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American Smooth and International Standard:
The American Smooth and International Standard dances could be considered "classic dances". Both American Smooth and International Standard include Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz. International Standard includes a fifth dance, Quickstep. All the dances are danced counterclockwise around the dance floor. American Smooth allows couples to break apart and do side-by-side or open choreography, whereas in International Standard the couple must remain in contact or closed dance position at all times.
Waltz - The Waltz developed in Vienna in the 18th century. The Waltz is probably the most graceful of all the smooth dances.
Tango - The Tango originated in Spain in the mid-nineteenth century and was modified when it was introduced in Argentina. The Tango is a powerful dance which stays level in the body, rather than having rise and fall like the other smooth and standard dances.
Foxtrot - The Foxtrot originated in 1914 by the actor Harry Fox. The Foxtrot is a slow and casual dance, characteized by long smooth steps.
Viennese Waltz - This form of Waltz is danced much faster and includes rapid turning down the floor. It is one of the more difficult to dances to learn for beginners due to the speed of the dance and turning technique.
Quickstep - Quickstep is derived from the Foxtrot and the Charleston, a form of swing. The Quickstep is danced with flowing smooth steps followed by quick hops, skips, and kicks down the floor. The Quickstep is a difficult dance to learn at first because of the speed of the music.
American Rhythm and International Latin:
Both American Rhythm and International Latin include Cha-Cha and Rumba with the American version of Rumba being faster. American Rhythm also includes Swing, Bolero, and Mambo whereas the other dances in International Latin are the Samba, Paso Doble, and Jive.
Cha Cha - Perhaps the most popular Latin dance, the Cha-Cha is a Cuban dance which originated from Mambo.
Rumba - The Rumba, which originated in Cuba, is considered to be suited more towards the lady. It is a slow dance, often called "the dance of love". The Rumba is slow and sensual with quick spins and turns.
Swing - There are many forms of Swing including Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, and East and West Coast Swing. Due to its many forms, Swing can be danced to a broad range of music: big-band, country, pop, or oldies.
Bolero - Bolero is similar to Rumba and Waltz, it is slower than the Rumba and involves very quick spins and turns followed by slow and sustained streches. It also includes the rise and fall characterstic to Waltz.
Mambo - The Mambo is a Cuban dance and was publicized in the movie "Dirty Dancing". It is a fast dance and some of the basic steps are very similar to Salsa.
Samba - The Samba is a Brazilian dance and is one of the more difficult Latin dances due to the circular swaying motion in the hips.
Paso Doble - The Paso Doble depicts the man as a matador and the lady as his cape. The Paso is not danced very often in social settings, but is used often in competitions.
Jive - Jive is a form of Swing, but is faster and has more of a bounce in the footwork. It is also stylized by fast kicks.
Other Ballroom Dances:
There are two additional dances that you will find very often at ballroom dances although they are not used as competition dances.
Hustle - The Hustle is a modern dance and is essentially disco dancing. The Hustle is a relatively fast dance although the dancers should look smooth and not bouncy.
Merengue - The Merengue is a Domincan dance and is probably the easiest of all Latin dances to learn. The Merengue is a moderately fast dance, often danced in Latin clubs.