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Ballroom Dancing - Genres, Trends, What & How to Pick Dancewear | Beyond the Barre

Ballroom Dancing- Everything you Wish to Know

The term 'ballroom dancing' is derived from the word ball which in turn originates from the Latin word "ballare" which means 'to dance' (a ball-room being a large room specially designed for such dances).

Most ballroom dances are couple dances, where dancers do their routine in pairs. The moves are also designed keeping in mind two partners. These dances are enjoyed both socially and competitively around the world.

Ballroom dances were extremely popular in past centuries, and the formal event called “Ball“ was a great way to interact socially with people. Dancers would perform a variety of dances at a Ball, and some of them are outdated today- like quadrille or minuet. There was specific music crafted for dance, which was known as “Dance Music” Read everything you need to know about dance music here. Ballroom dance is a rage today, and it is recognized worldwide as dancesport- famous for its dazzling competitions and spectacular championships.

Classification of Ballroom Dances

International Dance Styles or Professional 10-Dance Program

World Dance Council (erstwhile World Dance and DanceSport Council). WDC regulates these set of dances. The dancers are required to abide by their rules if they wish to perform at international dance competitions. There is another body- World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) which also has similar regulations. Both bodies differ in their rules regarding the duration of dances, tempo, etc.

Ballroom dancing is further divided into two categories in International Dance styles:

  1. International Standard Dances- aka European, Ballroom or Modern- Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep
  2. International Latin Dances- Cha-cha-cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive

American Style Dances

Regulated by USA Dance (previously known as USABDA- the US Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association), these are a set of 9 dances and are known as Professional 9-Dance Program.

  1. American Smooth- Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz
  2. American Rhythm- Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo

Since everything that is  danced socially can be termed as Ballroom Dance, there is a third set of dance categories which may not necessarily be performed at competitions, but they are very popular, and thanks to shows like "So you Think you can Dance", these have only become a rage today as Social Dances:

  1. Salsa
  2. Merengue
  3. Bachata
  4. Disco Hustle

These dance moves are simple and easy to learn even for a newcomer and are very popular at clubs, bars, restaurants, and private parties. Many dance studios and instructors offer individual sessions for learning the dance moves.

Ballroom dancing has been around since the 16th century. Once considered social dancing for the privileged and nobility, Ballroom Dance today is one of the most popular dance forms and is widely enjoyed on stage, television, and films too. 

Being around for such a long time, most of ballroom dancing styles owe their present forms to a lot of factors like new types of music – like jazz or a shift from couple dances to independent movements like Swing.  Professional dancers around the world made concerted efforts to pick up the latest dance crazes and develop them into a complete, regulated and documented dance form which could be taught to a broader dancer population. Cinema also played an important role in popularizing ballroom dancing- You must have watched or heard about the pair of Astaire & Rogers, who portrayed social dancing in an entirely new light through their filmed dance sequences.

Post Second World War, ballroom dancing and its various forms were credited for breaking the old social customs and providing the much-needed reprieve to the public.

DanceSport has, for long been competing with other sports to be included in the Olympics, and competitive dancing today is synonymous with ballroom dancing, thanks to the TV shows like World of Dance and Dancing with the Stars.

Ballroom Dance at Colleges and Schools

There are ballroom dance chapters, clubs, and teams in almost every school and college in the US. To get into your favorite dance team, here are a few tips you might find handy.

What to Wear for your Ballroom Dancing Lessons

While going for your first ballroom dancing lesson, you may want to check out with your instructor about the dress code. However, unlike ballet, ballroom dancing is much more casual and therefore, your attire for your ballroom dance class could be casual and comfortable.

For Boys and Men: business casual works- a shirt and dress pants that allow for smooth movement are preferred over tight-fitting buttoned shirts and pants. Some instructors would even allow dress shorts during practice sessions. Pants like the Grand Prix "Krystian" Dance Pants are perfect attire for boys to practice and also perform their dance moves in.

For dancers who sweat a lot, a change of clothes and a towel is advised.

For Girls and Women: Loose dresses, skirts or pants that flow but don't restrict movement. Ballroom dancing is all about taking large steps – forward and backward. At the same time, practicing in the right attire makes it easier to transition from practice to finale performance, where you might wear long gowns or dresses.  This Grand Prix Standard EmpresiaViraj Skirt is a beautiful two-layered skirt with Cocquelles, perfect for Latin and Ballroom dancing.

What Shoes to wear for Ballroom Dancing

Like any other sport, you need to focus on your shoes if you wish to become a ballroom dancer. It will be wise to invest in a pair of ballroom dance shoes which are specifically designed for this purpose.  Here are some tips to get the perfect pair:

  • You must remember that your shoes must allow you to effortlessly glide around the dance floor, and AVOID SNEAKERS AT ALL COST, as they grip over the dance floor instead of sliding across it.
  • Remember that your shoes must be secure to your feet to avoid tripping over your feet or having them fly off to another corner during a dance move. Lose shoes are potentially dangerous as they not only throw off dance moves but can also cause sprained ankles!

What accessories to wear for Ballroom Dancing

Chunky, large accessories, and jewelry that can come off easily are a strict no-no, and so are long necklaces for women and big watches or bracelets. Light, fashionable jewelry gives the right accent to a dancer’s persona. Pick your favorites here.

Decoding the Dress Code for ballroom dancing: How to choose the dancewear

As a ballroom dancer, you may be classified into any of the two categories- Beginners and advanced. The right outfit will underline your body movements and makes dancing more comfortable than in regular dresses.For ladies, a practice dress can be a shirt and skirt combo or a full or medium length gown.Some women prefer skirt shorts and trousers instead of skirts.

Top Wardrobe essentials for a Ballroom Dancer

Professional performers and competitive dancers swear by these ideas- take your tips!

  1. Beginners, opt for 2 pieces set for practice sessions. A skirt along with a top is the right choice. One piece sets like the Grand Prix Girls’ Colibri Barbie Latin Dress is fashionable, comfortable and gives a professional look.
  2. For the color of your attire, choose dark colors as they are preferred to accentuate movements. Often, the dress contains skin colored fragments to give an illusion of cut-outs or décolleté.
  3. Respect your body type and choose a dress accordingly. Remember that dancewear has to suit your body, not the other way round. Make sure you pick up silhouettes that accentuate your strong points and cover the flaws beautifully.
  4. A lot of performance depends on legwork, and therefore it’s vital to have comfortable and safe shoes to avoid possible accidents or discomfort during the dance. Shoes have to have these qualities:
  • They should fit well
  • Should have suede or leather soles to help you glide through
  • The price should be mid-range- too low and you might end up injuring yourself, too steep a price and if they do not suit you, you are stuck with an expensive pair which is nothing but a waste of money

Latest trends in Ballroom Dancewear to watch out for

Those who are following favorite dance shows on TV must have noticed the three dimensional detailing such as flowers and petals adorning the bodice, Bead droppers, crystal embellishments, and shading with layers and layers of ruffles is undoubtedly getting bigger this season.

Look out for

  • Ruffled look with animal prints- Shop here
  • Solid colors like aubergine and black, with dual toned trims to accentuate your moves- Shop here
  • Use of fringes and mesh on dresses cut like sports and casual wear- Tank dresses- Shop here

They say that style is a way to tell the world who you are even before you speak. Your ballroom dance attire speaks volumes about you before you take the first step. The beauty of ballroom dancing is that anyone can do it. Searching for ballroom dancewear is loads of fun, but you have to be sure of what you are looking for. Despite so many do's and don'ts for each specific genre of ballroom dancewear, there is a lot of room for creativity and personality in your costume.

Resources:

  1. Wikipedia

 

John

Danielle Hernandez

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About the Author

Danielle Hernandez has been in the dance industry for over 30 years. She landed her first professional dance job at the age of 11.

Danielle received her acting and musical theater training at the prestigious Musical Theater Works Conservatory, and she graduated from Rutgers University with a major in dance and minor in music.

In addition to training and competing with a dance company in NJ, Danielle also trained at Steps on Broadway, as well as Broadway Dance Center. At the young age of 15, Danielle fell in love with teaching dance and coaching competitive cheer squads and dance teams, bringing them to success with state, regional, and national championship titles

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