Partner Dances

Partner dancing is just that – dancing with a partner. While this could mean apart, as is sometimes seen in paired salsa footwork, hip hop, jazz, tap, clogging, or line dancing, partner dancing generally is understood to be between two people dancing together as one unit – in a ballroom, barroom, dance hall, or other social setting where couples dance.

Ballroom dancing in its broadest sense refers to a wide variety of partner dances which are enjoyed both socially and competitively around the world. The performance and entertainment aspects of many of these dances are also widely enjoyed on stage, in film, and on television.

The word “ball” in ballroom originated from the Latin word ballare, which means “to dance”. In the past, only the privileged danced socially in ballrooms in contrast to the folk dancing of lower classes. These boundaries have since become blurred, and it should be noted even in times long gone, many ballroom dances were really elevated folk dances. The definition of ballroom dance also depends on the era: Balls have featured Minuet, Quadrille, Polonaise, Pas de Gras, Mazurka, and other popular dances of the day, which are now considered to be historical dances.

Today, ballroom dance may refer to almost any type of social dancing as recreation. However, with the emergence of dancesport in modern times, the term has become narrower in scope. It usually refers to the International Standard and International Latin style dances. These styles were developed in England, and are now regulated by the World Dance Council (WDC). In the United States, two additional variations are popular: American Smooth and American Rhythm. There are also a number of historical dances, and local or national dances, which may be danced in ballrooms or salons. Sequence dancing, in pairs or other formations, is still a popular style of ballroom dance.

American Ballroom
This style is also called “Smooth.” This is an open style of ballroom used often in social dancing and competition. The dances in this style are the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz.

International Standard
This style is similar to the American Ballroom – but only allows “closed” dance position (and more strictly defined movements and patterns). In addition to the four dances above, International Standard also includes the Quickstep.

International Latin
This is the more structured of the the Latin dance styles. It is a mainly competitive and show style of dance. Thus, it is for the more serious or experienced dancer. The dances in this style are Cha-Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.

American Rhythm
This is the more “Club” style of the Latin dances with it’s dances like Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, and Mambo! These are the typical social dances as well as great competitive ones.

Nightclub & Salsa
This category is all about the dances that were born in the nightclubs – like Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Zouk-Lambada, West Coast Swing, Shag, Charleston, Lindy Hop, Balboa, Nightclub 2 Step, Hustle – and MANY more. These dances are great social dances and fun for shows and competition.

In Europe, Latin Swing dances include Argentine Tango, Mambo, Lindy Hop, Swing Boogie (sometimes also known as Nostalgic Boogie), and Disco Fox. One example of this is the subcategory of Cajun dances (like Zydeco) that originated in New Orleans, with branches reaching both coasts of the United States.

Standard/Smooth dances are normally danced to Western music (often from the mid-twentieth century), and couples dance counter-clockwise around a rectangular floor following the line of dance. In competitions, competitors are costumed as would be appropriate for a white tie affair, with full gowns for the ladies and bow tie and tail coats for the men; though in American Smooth it is now conventional for the men to abandon the tailsuit in favor of shorter tuxedos, vests, and other creative outfits.

Latin/Rhythm dances are commonly danced to contemporary Latin American music, and with the exception of a few traveling dances (e.g. Samba and Paso Doble) couples do not follow the line of dance and perform their routines more or less in one spot. In competitions, the women are often dressed in short-skirted Latin outfits while the men outfitted in tight-fitting shirts and pants; the goal being to bring emphasis to the dancers’ leg action and body movements.

WDC-defined Competition Dances
Dance Music (IDSF Tempo Regulation)
Waltz 28-30 bars per minute, 3/4 timing
Tango 31-33 bars per minute, 4/4 timing
Viennese 58-60 bars per minute, 3/4 timing
Foxtrot 28-30 bars per minute, 4/4 timing
Quickstep 50-52 bars per minute, 4/4 timing

Samba 50-52 bars per minute, 2/4 timing (foot timing 3/4)
ChaChaCha 30-32 bars per minute, 4/4 timing
Rumba 25-27 bars per minute, 4/4 timing
Paso Doble 60-62 bars per minute, 2/4 timing
Jive 42-44 bars per minute, 4/4 timing

American Style Competition Dances (only in the U.S. & Canada)
Dance Music (NDCA Tempo Regulation)
Waltz 28-30 bars per minute
Tango 30-32 bars per minute
Foxtrot 30-32 bars per minute
Viennese Waltz 54-56 bars per minute

Cha Cha 28-30 bars per minute
Rumba 32 bars per minute
East Coast Swing 34-38 bars per minute
Bolero 24-26 bars per minute
Mambo 47 bars per minute

Country-Western dancing is more than just line dancing – and can refer to at least ten partner dances. Some are pure Country and others are “cross-over” dances.

Country Western partner dances:
Texas Two Step
Triple Step (Shuffle)
Country Waltz

Cross-over partner dances:
Cha Cha Cha
East Coast Swing
Nightclub Two Step
West Coast Swing

Although they’ve waned in popularity and you’re not likely to see them often locally,
One Step and Polka are also Country Western cross-over dances.