Description of the Levels of Ballroom Dance
Levels 1 & 2 – Beginner – Junior Associate:
This level is ideal for the person with little or no dance instruction and experience. The basic steps,
timing and character of each dance will be taught in these classes. Students will also begin to
develop a portrayal of a dance’s characteristics in the form of styling. This class level is very
popular with those wanting to dance and get out on the dance floor quickly.
Levels 3 & 4 – Full Bronze – Associate:
These classes comprise the complete social dance program, and are designed to develop timing
and techniques in all of the dances. The styling will make you look and feel comfortable on the
dance floor and strengthen your lead and follow abilities. Bronze dancers have all the confidence
anyone would need on the floor. Dancing techniques at this level will be yours for a lifetime of
Silver (Intermediate) – Master:
Silver is the dance standard with a high degree of styling. Continuity of movements will have a
couple gliding across the dance floor with style, technique, balance and control. The more
elaborate movements ensure that you and your partner will stand out on any dance floor. This is
the beginning of the more professional standard of ballroom dance.
Gold (Advanced) – Grand Master:
This is the more advanced level of syllabus patterns in ballroom dancing. Gold level patterns are
primarily for the dancer interested in performances, exhibitions and competitions. Choreography,
styling, technique and showmanship are necessities in this standard. These patterns are generally
not used on a crowded dance floor. There is a lot of work involved for this program, but you will be
an outstanding dancer, excelling in any dance. You will see most professionals dancing at the Gold
and Silver levels in their routines.
The History of the American Style Smooth Dances
Foxtrot – Introduced in 1913 by vaudeville actor Harry Fox, this is the most popular
American-style ballroom dance. Foxtrot is a Smooth dance traveling around the line of dance in
a counterclockwise direction and is a lot like walking or strolling. Foxtrot is an extremely useful
dance socially and can be danced to a variety of jazzy musical styles. The basic beginner
rhythm of Foxtrot is Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick.
Waltz – It appeared in Europe at the end of the 17th century. Known as the Volta in Italy,
Volte in France, Weller in Germany, and Landler in Austria they were popular throughout Europe.
The mother of present day dances it grew in popularity in the 1830’s with the music of Johann
Strauss, Franz Lanner, and Chopin. First danced in America in 1834 it evolved by the 1920’s to
three-quarter timing with strong accent on the first beat. Popularly known as the “traditional
American wedding dance,” the recurring, even beats of music send the dancers whirling around
the floor enjoying the Waltz movement. The basis for many dances, its styling characteristics
include rise and fall, body sway, round movements, a pendulum action, and rotation, all of
which make the Waltz elegant and beautiful.
Tango – Tango music originated from Argentine, Brazilian and Spanish influences. The earliest
traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century – to the Milonga, an
Argentine folk dance. The dance was modified in to a ballroom dance by renowned ballroom
dancers Verne and Irene Castle. The American and International Styles are sensual, danced to
slower, moodier music and is therefore very precise. Tango has a flavor quite unlike any other
dance. The basic rhythm is an 8 count Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow. It is a dance that is
ironically both showy, yet very intimate.
Viennese Waltz – Is from the same root as the Waltz. It is danced at a tempo of about
180 beats per minute and in competition has only a very limited range of figures. The rapid pace
and constant circling will make the novice dizzy at first, but with practice it is a lot of fun. The
nature of this dance requires both the leader and the follower to maintain a good frame. It is a
“Smooth Dance” so it travels counter-clockwise around the room at high speed.
The Social Dances
Salsa – The word Salsa means sauce, denoting a “hot” flavor, and is best distinguished
from other Latin music styles by defining it as the New York sound developed by Puerto
Rican musicians in New York. The dance structure is largely associated with mambo type
patterns and has a particular feeling that is associated mainly with the Clave and Montuno.
NightClub Two-Step – One of the most practical and versatile social dances ever
conceived. It is designed to be used with contemporary soft rock (“Love Song”) music.
The rhythm of the dance is very simple and rarely changes from the 1 |& 2 count. This
simple romantic dance fills a gap where no other ballroom dance fits. It gives the dancer,
either beginning or advanced, the opportunity to express and create without a rigid
technique being required. It’s attractive, romantic, and a real asset to learn since it will be
New York Hustle – Has its roots in Swing with most people dancing New York Style or
Swing Hustle. It is a fast, smooth dance, which is all about hands. The lady spins almost
continuously, while her partner draws her close and sends her away in a “slotted” linear
Carolina Shag - is a six count partner dance done mostly to moderate tempo music
(25 - 38 mpm). During the dance the upper body and hips hardly move as the legs do
convoluted kicks and fancy footwork. The lead is the center of attention, and follow's
steps either mirror the lead's or mark time while the lead shows off with with spins and
other gyrations. Carolina Shag is the state dance of North Carolina and South Carolina, and
is still popular amongst residents of both states. Carolina Shag can trace its origins to to
the southern United States during the Big Band Era of the 1930's and 40's. The term
"Carolina Shag" is thought to have originated along the strands between Myrtle Beach,
South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940's.
Bachata - is a popular guitar music from the Dominican Republic. Now overwheminly
successful among Latinos in the United States, Bachata took shape over period of about
forty years in the bars and brothels of Santo Domingo, not gaining acceptance in its native
land until about ten years ago Young groups like Aventura have a similar relationship to
original Bachata as rock and rollers do to the blues, which has languished in the shadow of
its more commercially viable descendant.
In fact, the parallel between Bachata and the Blues is marked. Although Bachata
developed out of, and Bachateros play, a variety of different rhythms, notably including
Merengue, the music which is specifically called Bachata is a variant of Bolero. The Bolero
in Latin culture has traditionally been a romantic music, dealing with themes like decption
and lost love. The Bachatero, like the Bluesman, sings about pain and trouble; one
difference, though, is that while the Bluesman hops on the southbound freight and keeps
moving, the Bachatero gets as far as the neighborhood bar and looks for solace in a bottle
of rum in a dark corner!
Bachata is in 4/4 timing with dancers stepping on beats 1, 2 & 3 and stepping in place on
Argentine Tango – Is a beautiful, simple language of improvisational social dance that
has developed over the last century in the City of Buenos Aires. |It is a true dance of
leading and following. Argentine Tango, with it’s dramatic character and use of leg and foot
actions, uses slower music and is more of a spot dance, which makes it easier to dance on
Lindy Hop – Came about with the big band era and is danced to fast tempo swing. All
Lindy steps are eight count patterns done in a circular fashion with a lot of kicks, flicks,
hops, lifts and drops. It’s been said this dance gained its name from Charles Lindbergh and
his flight to the United States.
The Two Step - is the main partner dance in Country Western Dancing. The basic step
occupies 6 beats of music.Similar to the 6-count swing, the steps consist of 2 quick steps (1
beat for each) and 2 slow steps (2 beats for each). Beyond the basic inside and outside
turns, the Two Step incorporates many ducks, tunnels and funky arm positioning. This makes
the dancing playful and leaves the curious observer wondering, “How did those dancers just
do that?”Beyond the basic inside and outside turns, the Two Step incorporates many duckose
Country Waltz - is the Country Western counterpart of the Ballroom Waltz. It is generally
faster and progresses rapidly down the floor. Generally seen as a romantic country dance, the
movement is graceful and playful through its use of turns and spins. Both the posture and
frame are relaxed, and couples mayfrequently dance in the promenade position, depending on
Country/Western Cha Cha - is the traditional Cha Cha used to slow, pretty
Polka-speed music. Many of the songs Western Cha Cha works best to can be described as
romantic or sultry, often with a Latin beat in the background. The patterns vary from the
simple to the complex and use double turns when the mood strikes. Best of all, the Cha Cha
has an attractive hip motion that makes Wrangler Jeans do for Western dancing whatever it is
that Gap Khakis do for Swing dancing.
Cha Cha is flirtatious, sexy, easy to learn, and lots of fun!
Dance etiquette is a set of guidelines that help us navigate the social dimensions of dancing. It
makes the difference between having a happy or unhappy dance experience and the difference
between people wanting, or not wanting to dance with you. If in doubt, always ask your
instructor/coach for assistance. Use these guidelines to improve your dance experience. Etiquette
is here to ensure everyone has a good time in a social dance setting, so pay attention to dance
• Your outfit and accessories should be comfortable, safe, and also reflect the culture and level of
formality of the dance event/group.
• Ask everyone to dance. Do not monopolize one partner for the whole night.
• Everybody starts out as a beginner! Today's beginners will be the good dancers of tomorrow, so
be nice to them and dance with them.
• Either the man or woman may ask for a dance.
• Do not decline a dance, unless you absolutely have to. Having declined a dance, do not dance
the same song with someone else.
• Be considerate of other couples on the floor. Exercise good floorcraft. Do not cut other couples
off. Do not do aerial lifts or drops on the social dance floor!
• When starting a dance, especially with someone you don't know, take it slow. Everyone dances
differently, so take your time and get to know the other person by starting off with less complex
• It is beneficial to dance with people of all experience levels. Dancing with more experienced
dancers often helps you to improve. Dancing with less experienced dancers is a prime opportunity
for you to work on your lead/follow skills.
• Avoid patterns that your partner cannot do; dance to the level of your partner.
• Stationary dancers (e.g. Swing dancers) stay in the middle, traveling dancers (e.g. Foxtrot)
move on the boundary along the line of dance.
• Never blame your partner for missteps.
• No unsolicited teaching on the floor!
• Punctuality is always important; for classes or social events.
• Personal oral and body hygiene is of utmost importance. Use heavy perfumes, hair styling
products, etc. sparingly.
• Do not deal with difficult people. Ask your instructor/coach for assistance.
• Smile, be warm, be personable, and be nice.
The History of the American Style Rhythm Dances
Rumba – Most accounts say Rumba came from Cuba although versions existed elsewhere in
Latin America and the Caribbean. |It is a blend of African and colonial Spanish culture.
Introduced to the U.S. in the 1920’s its popularity continued to grow through the 30’s and 40’s
and was finally standardized as a ballroom dance in the mid – 1950’s. Sometimes called the
“dance of love,” Rumba is distinguished by its romantic feel. A non-progressive dance perhaps
its most important characteristic is the continuous, flowing Cuban Motion, which gives Rumba
its sensual look.
Cha Cha – A Latin American dance derived from a version of the Mambo called Triple Mambo.
Introduced in to the U.S. in the early 1950’s. Cha Cha is lively and fun. A non-progressive
dance, it emphasizes Cuban Motion and rhythm expressed throughout the body.
East Coast Swing – Traces its roots to the Lindy Hop, a dance based on the Charleston.
Tamed and simplified by the dance schools in the 1940’s it became know as East Coast Swing in
the 1970’s. It is a fun, upbeat dance characterized by bounce, back break (rock step) and
Swing Hip Motion, and is a non-progressive dance.
Bolero – Originally a Spanish dance with Moroccan roots; often called the “Cuban Dance of
Love” it arrived in the U.S. in the 1930’s. Bolero is a slow dance characterized by smooth,
gliding movement, dramatic arm styling and a romantic feel. Bolero is a mixture of three dances:
Tango (contra body movement), Waltz (rise and fall) and Rumba (Cuban Motion and slow Latin
Mambo – Developed from the Cuban dance Danzon, introduced in to New York about 1947. A
fast and spicy dance characterized by strong Cuban Motion, staccato movement and
expression of rhythm through the body. The dancer holds on one and breaks on two.
Merengue – Originally from the Dominican Republic, it has a brisk rhythm, is noted for its
Cuban Motion and also by its marching feeling; a different feeling from the flowing Cuban and
Puerto Rican dances.
West Coast Swing – Evolved from Lindy Hop, born in CA in the 1940’s, became known as
West Coast Swing in 1959. Danced in a smooth (no bounce) style in a slot to a wide range of
music including R&B, Country Western and Rock.
Samba – Originated on Brazilian plantations with the mixing of African rhythms and European
music. Introduced to the U.S. in the late 1920’s and became a couples ballroom dance in 1956.
Quickstep - Devloped during World War I in suburban New York, it was initially performed by
Caribbean and African dancers. It eventually made its debut on the stage of American music
halls and immediately became popular in ballrooms. Foxtrot and Quickstep have a common
origin. In the twenties many bands played the slow-Foxtrot too fast. Eventually they developed
into two different dances. The slow-Foxtrot tempo was slowed down and Quickstep became
the fast version of the Foxtrot. 1925 began the Charleston fever, it had a lot of influence on
the development of the Quickstep. The English developed the Quickstep from the original
Charleston as a progressive dance without kicks and mixed in the fast Foxtrot. They called this
dance the "Quick Time Foxtrot and Charleston". At the "Star" Championships of 1927, the
English couple Frank Ford and Molly Spain danced a version of the Quick Time Foxtrot and
Charleston without the charactersitic Charleston knee actions and made it a dance for two
instead of a solo.
There was a debate as to why this dance became so popular in Britain. It has been thought
that the Qucikstep was Brit's answer to keeping warm indoors during the Winter. It is a proven
fact that that the energy expended while dancing a 60 second Quickstep is equivalent to
running a mile in record time!!
The dance might be termed the "joy" dance of modern dancing. While the basic figures are
quite simple, the tempo of the music and the whole characther of the dance seem to invite a
carefree interpretation of its bright rhythm. The beginner will find the basic steps easy to learn
and easy to fit the music. The advanced dancer will discover that the music lends itself to an
infinite variety of steps. The dancer who masters the fundamentals of the Quickstep will have
command of a dance that can never grow stale, a dance that is unquestionably the most
attractive expression of rhythm the world has ever known. The Quickstep is undoubtedly the
most popular dance today.