Ballroom, Smooth, Standard? What the heck?

dreamstime_2507224What is Ballroom dancing? A simple question isn’t it, I am sure you know what it is? or do you?

I’m guessing  you are already imagining a smooth dance, probably a slow one, and a couple dressed quite formally. You probably pictured a scene out of a Disney movie; a tail-coated prince charming and a pretty young lass elegantly clad, swirling around the floor in unison. Am I right about what you assumed? Well let me break it for you; what you imagined is only a minor part of ballroom dancing.

A Ballroom is a room where you dance. The dance bit comes from the “ball” part, which has its origins in the Latin word “ballare” meaning “to dance”. In general terms a ballroom dance stands for pretty much any type of social dance that you can do inside a ballroom! It’s a broad category that includes Latin, Swing, Disco, and Standard or Smooth dances. Slower of the Standard dances are what you probably pictured – when asked about earlier.

By international standard, this “Standard” category comprises of the waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Viennese waltz and the international tango. No, the use of word standard twice is not a mistake, and this style of dance is called thus in most parts of the world. In America these dances are called Smooth dances, and if you asked me, in this case Americans indeed make more sense.

Generally these are dances where the partners stay together in a closed hold, and move in smooth slick transitions, and travel around the floor; well for the most part. Tango is the exception here, tango is more passionate, movements are more staccato, and is the odd one out – and we will talk about it in another time.

Perhaps its their European high society roots that give the ballroom dances an air of sophistication, and a “haughty” poise; chin up and a big proud top. While they are considered classy and elitist in modern times, they weren’t always seen as such – owing largely to the close body contact which in turn was required for two people to move in unison.  The original “Viennese” Waltz was frowned upon in its early days and  was perceived as a “dirty” dance. However, later in the 19th century this dance was adopted to be more civilized and became the vogue of the royal courtyards of Vienna; the pose was quite different to today’s  – partners were only allowed to hold each other only by their fingertips.  Imagine if those royals could time travel, and could visit a salsa club, or even a regular disc these days!

The Waltz, perhaps the best known of the ballroom dances, is a slower version of the Viennese. Instead of flying across the floor while swirling in the Viennese, you are elegantly navigating the dance floor.  The Foxtrot and the waltz are perhaps the most gracefully tender of the dances.  The Foxtrot will make you feel as if you’re effortlessly gliding across the floor. Often both these dances are used as the opening dances at weddings and social occasions. Social Rhythm dance, quite popular in Sri Lanka, is said to be a watered down version of the t Foxtrot, however there is hardly any resemblance.  This rhythm dance is perhaps the easiest to teach and learn- pretty much just walks side, back and forth!

The quickstep is the fast and funky one of the lot: jumps, hops and slides galore in this energetic dance. When danced in America this dance borrows heavily from dances such as the Lindy hop, Swing and even the Jive.  Talking of the Americans, they also have a slightly different styling for all smooth dances, and unlike in the international style common this part of the word, partners are encouraged to break from the traditional hold, and move in to more open free movements.

This is an article writtenby DanceRevolt’s  Nipuna for the Sunday Observer Youth Magazine. The published article can be found here. 

dancerevoltBallroom, Smooth, Standard? What the heck?

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