There are so many types of dancing, but what is “Ballroom Dance?” What does it consist of? How does it differ from other kinds of dancing?

Definition of Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom dancing is a popular way of dancing in which partners hold onto each other and move to the rhythm of the music as they perform a series of dance steps to form patterns in a particular type of dance. There are different types of dances, including foxtrot, waltz, swing, polka, quickstep, tango, rhumba, cha-cha, and salsa, to name a few.

Types of Ballroom Dancing

There are two styles of ballroom dancing: International and American. International Dance Style is more formal and is what you will see if you watch an international dance competition. Partners are required to dance close together, with emphasis on form and style. The American Style is less formal and can include open positions, underarm turns, and even some lifts.

Development of Two Styles

The International Style evolved from English folk dances. Originally called English Style, the steps and patterns were standardized by British dance teachers’ associations. In the 1950s and 1960s, the English Style became known as the International Style. With the exception of the United States, most dancers throughout the world dance the International Style.

In contrast, American dancers enjoy both the International and American styles.  At about the same time that the International Style was developed, Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire operated dance studios that taught dancers a style based on the choreography of the movies of the time, which became known as the American Dance Style.

International Dances

International dances are grouped into two categories: Standard and Latin. Standard dances include the Slow Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, Tango, and Quickstep. The Latin group consists of Cha-Cha, Jive, Samba, Rumba, and Paso Doble.

American Dance Style

American dances are also divided into two types: Smooth and Rhythm. Smooth dances include Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz.  The dancers progress around the dance floor when dancing smooth dances, but the rhythm dances are danced in one spot or slot. The rhythm group consists of Rumba, East Coast Swing, Cha-Cha, Bolero, and Mambo.

What About Social Dancing?

You’ve probably heard someone refer to “social dancing”. What is that? People doing social dancing may use the same dances and patterns as ballroom dancers. But this is a more relaxed, less formal form of partner dancing. People dance for the love of it, for enjoyment, socialization, or exercise rather than to entertain an audience or to conform to competitive criteria. Social dancing is done for the pure joy of it! Types of social dancing change with the times and location, for example:  the Charleston, Jitterbug, the West Coast Swing, the Twist, and the Shag.


Information on dance classes abounds on the internet. Do a search, find a class that fits your interests and schedule, and get in the swing of things. Ballroom dancing is great exercise, fun, and good for the soul. So, let’s get out there and dance!


  1. Hello,
    dance is always a good topic for me. I like dancing, and I think it can be called social dance. But I did not know about the development of two styles, International and American. Both styles contain almost the same dances, what is the difference? Very interesting post, thank you.
    All the best

    • Hi, Maja. I thought that I had responded to your question, but don’t see my response here. I apologize for being so late in answering your question. The International style is more formal, the dancers dance in a closed position (very close together), and there are never any under arm turns or open positions like there are in American style. The American style is less formal and more relaxed. It is sometimes referred to as “social dance”. Dancers may dance close, but can also dance with some space between them. Open positions, such as a four hand hold often used in Cha-Cha can be used in American style, but not in International. Most dancers around the world dance the International style except for in North America. Carol

  2. Hello Carol, I really love the article that describes what ball room dancing is. All I know is what I watched from Strictly Come Dancing here in UK. I personally love dancing, the exercise one like ZUMBA, I love Classical music too, I find it inspiring. Thank you for your blogs, they do educate novice like me about dancing.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Lanu. My goal for the website is to show people who don’t know how to dance, but want to learn, that dancing is not nearly as scary as it seems from the outside looking in. I enjoy Zumba and classical music as well. Let’s boogie!

  3. How nice and unique this page is. I was dancing when I was young means more as 30 years ago. Always liked it. Waltz, rumba cha cha cha and more 🙂
    You inspire me to try if I can still do it! Thank you!! 🙂

    • Hi, Bea. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I know what you mean. I haven’t had a dance partner for about 40 years, and really do miss it. I, too, wonder if I can still do it. But since we know the basic steps and patterns, if we have a partner who knows how to lead, I think we could still follow OK. What do you think?

      I discovered a dance instructor who sponsors dances that have “dance hosts” to provide partners for people who want to dance, but don’t have a partner. You might want to do a search for something like that in your area when you’re ready to take the plunge. Let me know when you do decide to try dancing again so I can congratulate you.

  4. I love dancing! In fact, that is how I stayed in shape for a long time. I find ballroom dancing fascinating, but I couldn’t do it now. i had my hips replaced when I was 27 and I have never completely gotten my balance back completely. You don’t realize how much balance is in your hips. I guess I’ll stick to social dancing.


    • Hi, Anita.

      Sorry to hear about your hip replacements and not being able to dance because of your balance. You could probably do something tame like the waltz, but I wouldn’t recommend cha-cha or the swing! I was wearing spike heeled sandals at a class reunion, and fell down doing the swing. Trying to dance in those shoes was a stupid thing to do, but the shoes were SO cute! I wasn’t hurt, but sure was embarrassed! And the cute sandals that I liked so much went to a high school Prom instead of going anywhere else with me!


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