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American Style Vs International Style

In North America there are two major ballroom dance styles that are taught and danced. So what is the difference between the two styles? Actually there are more similarities than differences. But the few differences are major and could determine your choice and enjoyment of dancing
American Style:
Also known as Social Dance, is, Ballroom, Country, Latin, Swing and Nightclub dances where the dancing is more relaxed and meant for the enjoyment of the dancers
American Style Ballroom evolved from social dancing in North America and is a fully recognized competitive style of dance. It was taught and popularized by North American dance schools such as Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray. It came about because the North American dancers were not responsive to the rigid and strict foot placement required in the European style of ballroom dancing. North Americans were more interested in having fun while dancing than the strict and ridged ballet discipline taught by the European dance schools. They wanted more freedom of movement, more freedom to be expressive in their dancing, and more freedom to interpret the music the way they felt it. The popularity of Swing dancing and Country dancing in North America would suggest that most North Americans still feel the same way about their dancing.
The biggest difference in the two styles is in the “Smooth” Dances. The American “Smooth” style allows the dancers to be in open or closed positions allowing for a very “Fred and Ginger” style. In International “Standard”, dancers dance in closed position and maintain body contact. American Style “Smooth” has a greater variety of patterns and is easier to learn at the beginner and intermediate levels. At the advanced and competition level, American Style is as difficult to master as the International Style. In “American Style” the box step is the basic element for all the dances and is used in some form as a transition into more complicated steps and patterns.
In the Latin” or Rhythm” Dances the difference is in the way the Cuban or Latin motion is executed.  American Style uses a natural foot and soft knee movement to achieve the hip drop associated with Cuban motion. In the international style, the hips are forced up and out by stepping on to a straight knee resulting in a “Marilyn Monroe” Style of hip movement
Additionally, American Style is, at its core, social dancing that requires dance partners to focus primarily on each other rather than on a formulaic series of dance figures
There are 11 dances divided into two groups
     Smooth dances consisting of:      Rhythm dances consisting of

       Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango and

     Cha-cha, Rumba, Bolero, East Coast Swing, 

       Viennese Waltz

     Samba, Mambo and Merengue

I              International (DanceSport) Style

Traditionally, American Style ballroom dancing has been confined to North America. Professional American Style ballroom dancers have raised the standards of American Style dancing to unprecedented levels. But for the rest of the world, ballroom dancing has a European face: it is the formal, rigid elegance of the International (DanceSport) Style
After WW II it nearly disappeared because of its ridged and strict approach to dancing and, what dances were deemed eligible to be a “Ballroom Dance”. Were it not for some progressive European dance teachers, who recognized the appeal of some of the “made in North America” dances, such as Foxtrot, Cha-cha, and the swing dances, introduced to Europe by the North Americans during the war, the European style of dancing would probably not have survived. These teachers brought these dances back to Europe smoothed them out, applied Ballet technique, structure, and strict foot placement to them, and the International Style of dancing as we see it today came about. Some of these made in North America dances, changed by the International Dance Federation include. Foxtrot, Quickstep (A fusion of Foxtrot Charleston and Swing), Jive, Cha-cha and Rumba. International dancers rightly claim that Slow Foxtrot is one of the hardest dances to master
The two International dances, Quickstep and Paso Doble, are better suited as “Show Dances”
The International Style of dancing, beautiful to watch in competitions, is not ideal for social dancing. It requires a lot of open floor space to execute the patterns. The style is difficult to learn for the beginner and difficult to master with its strict foot placements.
There are 10 dances divided into two categories
    Standard, consisting of     Latin, consisting of
    Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz     Cha-cha, Samba, Rumba
    Slow Foxtrot and Quickstep     Paso Doble and Jive
Your choice will depend on where you want to go with your dancing. If you want to compete in “world competitions” than, your choice, should be the “International Style” or as it is called today “DanceSport”. Keep in mind when choosing this dance style, only a very tiny percentage of students who enroll in ballroom dance lessons go on to compete and only a tiny percentage of those who compete continue to dance after their competition days are over. At Dance Discovery we encourage students to start with the easier American Style of dancing and then if they choose to compete, switch to International Style
If you, like most people who enroll in dance lessons, only want to be comfortable on the dance floor, be a good social dancer and are not interested in competition, than the easier and more Social American Style might be a better choice for you.