What Is the Difference Between American and International Style Ballroom Dancing?

February 7, 2010 by Ballroom Dance Lover  
Filed under Ballroom Dance Steps

Certain dances appear in both styles, waltz, rumba, chacha, etc. I was wondering if the tempo, steps, moves, etc. What is the difference, and what do you learn when you take a ballroom class?

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3 Responses to “What Is the Difference Between American and International Style Ballroom Dancing?”
  1. John de Witt says:

    There are five Standard dances in the International style: Slow Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Quickstep, Quick (Viennese) Waltz, and Modern Tango. They are danced with the partners completely in contact throughout. American smooth includes foxtrot, waltz, viennese waltz, and tango, but not quickstep. The partners are often not in full contact, with underarm turns and figures danced in “shadow position” common.
    The competed International Latin dances are cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, and jive. The officially competed American rhythm dances are cha cha, mambo, rumba, bolero, and (eastern) swing, though western or west-coast swing, samba, paso doble, merengue, hustle and others are frequently part of the social menu. Note that the basic patterns of the International rumba is totally different from that of the American rumba, as are some technical differences in motion, though those differences seem to be lessening over time.
    If you’re just starting out and have a choice, I’d suggest you start with International and its greater emphasis on technique in the beginning. A later transition to American will be easy. I did it the other way around, and that works, too, but not so easily.

  2. xsallyxstitchesx19 says:

    Wow, I don’t think I’ll even bother trying to top the answer above me, it’s good. Besides, I live in Australia and we only dance International Standard and Latin anyway, as well as New Vogue.

  3. BeachGirl says:

    - International Style Standard Dances include: Waltz; Tango; Viennese Waltz; Foxtrot; and Quickstep.
    - International Style Latin Dances include: Cha Cha; Samba;
    Rumba; Paso Doble; and Jive.
    - American Style Smooth Dances include: Waltz; Tango;
    Foxtrot; and Viennese Waltz.
    - American Style Rhythm Dances include: Cha Cha; Rumba;
    East Coast Swing; Bolero; and Mambo.

    The biggest difference between Standard and Smooth is that Standard is always danced in closed hold while Smooth allows the partners to break apart.

    I learned American Style first and then International. I have to agree with John in that the other way around would have been a better choice (International does tend to place a lot more emphasis on technique at the start).

    When you start out, you should be learning the basics: hold, frame, lead/follow, and of course footwork. As you progress, you learn more steps and more technique. Eventually you’ll be able to listen to a piece of music and after a few bars know which dance you’d do.

    Here is a great website to explore, that features both International and American, including steps and video clips:

    I hope this helps!

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