The History of Ballroom Dance (2022)

The history of ballroom dance is a fascinating story of music and creative movement melding synergistically over time, producing what we know and love today as social ballroom dance and dancesport. As dancers or aspiring dancers, an understanding of the origins of our craft can help bolster our appreciation for where ballroom dance is today, and also derive inspiration from the stories behind our favorite dance styles.

While this blog post could truly be a novel, we want to offer you a short outline to explore the general idea of the history of ballroom dance. Since its origins, ballroom dance has been inspired by historical music choices, and music inspired by what the dancers created. This unique partnership is a great reminder that these histories are full of culture, stories, and lifestyles from across the globe.

Early Origins

The origins of ballroom dance first appeared in 16th century Europe—French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, wrote of a dance that he observed in 1580 in Augsburg, Germany, where dancers moved together so closely that their faces touched. Waltz, considered the oldest traditional ballroom dance, originated as a dance style enjoyed by lower classes. Around 1750, a couples’ dance called “Walzer,” was popularized by peasants of Bavaria, Tyrol, and Styria. Danced in ¾ time, it eventually spread from the countryside, to the suburbs, and finally into European cities.

As ballroom dance entered cities, upper classes danced the minuets (stately ballroom dances from the 18th century) to music by Mozart, Haydn and Handel. The styles of upper and lower classes blended when noblemen, bored by the minuets, stepped away to partake in the balls of their servants; as peasants and noblemen danced together, novelists took count and incorporated elements of this Waltz into their writing, often depicting it as both shameless and indecent.

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However, perhaps startling to aristocrats and writers, Waltz grew in Vienna, quickly reached England, and was introduced to commoners by infantry soldiers in the early 1800s. As composers picked up on the popular dance style, those such as Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner helped increase the popularity of the ¾ time Waltz, throughout Austria and Germany. No longer was Waltz considered scandalous or indecent, the dance was most popular at social gatherings and parties across Europe, complimented by authors for it’s grace and beauty.

Across the globe, other forms of social dance emerged. While the origins of the Merengue are disputed by historians, some attribute its creation in the early 1700s to African slaves of the Dominican Republic, who combined both African and French minuet dances. After watching aristocrats dance stoic, waltz-style dances during parties, they mimicked these dances, taking bits of what they liked, increased the tempo and added their own music and rhythm. By the 1850s, Merengue was danced at every social occasion in the Dominican Republic and neighboring Caribbean and South American Countries. Well-suited for crowded rooms or small spaces, Merengue was introduced to the United States first in New York City, and was easy to dance in bustling bars or clubs.

Turn of the Century

Around the turn of the century, many dance styles blossomed across all parts of the world.

(Video) History of ballroom Dance Part 1

In the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the dance and the music of Tango developed together, increasing its popularity at a rapid rate. In fact, many instruments even became known as traditional “Tango” instruments—guitar, Bandoneon (tango accordion), and ensemble bands including violins, piano, flute, and bass. In the early 1900s, Tango reached New York City and Paris, expanding into both lower class dancers in these areas, as well as wealthy Argentinian youth traveling in other parts of the world, seeking the comfort of music and dance from their home country. Tango became a trendy dance and style of music, and was soon danced across Europe and North America frequently. The North American Tango strayed slightly from the Argentinian at first, and became more unique over time. Today, the tempo of the music and movement of the dancers is must faster and typically a 2/4 or 4/4 rhythm.

In the United States, inspired by ragtime dances, a smooth and traveling dance called the Foxtrot was named after entertainer and Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Around 1914, Harry would typically perform trotting steps to ragtime music in one of his theater acts in New York City, earning his dance the name of “Fox’s Trot”. Husband and wife actors, Vern and Irene Castle, also helped popularize and refine the dance after appearing the the Broadway Show,Watch Your Step, in 1914.

In the 1920s, an energetic dance inspired by contemporary jazz music and popularized by Black Americans became known as the Swing. Like tango, the music and dance evolved together, and Swing came to include many other styles—Lindy Hop, Shag, and Charleston. Fast, bouncier swing dancers, such as Norma "Queen of Swing" Miller, came to introduce the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop, with incredible displays or jittering movements as they danced. While Lindy Hop and other styles of Swing are still danced across the country, in Ballroom today, the most popular styles of swing are defined as “East Coast” and “West Coast” Swing.

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As all of these new forms of partner dancing began to evolve around the beginning of the 20th century, there was a new birth of ballroom dance, inclusive of many of these styles. As the arts became an integral part of many American origin stories, dancers and other artists became popular within the media. The Hollywood stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were only the start of a dance partnership making the world fall in love. Between their connection on the dance floor, ability to move as one with music, and creation of routines that viewers remember for years to come, dancers such as these are the fulcrum of our country’s passion for partner dancing.

In the 1940s, the origins of Mambo showed great collaboration between dance and music. Bandleaders, starting to play a new form of music called Mambo, developed a very creative and expressive dance based off of their new music style. While this dance provided people the freedom to move their bodies to the flow of the music, it was also characterized by complicated footwork and interesting patterns. Mambo became so popular that a Puerto Rican dancer, Pedro Aguilar, who came to be known as “Cuban Pete” even had songs written about him and the way that he finessed the Mambo, making himself a household name. Although he was not from New York, he brought his dance style and eccentric dance ability to the Palladium club in New York city. He is known historically as the “greatest Mambo dancer ever”, presented this title by Tito Puente, a superstar in Latin dance music.

Alongside the Mambo, the Cuban Rumba was an extremely popular dances within a club setting or on the streets, danced to the music of local entertainers in Latin America. Similarly to the Mambo, Rumba is both a style of musical rhythms and a dance. Originating in Africa, this dance and music style was brought to Latin America through African slave trade to Cuba. In Africa, the Rumba began as a fast dance, with large hip actions, said to represent the “chase” of a courtship. The “Son”, a popular Cuban dance, was a similar dance style to the Rumba, but was slower and more compressed. The wealthy Cuban class also danced a different style to Rumba music, called the “Danzon”, where the hip movements were much smaller and created by bending and straightening of the knees. As Rumba increased in popularity in South America, the styles began to blend. The Rumba we know today is a combination of parts of each of these histories, and even is danced competitively across both the American and International categories.

(Video) Where Did Ballroom Dancing Originated

Ballroom Dance Today

Within the successive years, governing bodies of ballroom dance were formed across the United States and the entire world in order to collaborate internationally and produce competitive dancing events. Today, ballroom dance is a phenomenon as a social activity, as well as a competitive entity, delivering some of our country’s most talented athletes as they blend elite execution of skill with a beautiful art form. This growing trend of ballroom dance has only been increased as television shows like Dancing with the Stars have increased in popularity. Ballroom dance is a unique opportunity to move, share movement with others, and showcase creativity.

The History of Ballroom Dance (1)

FAQs

Who started ballroom dancing? ›

The first documented authority of early ballroom dancing is Jehan Thoinot'Arbeau's Orchesographie (1588) that discussed 16th-century French social dance. In 1650, Jean-Baptiste Lully introduced the Minuet to Paris—a dance that would dominate ballroom until the end of the 18th century.

What was the first ballroom dance? ›

Viennese waltz originated in Provence area in France in 1559 and is recognized as the oldest of all ballroom dances.

What is the history of ballroom dance in the Philippines? ›

Introduction. During the American Colonial Period (1898-1946), Filipinos became active in the ballroom dance scene. For the Filipino community in Toronto today, ballroom dancing has been a craze for years. This has been a major part of their cultural identities.

Why is it called ballroom dancing? ›

“Ball” is derived from the Latin word “ballare” which means “to dance.” Modern ballroom dancing comprises of the “International” and “American” dance styles. These dance styles are famous all over the world. They are not only performed in social gatherings but in competitions as well.

Where did ballroom dance originally come from? ›

Ballroom dancing originated in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in which these dances, such as the waltz, were performed by the upper and elite classes of society in balls and parties.

Why was ballroom dancing created? ›

Ballroom dancing originated in the late 17th century in Europe. It was initially used as a way of socializing and courtship. However, over time it has become a widely enjoyed form of dance entertainment and pastime.

Who is the father of ballroom? ›

Arthur Murray
BornMoses TeichmanApril 4, 1895 Podhajce, Kingdom of Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire
DiedMarch 3, 1991 (aged 95) Honolulu, Hawaii
Alma materGeorgia Institute of Technology
OccupationFounder of franchise "Arthur Murray Dance Studios"
3 more rows

When did ballroom culture start? ›

Modern ballroom culture, or ball culture emerged in the 1920s in and around New York City. In the beginning, performers consisted mainly of white men putting on drag fashion shows. Black queens rarely participated, and when they did, they were expected to lighten their faces.

What is ballroom dance and its importance? ›

Ballroom dancing is a partnership dance where couples, using step-patterns, move rhythmically, expressing the characteristics of music. Ballroom dancing consists of two styles: the Smooth, or Standard, and the Rhythm, or Latin. The Smooth, Standard style focuses on the elegance, grace and fluidity of movement.

Who is famous for ballroom dancing? ›

1) William Pino

While he wasn't able to get his hands on a World Title, he is still one of the biggest and most respected names in ballroom dancing.

What makes ballroom dancing unique? ›

It's uniqueness derives from its technique, which requires dancers to step onto a straight leg (versus Rhythm in which you step onto a bent leg). International Ballroom, originating overseas, is the most classic form of ballroom dance, and it is likely what you imagine when you picture a ballroom dancer in your head.

What is ballroom dance examples? ›

The types of dances in this style are the waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz. 2. American Rhythm: Rhythm ballroom dancing is a more energetic style of dance than American Smooth dances, often performed to more upbeat music.

How would you describe a ballroom? ›

A ballroom or ballhall is a large room inside a building, the primary purpose of which is holding large formal parties called balls. Traditionally, most balls were held in private residences; many mansions and palaces, especially historic mansions and palaces, contain one or more ballrooms.

How many ballroom dances are there? ›

Ballroom is commonly considered to comprise of five dances, but there are actually six. Social Foxtrot - also known as rhythm dancing. This is the easiest of the ballroom dances to learn and is the most useful as it will work to pretty much any music except that in 3/4 time.

What are the benefits of ballroom dancing? ›

Why Ballroom dancing is good for you? Ballroom dance can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen weight-bearing bones, help prevent or slow bone loss related to osteoporosis, lower the risks of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and promote increased lung capacity.

Where was the dance originated? ›

Origins in antiquity: The earliest historical records showing the origins of dance are cave paintings in India dating to about 8000 BCE Egyptian tomb paintings also depict dance in about 3300 BCE These early dances may have been religious in nature, and by the era of ancient Greece, people were incorporating dance into ...

What are the three world of ballroom dance? ›

These include waltz, swing, tango and salsa. "Ballroom dance" is the overall umbrella term, covering all three forms discussed on this page.

What are the three classification of ballroom dance? ›

Today, there are three main styles of Tango, the American ballroom style, the International ballroom style, and the Argentine style. Both American and International style travel around the ballroom following the line of dance.

Is ballroom dancing still popular? ›

Today, ballroom dance is still a great way to meet new people and build friendships. Today, ballroom dance lessons are meant to welcome all skill levels and ages and are much less intimidating than they were in the past. All levels can try ballroom dancing to see if it's something they enjoy!

Why do ballroom dancers have to connect emotionally? ›

There is always a leader in the dance, and the follower must be able to react and follow their lead. If you are not emotionally connected to your partner, then it will be difficult for them to understand what you are trying to do with the steps.

How is ballroom dancing different from other dances? ›

Ballroom dancing has a slow and graceful pace, where the two partners glide across the room effortlessly with the music. Latin dances have a much faster pace, and they are fun and lighthearted. Most of the time, Latin dances do not travel the room. Latin can have high energy and hip action in addition to the footwork.

Who invented dance? ›

The first written records of dance date back some 4,000 years to the ancient Egyptians. Dance was a crucial element in festivals for their gods. The ancient Egyptians also brought skilled dancers from central Africa to Egypt to provide entertainment.

What is the Latin word where ballroom came from? ›

The term “ballroom dancing” comes from the word ball, which in turn originates from the Latin word ballare that means to dance.

What are the two international ballroom? ›

The American Smooth is made up of Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz. The International Ballroom is made up of Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, *Slow Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

What does 007 mean in ballroom? ›

There's a lot of houses represented, but I feel like the scene here is still young and we are slowly but steadily growing. There's people in the Ballroom scene who are 007, too, which means you are not in a house.

Why was ball culture created? ›

Ball culture emerged in the 1920s in and around New York City. At their beginning, performers consisted mainly of white men putting on drag fashion shows. Black queens rarely participated, and when they did, they were expected to lighten their faces (Cunningham 1995).

Is ballroom culture still alive? ›

Ballroom culture is now widely seen and celebrated (and appropriated) in the mainstream—across fashion campaigns, music videos, social media and in TV shows like Pose, Legendary, and RuPaul's Drag Race.

What is the magic of ballroom dance? ›

These dances are just simple, rhythmic, graceful walking that helps them stay healthy, relaxed and calm. Practicing regular ballroom dancing definitely helps improve social life. It inculcates the aura of grace, poise, elegance and sense of balance in the body, improving one's body posture.

Why is ballroom dance necessary in a social event or program? ›

Ballroom dancing can help enhance memory, alertness, awareness, focus, and concentration. You also reduce stress and increase confidence.

Why ballroom dance is one of the best fitness program? ›

Ballroom dancing is a low-impact aerobic activity that burns fat and can boost your metabolism. In just thirty minutes of dance, you can burn between 200-400 calories – that's roughly the same amount as running or cycling!

What is the most famous ballroom in the world? ›

Blackpool Tower the worlds most famous ballroom.

What's the hardest ballroom dance? ›

Dances have different tempos, and a faster speed can increase the challenge. That said, the slow foxtrot is considered to be the hardest ballroom dance to master.

What is the most common ballroom dance? ›

Arguably, the five most popular Ballroom dances in the world are: Waltz, Swing, Rumba, Cha Cha and Foxtrot. Dancers proficient in these five styles can dance with partners from anywhere else in the world.

Is ballroom a social dance? ›

ballroom dance, type of social dancing, originally practiced in Europe and the United States, that is performed by couples and follows prescribed steps. The tradition was historically distinguished from folk or country dance by its association with the elite social classes and with invitational dance events.

How does ballroom dancing help your well being and confidence? ›

Research has found that ballroom dancing improves mental acuity throughout a dancer's life – and that there are also substantial benefits to those who start ballroom dance as adults. Ballroom dancing can help enhance memory, alertness, awareness, focus, and concentration.

What is the difference between ballroom dancing and dance sport? ›

Dancesport is a competitive form of ballroom dancing. It is done in front of judges, in the form of dance that is required of the competitors. This can be everything from the waltz to the slow foxtrot. There are different categories for age and skill level.

What's another word for ballroom? ›

In this page you can discover 14 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for ballroom, like: dance-hall, dance-floor, assembly hall, discotheque, hall, dance palace, chambre, dancery, salle, dance and cabaret.

What is ballroom theme? ›

A ballroom theme is all about creating glitz and glamour for your guests. Take inspiration from great ballrooms of the past with the use of chandeliers, drapes, string curtains, columns, and baroque style images and decorations.

How big is a ballroom? ›

Ballroom Capacity
RoomDimensionSquare Feet
Ballroom B35' 6” x 71'6”2,538.25
Ballroom C65' x 71'6”4,647.50
Ballroom (A-B)100'6” x 71'6”7,185.75
Ballroom (B-C)100'6” x 71'6”7,185.75
3 more rows

What do ballroom dancers wear? ›

The general ballroom attire for women is a flared dress or skirt. Fitted slacks paired with a blouse is also appropriate. Avoid wearing clothes that reveal too much skin while dancing. It is also recommended to avoid A-line skirts, V-neck blouses, and other restrictive clothes.

What is the easiest ballroom dance to learn? ›

The Waltz is the easiest because it is a slow, smooth dance and only uses four steps. It has a distinctive ¾ timing with a flowing style.

Who started ballroom dancing? ›

The first documented authority of early ballroom dancing is Jehan Thoinot'Arbeau's Orchesographie (1588) that discussed 16th-century French social dance. In 1650, Jean-Baptiste Lully introduced the Minuet to Paris—a dance that would dominate ballroom until the end of the 18th century.

What are the four 5 reasons or ways of doing the ballroom dancing? ›

Here are five reasons that taking ballroom dances with your significant other can improve your relationship.
  • You spend more time together. ...
  • You'll learn new things about each other. ...
  • You'll become closer. ...
  • It will improve communication. ...
  • It's one more thing you can share and enjoy.
13 Feb 2014

What values can you learn in performing ballroom dance? ›

5 Life Lessons You Learn From Dancing
  • Determination. No one was born knowing how to high kick or plié. You got there by practicing. ...
  • Teamwork. You know the importance of a team that's in sync. ...
  • Talent. Even if dancing is your strongest talent (or even if it isn't), don't forget you have others, too.

Who is the father of ballroom? ›

Arthur Murray
BornMoses TeichmanApril 4, 1895 Podhajce, Kingdom of Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire
DiedMarch 3, 1991 (aged 95) Honolulu, Hawaii
Alma materGeorgia Institute of Technology
OccupationFounder of franchise "Arthur Murray Dance Studios"
3 more rows

When did ballroom culture start? ›

Modern ballroom culture, or ball culture emerged in the 1920s in and around New York City. In the beginning, performers consisted mainly of white men putting on drag fashion shows. Black queens rarely participated, and when they did, they were expected to lighten their faces.

Who is famous for ballroom dancing? ›

1) William Pino

While he wasn't able to get his hands on a World Title, he is still one of the biggest and most respected names in ballroom dancing.

Who invented dancing? ›

Who invented dance? No single person or group of people invented dance. Dance originated in different places around the globe, in areas that are now modern-day India, China, Greece, and Italy, as early as 9,000 years ago. Inventors can be identified for certain disciplines of dance, such as ballet.

What makes the ballroom dance unique? ›

It's uniqueness derives from its technique, which requires dancers to step onto a straight leg (versus Rhythm in which you step onto a bent leg). International Ballroom, originating overseas, is the most classic form of ballroom dance, and it is likely what you imagine when you picture a ballroom dancer in your head.

What are the 2 types of ballroom dance? ›

Ballroom dancing consists of two styles: the Smooth, or Standard, and the Rhythm, or Latin. The Smooth, Standard style focuses on the elegance, grace and fluidity of movement. Dancers rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, moving around the entire floor.

What are the characteristics of ballroom dance? ›

Standard (ballroom) dance are elegant and have strong emphasis on posture, more formal than Latin Dances. They are generally dance in a closed position. It consists of the following dances such as: Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese waltz.

What does 007 mean in ballroom? ›

There's a lot of houses represented, but I feel like the scene here is still young and we are slowly but steadily growing. There's people in the Ballroom scene who are 007, too, which means you are not in a house.

What is ballroom dance culture? ›

ballroom dance, type of social dancing, originally practiced in Europe and the United States, that is performed by couples and follows prescribed steps. The tradition was historically distinguished from folk or country dance by its association with the elite social classes and with invitational dance events.

Why was ball culture created? ›

Ball culture emerged in the 1920s in and around New York City. At their beginning, performers consisted mainly of white men putting on drag fashion shows. Black queens rarely participated, and when they did, they were expected to lighten their faces (Cunningham 1995).

What is the most famous ballroom in the world? ›

Blackpool Tower the worlds most famous ballroom.

What's the hardest ballroom dance? ›

Dances have different tempos, and a faster speed can increase the challenge. That said, the slow foxtrot is considered to be the hardest ballroom dance to master.

What is the most common ballroom dance? ›

Arguably, the five most popular Ballroom dances in the world are: Waltz, Swing, Rumba, Cha Cha and Foxtrot. Dancers proficient in these five styles can dance with partners from anywhere else in the world.

What was the first dance in history? ›

First archeological proof of dance comes from the 9 thousand year old cave paintings in India. One of the earliest uses of structured dance was introduced in religious ceremonies that told the stories of ancient myths and gods. Egyptian priests used this kind of visual storytelling in their rituals.

What is the origin and history of dance? ›

Origins in antiquity: The earliest historical records showing the origins of dance are cave paintings in India dating to about 8000 BCE Egyptian tomb paintings also depict dance in about 3300 BCE These early dances may have been religious in nature, and by the era of ancient Greece, people were incorporating dance into ...

What is the oldest dance? ›

Historians consider the dance form that is today known as belly dance the oldest form. It originated 6,000 years ago and was practised by many ancient cultures.

Videos

1. History of Ballroom Dancing Part I
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2. History of Ballroom Dance
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3. BEGINNER BALLROOM DANCE TIPS & ADVICE | what I wish I knew before my first dance class.
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4. History of Dance : History of Ballroom Dancing
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5. How the LGBTQ community created voguing
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6. A Brief History on Ballroom Culture
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