. It produced two different styles - Argentine Tango which is danced in both open and closed body positions with a strong emphasis on the lead, and Ballroom Tango characterized by a much more open frame, with distinct staccato movements.

      Tango is also a part of the American Smooth program where it is danced in even more open positions. You can look for any ballroom dance group near me and learn more about this difference. If you come to “Hips Don’t Lie,” we will tell you everything about American Smooth tango.

      The Tango technique involves moving to passionate music without any rises and falls. The feet are kept grounded and ankles and knees are held together with brushes against one another. Body weight is usually kept on the toes, and the connection between partners is held in the hips.

      latin dance tango

      Viennese Waltz

      The origin of this style is Provence county in France. It appeared in 1559, and therefore, it is known as the oldest in the history of ballroom dance. It was introduced in England and became mistakenly known as German Waltz in 1812. The music by Josef and Johann Strauss made this dance extremely popular.

      By the way, the Viennese Waltz is the fastest dance style among all other ballroom styles, with its 58-60-bar beat. Only Spanish paso doble can compete with it in speed.

      The body shaping helps move towards the inside of the turn, and rises and falls lengthen the steps. Reverse turns help move down the short side of the floor, while right turns are performed down the long side. These turns are called natural and are replaced by reverse turns in the corners.

      Viennese Waltz is characteristic of both Standard and American Smooth programs. The latter requires even more speed, with its 63-64-bar beats.

      Viennese Waltz


      Foxtrot originated in America. It was even once believed to have something of African-American origin. The name comes from Harry Fox, an American vaudeville performer, who invented those trotting steps that can remind you of a male fox walking on the hind paws during the mating period. Fox did them to ragtime music, and the name was introduced in 1914.

      The tempos can vary depending on the type of music. It can be slow, medium, or fast, and the dancers in the ballroom perform close together with frequent changes of direction. The rhythm of the walking steps is “slow” for two beats per step and “quick” for one beat per step. Foxtrot belongs to both International Standard and American Smooth programs.



      This dance was invented in England in the 1920s. It is a combination of foxtrot steps and the Charleston hops, locks, and runs. The dance is very dynamic, and it is mostly performed in short syncopated steps. Other steps characteristic of this dance’s routines include walks, turns, and chasses. Learn more about Quickstep from us as a popular and reputable Canadian dance company whose aim is to introduce this jolly dance style to the fullest. Quickstep is a part of the International Standard program.



      This dance is often called Cha-Cha. It was created by Enrique Jorrin at the beginning of the 1950s. It was initially considered a slower variant of Mambo. Even its first name was Triple Mambo.

      This dance is about flirtation. You will observe it in any Latin ballroom dance troupe performing Cha-Cha. Partners synchronize their movements in a pair, and hip rotations are common here. The knees are straightened and bent resembling Cuban motion. The dance belongs to both International Latin and American Rhythm dancing programs.

      latin american dance Cha Cha Cha


      This dance originated in Brazil. It is their national dance and a part of the culture. Initially, it was introduced by West African slaves, and the name also belongs to them. In 1905, an international exhibition was held in Paris, and Samba appeared there. Since then, it has started gaining popularity worldwide. Carmen Miranda introduced it in America in the 1940s.

      The international variant known to everyone as Ballroom Samba is based on the original Brazilian Maxixe, a folk Brazilian Samba, but it has changed a lot and absolutely differs from the present-day Brazilian Samba de Gafieira.

      The International Ballroom Samba is performed with bouncing and knee straightening and bending. It experiences continuous development that goes on outside Latin America. We represent the most talented local ballroom dance group performing Samba in its variations.

      latin dance Samba


      This passionate dance comes from Cuba. It was brought to the United States in the 1920s. It became a well-appreciated cabaret dance adapted from Son Cubano and Bolero. However, as a widely performed ballroom style, it doesn’t include too many elements of the initial Cuban Rumba. Cuban motions, though, can be sometimes performed, together with swivels, hip rotations, and knee strengthening. The most prominent characteristic of Rumba is its powerful lead achieved via footwork. Rumba is a part of both International Latin and American Rhythm programs.


      Paso Doble

      This dramatic dance originated in Spain inspired by its picturesque bullfights. This dance is characteristic of competitions and performances but is rarely performed socially. It is not easy due to its abundance of choreographic rules. The meaning of this ballroom dance is a bit contradictory. The male lead is believed to play the role of a matador, while the female follower is likely to be the matador’s cape or even the bull. The most widely performed elements here are chasses, appels, and capes. However, the modern interpretation of this dance is a love conflict or opposition between a man and a woman. So, the performance is very fast and full of true passion. Paso Doble (translated from Spanish as “double steps”) is performed as a part of the International Latin program.

      Paso Doble


      This dance comes from North America. It is believed to be a lively variation of the jitterbug. Jive belongs to the swing ballroom dance groups, and it was first danced in African American clubs at the beginning of the 1940s. American soldiers brought jive to England during WWII. It was accepted and adapted there to become a modern competitive dance. The male partner leads in the dance, while the female partner mocks him and encourages him to ask her to dance too. Some techniques here are taken from tango, swing, and salsa, but others are simply rock’n roll. Big band music sounds great for this dance. Jive is the last of the five dances in this program.


      Of course, there are many other ballroom styles and dance types. They include Mambo, East Coast Swing, Cuban Bolero, Spanish Bolero, Salsa, Merengue, and others. Some of them are entirely social, while others are competitive.

      You have a great chance to learn more ballroom dance facts during our breathtaking five-dance performances with the most talented and professional ballroom dance troupe in Canada. “Hips Don’t Lie” invites you into the fantastic world of ballroom dancing. While you see our dance acts for hire in different styles, you will be amazed and never forget the performance and those vivid impressions that will stay in your memory for a long time. Come to us now and learn to dance ballroom in group and individual classes with the most experienced dance teachers.

      If you need more information about the best ballroom dance performance offers at “Hips Don’t Lie”, contact us now.

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