The Edinburgh Ballroom Dancers Association

For Ballroom Dancing, Latin American Dance and Sequence
Dancing Information in and around Edinburgh, Scotland UK

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The Edinburgh Ballroom Dancers Association

Standard Ballroom Dances

The five "Standard" Ballroom Dances are Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango and Viennese Waltz, and we try to include all of these into our regular Monday evening sessions of ballroom and latin dancing

The Waltz

The waltz, the 'champagne' dance

The Waltz is by its very definition a form of music in 3/4 meter or time. The first beat of each bar or measure is dominant with a strong downbeat accent, while beats two and three are lighter. Characteristically, Waltz music is slow, sweet, melodic and fluid. It is often orchestral music, mostly lacking in heavy percussion or drums, relying more on the melodic instruments to carry the rhythmic progression. The music can be vocal or instrumental.

The Waltz is a smooth progressive dance characterized by long, flowing movements, continuous turns, and rise & fall. Graceful and elegant, Waltz dancers seem to glide around the floor almost effortlessly. At 30-32 bars or measures per minute, the tempo is slow, but the expressive quality of the music often invites graceful, yet powerful and dynamic movement from dancers. Almost always played as the last dance for those romantics amongst us all!

The Quickstep

The Quickstep developed during World War I in suburban New York, likely performed by Carribean and African dancers. It eventually made its debut onto the stage of American music-hall and immediately became popular in the ballrooms. Note that Foxtrot and Quickstep have a common origin. In the twenties many bands played the slow-foxtrot too fast, which gave rise to many complaints. Eventually they developed into two different dances, with the slow-foxtrot tempo slowed down and the Quickstep becoming clearly the fast version of Foxtrot, danced at 50 - 52 bars per minute tempo. The Charleston had a deal of influence on the development of Quickstep. A bright, upbeat and often cheeky dance, the Quickstep is danced at all levels from Social through to competition ballroom dancing.

The Slow Foxtrot

The Foxtrot was first introduced into the mainstream in 1913 by an American named Harry Fox. It has since become one of the most popular and lasting dances of the twentieth century, but not before going through many stylistic changes. Compared with today's standards, the original Foxtrot was moderately fast, simple and unrefined, not unlike the music of the time. The popularity of the dance stemmed from its overall versatility and rhythmic variation (Foxtrot is believed to be the first dance to introduce the "Slow" count, previously the popular dances such as the Waltz and the One-Step used only a single-count rhythm). In the early 30´s Foxtrot began to take on a smoother and more flowing quality in contrast to the new and exciting Latin dances hitting the scene.

A modified version called the Slow Foxtrot was evolved in England, and is the technical basis for the version at around 30 bars per minute that we now have. This dance did not catch on quickly in the social mainstream, however. The long, smooth, continuous movements did not lend themselves well to crowded nightclub situations, and the many patterns required just to get around the floor took quite a bit of time and effort to learn. The Foxtrot remains one of the hardest Ballroom dances to master, but perhaps the most elegant and delightful to watch.

The Tango

Tango as it was - - and maybe should be?

The Tango was first danced in Europe before World War I, in 33 or 34 bars per minute tempo. It originates from Buenos Aires (Argentina) where it was likely first danced in "La Barria de Las Ranas", the ghetto of Buenos Aires. It was then known under the name of 'el Baile con Corte' (the dance with a rest). The "dandies" and dancers of Buenos Aires changed the dance in a couple of ways. First they changed the so-called "Polka rhythm" into the "Habañera rhythm" and then called it Tango.

From 1900 onwards several attempts were made to introduce the dance from Argentina into Paris, but without success. Not only an exotic dance, but almost certainly a bit risqué from its background in the bordellos and dance clubs of "ill repute", a sensuous creation of South America, Tango was not initially accepted by European society and the establishment. It was still however, being danced in suburban areas and gaining more and more popularity. The breakthrough for the Tango came during a dance competition on the French Riviera. The dance was so well presented there by a group of Tango enthusiasts that it gained immediate recognition in Paris and then the rest of Europe quickly followed suit. You can see Argentinian Tango in this clip. Many of the more formalised steps of the Ballroom Tango are based on those used in the original Argentinian Tango as shown here.

The Viennese Waltz

The Viennese Waltz remains in the Ballroom section, but is now mainly danced at competition level. It is less free and more structured than the other dances, by comparison having a more limited selection of steps and groups to learn, but danced at a much faster tempo [56 to 60 bars per minute], and so requires both technique and stamina to master. Often used completely out of historical context in costume drama by Hollywood, but nevertheless, an attractive and colourful dance. Similar steps occur in various circle waltzes worldwide, pointing to a common origin. Interestingly, the waltz was originally regarded in the same manner as the tango, being the first dance where partners danced in the closed position with their arms around each other, and thus sure to lead to all forms of sin and debauchery! [Have things changed much?]

All of the five Standard Dances used in ballroom dancing, plus Saunter, Blues and Swing are also used as bases for Modern Sequence dancing. Click here or alongside for more information about Classical and Modern Sequence dancing generally.

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