A Brief History of Ballroom Dancing

 Classic Ballroom Dancing

Classic Ballroom Dancing

A Brief History of Ballroom Dancing

“Ballroom dancing” as a term hails from the Latin word “ballare” which, coincidentally, means “to dance.” Thus, a ballroom is a room in which to dance. Makes sense, right?

 Centuries ago, ballroom dancing was primarily for the privileged and well-to-do, while the commoners had to make do with folk dancing; however, these boundaries have since disappeared, leaving ballroom dancing a fun hobby for everyone.

Today, ballroom dancing applies to numerous dances in which a “leader” and a “follower” dance together in close proximity, usually with some degree of physical contact. This closeness is to permit the leader to get the follower to, well, follow along.

Early 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.

The Waltz came about in England in the early 1800s despite initial opposition to the closed dance hold. By 1840, the Polka, Mazurka, and Schottische emerged.

Ballroom Dancing Emerges in the US

In the early 20th century, ballroom dancing experienced massive popularity in the US with the extremely successful dancing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Even though most of their numbers were meticulously choreographed, staged, and oft-rehearsed, they influenced greatly ballroom dancing’s acclaim and acceptance.

Ballroom versus Latin Dances

Although commonly classified together as “ballroom” dancing, there are notable differences between ballroom and Latin dance. The “ballroom” dances are generally “smooth” dances like:

  • Waltz
  • Foxtrot
  • Tango
  • Quickstep
  • Viennese Waltz

“Latin” dances are more rhythmic and include:

  • Rumba
  • Swing/Jive
  • Samba
  • Cha Cha
  • Mambo
  • Merengue
  • Bolero
  • Salsa

Regardless of their "proper" classification, they are all extremely fun and fairly easy to learn.

Competitive Ballroom Dancing

In addition to its wide appeal as a hobby, competitive ballroom dancing has also emerged. Competition enables less advanced dancers of different levels to compete against their peers with a professional partner/instructor. The fame of television shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance highlights the growing trend of competitive ballroom dancing.

For more information, or to visit our wonderful dance studio and see what lessons and activities we offer, please contact us.