Table of Contents


Welcome to Ballroom 101! When most people think of ballroom dancing, they think of princes and princesses waltzing around a grand marble floor. Whereas, yes, waltz is a ballroom dance; ballroom is much more versatile than most people give it credit for.
To start, Ballroom isn’t quite as stiff as some old-fashioned movies might have
you belie
ve. It doesn’t always involve ballgowns or flashy costumes and, in social settings, there is generally no choreography.

So, what is ballroom?

This page is dedicated to answering that question with a quick overview of Ballroom and a list of dance terms you might hear while social dancing (a glossary is located at the bottom of this page).

Need more info? Shoot us an email! It will help us develop this page further!

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Ballroom Categories

vancity5.jpgIn a broad sense, Ballroom Dancing refers to a multitude of partner dances. They are often divided into the following subdivisions:

  1. Ballroom (Smooth)
  2. Latin
  3. Swing
  4. Nightclub
  5. Country

When you get into ballroom competitions (yes, there are ballroom competitions), the definition narrows:

Outside of the U.S., there are 5 “International Standard Dances” (waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, and quickstep) and 5 “International Latin Dances” (samba, cha-cha-cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive).

In the U.S. and Canada, you also have “American Smooth” (waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz) and “American Rhythm” (cha-cha, rumba, east coast swing, bolero, and mambo) dances.

There are some crossovers in the dances (for example, both American and International dances include waltz) but there are differences between the two.

Whew. That’s a lot of terminology and lists.

Let’s focus on the dances that you will likely come across in a social setting, shall we?

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Dances You’ll See at VanCity

There are are many dances in the ballroom community but don’t be intimidated! Some  are much more common in the ballroom community than others. The 18 dances listed below are most likely to be played at VanCity Ballroom.

Click on the dances you are most curious about; each section includes a brief definition, some songs you can practice to, and a YouTube link to a basic lesson of that particular dance.

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Table of Contents

  1. American Tangosocial-dance-club-cloud
  2. Argentine Tango
  3. Bachata
  4. Cha-Cha
  5. Country Two-Step
  6. East Coast Swing
  7. Foxtrot
  8. Hustle
  9. Merengue
  10. Nightclub Two-Step
  11. Quickstep
  12. Rumba
  13. Salsa
  14. Samba
  15. Viennese Waltz
  16. Waltz
  17. West Coast Swing

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Skip to the glossary.

tangopicAmerican Tango (common)– a smooth dance usually performed to a medium tempo song- usually something orchestrated and almost march-like. It’s danced in 4/4 time and can be counted off as “slow-slow-quick-quick-slow”.

Practice American Tango Songs:

Pa’ Bailar – Bajofondo
Dance With Me – Debelah Morgan
El Tango De Roxanne – Moulin Rouge

You can learn the basic step to American Tango here.

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Argentine Tango
 (rare)– a very improvisational dance usually performed to music that varies in tempo. Although the music might sound similar to what you would dance an American Tango to, the basics and styling of each dance is very different.

argentine-tango-2079964_1920Practice Argentine Tango Songs:

Song – Artist
Song – Artist
Song – Artist

You can learn the basic step to Argentine Tango here.

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Bachata (uncommon)– a romantic “club” dance known for its sensuality. It is usually danced to Latin music of the same name and its steps are counted as “1, 2, 3, tap”. Bachata is regularly played at VanCity but is not necessarily a common dance in the ballroom community.

Practice Bachata Songs:

La Diabla – Romeo Santos
Cuanto Duele – Aventura
Corazon Sin Cara – Prince Royca

You can learn the basic step to Bachata here.

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Cha-Cha (common)– danced to medium-tempo music in 4/4 time. The rhythm can be counted as  “1, 2, cha-cha-cha” or “4 and 1, 2, 3,”. Cha-cha isn’t just a Latin dance, it is also danced in country settings and can be danced to some pop music as well.

Practice Cha-Cha Songs:

No Llores – Gloria Estefan
Your Man – Josh Turner
Paralyzer – Finger Eleven

You can learn the basic step to Cha-Cha here.

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Country Two-Step (uncommon)– a high-energy country dance counted off as “quick, quick, slow, slow”. There are non-country songs this dance can be performed to (see below) but it is more commonly danced at country bars as opposed to ballrooms.

Practice Country Two-Step Songs:

The Bigger the Heart – Ashton Shepherd
Bruises (ft. Ashley Monroe) – Train
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

You can learn the basic step to Country Two-Step here.

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StockSnap_IXY75KWYOTEast Coast Swing (common) – a swing dance that can be danced in “Single-time” (counted as 1,2, rock step) and “triple-time” (1&2,3&4, rock step). Usually danced to upbeat and high-energy music.

Practice East Coast Swing Songs:

Zoot Suit Riot – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
Ex’s and Oh’s – Mia Love
Beat It – Michael Jackson

You can learn the basic step to East Coast Swing here.

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(common)– a smooth, progressive dance that has a 4/4 time signature is danced often to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. You can count off the beats of a Foxtrot by saying “slow-slow-quick-quick”.

Practice Foxtrot Songs:StockSnap_JQYJR3DCYX

I’ve Got The World On A String – Frank Sinatra
Fever – Peggy Lee
Summer Wind- Michael Buble

You can learn the basic step to Foxtrot here.

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Hustle (common)– Hustle became extremely popular in the 1970s and was originally a disco dance. The syncopated hustle is counted off as “and 1,2,3”.

Practice Hustle Songs:

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Fireball (Ft. John Ryan) – Pitbull
I Will Survive- Gloria Gaynor

You can learn the basic step to Hustle here.

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Merengue (uncommon)– definition

Practice Merengue Songs:

Suavemente – Eliva Crespo
Acerate Ya (ft. Alean & Summer) – Amor Romeira
Esa Muchacha – Los Hermanos Rosario

You can learn the basic step to Merengue here.

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Nightclub Two-Step (uncommon)– definition

Practice Nightclub Two-Step Songs:

Breathe – Faith Hill
First – Cold War Kids
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room- John Mayer

You can learn the basic step to Nightclub Two-Step here.

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Quickstep (rare)– definition

Practice Quickstep Songs:

A Cool Cat in Town (ft. Brenda Boykin) – Tape Five
Puttin’ On the Ritz – Fred Astaire
Sing, Sing, Sing- BBC Big Band Orchestra

You can learn the basic step to Quickstep here.

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(common)– The Rumba is a Latin or “Rhythm” dance and is usually performed to medium-tempo Latin music in 4/4 time. It’s basic rhythm is “slow-quick-quick”.

tim-gouw-138868Practice Rumba Songs:

Belle Chitarra- Andy Fortuna
Quando, Quando, Quando (with Nelly Furtado) – Michael Buble
Sangria – Blake Shelton

You can learn the basic step to American Rumba here.

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Salsa (common)- One of the nightclub dances, Salsa is a Latin dance performed to up-tempo Latin music in 4/4 time. It is generally danced in closed frame and is known for its “spicy” styling. It is an 8 count to which you count “1-2-3, 5-6-7” (the “4” and “8” count are “rest steps”).

Practice Salsa Songs:

La Bamba- Amaury Fondeur
Pirata De Amor – Yanfourd
Estoy Confundido – Felix Manuel

You can learn the basic step to Salsa here.

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Samba (rare)– definition

Practice Samba Songs:

Bailando – Enrique Inglesias
Cheap Thrills- Sia
Say Hey (I Love You) [ft. Cherine Tanya Anderson]- Michael Franti & Spearhead

You can learn the basic step to Samba here.

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alvin-mahmudov-175985Viennese Waltz (rare)– definition

Practice Viennese Waltz Songs:

Blue Danube – Berlin Philharmonic & Herbert von Karajan
Implicit Demand for Proof – Twenty-One Pilots
Kiss From a Rose- Seal

You can learn the basic step to Viennese Waltz here.

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Waltz (common)– a smooth, romantic dance performed in triple time (meaning you can count the beats off as “one, two, three”). The dance has a slow tempo and is danced primarily in closed position.

Practice Waltz Songs:

Apasionata – Ballroom Orchestra & Singers
Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
Here We Go- Jon Brion

You can learn the basic step to Waltz here.

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West Coast Swing (uncommon)- a nightclub dance marked for being performed in a “slot” and for its changes in timing (6 count to 8 count). It’s danced in 4/4 meter and can be danced to a wide variety of music.The easiest way to count WCS is by counting “1, 2, triple step, triple step” or “1, 2 3 and 4, 5 and 6”. Although not necessarily common in the ballroom community, it is frequently played at VanCity Ballroom.

Practice West Coast Swing Songs:

Put Your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae
Closer (ft. Halsey) – The Chainsmokers
Dirt On My Boots- Jon Pardi

The basic steps for West Coast Swing can be found here.

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Amalgamation – A combination of various dance moves.

Ball Change – The change of weight from the ball of one foot to the flat of the other

Basic Step– A standardized dance pattern which constituteboxstep.gifs the basis of a dance

Box Step – The basic step of American Waltz and Rumba. To start, the lead steps forward with his left foot, to the side with his right foot, and then brings his feet together. The lead will finish the box step by stepping back with his right foot, to the side with his left foot, and bringing his feet together again. The pattern should draw a square (or a “box”) on the dance floor (see image). The follow does the natural opposite by starting by stepping backwards on her left foot.

BPM – Beats per minute; used to measure how fast or slow a song is. For example, most waltzes are between 84-96 BPM.

Break – A pause/stop in the music

Change Step – A 3 step move used to change weight from one foot to the other.

Chase – A dance pattern where one partner pursues (or “chases”) the other. Usually a sight lead.

Chasse– A series of 2 or 3 lateral steps (forward or backward steps)

Close – To bring one’s feet together without a weight change.

Cuban Motion– Rotating the hips by alternating the bending and straightening of the knees. Seen more often in Latin/Rhythm dances (like Rumba or Salsa)

Dance Frame– The position of the lead and the follow in relation to each other.

Fan – Drawing a circular motion with one’s free foot.

The Follow– Typically the female role. The follow interprets and responds to the lead’s body movements to complete the partnership and create synergy in the dance.

Frame– The position of your arms and upper body while in dance frame.

  • Closed Frame– The lead and follow stand close together and are facing each other (the connection is in the hands and the body).
  • Open Frame– The lead and follow are still facing each other but are standing further apart (the connection is mostly in the hands) .

Heel Lead – A dance step in which the dancer steps from heel to toe (similar to a walking motion). Waltz employs a heel lead.

Inside Turn – Turning left under the lead’s left hand or, similarly, turning right under the lead’s right hand.

Jack and Jill – A dance competition in which dancers are paired with random partner selected by the dance officiates.

The Lead– Typically the male role. The lead dictates where the dance shall go and what moves shall be done in the dance. He indicates direction and style based on his body movements.

Line of Dance – The movement of traffic around the dance floor which is always counter-clockwise.

Mixer – A ballroom “game” in which leads and follows line up on opposite sides of the room. The lead and follow at the front of the line then dance down the floor together and rejoin their respective lines. Only works with progressive dances (foxtrot, international waltz, tango, etc.)

Natural Opposite – When each partner dances the same foot position but in the opposite direction and on opposite feet. (As in the boxstep of the American waltz or rumba)

Open Break – A step in which both members of the partnership step back at the same time.

Outside Turn- Turning right under the lead’s left hand or, similarly, turning left under the lead’s right hand.

Progressive Dance – A dance that moves along the line of dance (as opposed to remaining stationary). Examples include international waltz, tango, and foxtrot.

Quick – A step taking place on one beat of music.

Sight Lead – Or Visual Lead. A lead in which there is no tactile contact.

Slow – A step taking place on two beats of music.

Snowball – A ballroom “game” in which a single couple starts on the dance floor. When the DJ yells, “snowball”, the couple splits apart and seeks out new partners. This continues until all dancers are on the floor. This game is usually used for stationary or slot dances (west coast swing, hustle, etc.)

Slot Dance – A stationary dance where all of the moves are kept in a straight line. It gives the appearance of the dancers being trapped in a “slot” in the floor.

Stationary Dance – A dance in which there is no forward movement on the floor. This includes American waltz, cha-cha, and east coast swing.

Toe Lead – A dance step in which the dancer steps from toe to heel. Latin dances employ a heel lead.

Triple Step – A three step sequence taken on two beats of music. Usually the triple step is two quick steps and one slow, counted as “quick-quick-slow” or “one-and-two.”

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