About Ballroom


Latin-American Dancing:


There are 3 primary divisions in the world of Ballroom and Latin-American dancing:

1.  International Style or World Standard:

This style is common everywhere in the world, hence the name “world standard”.  It enables everyone to be dancing the same technique.  To many, this style of dancing is most important to learn.

There are 10 dances:

- 5 dances in the Ballroom division:  Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep.  A student generally learns the preliminary movements before moving into the actual curriculum.  In the Ballroom division, couples are not allowed to separate from their partner.

- 5 dances in the Latin division:  Cha Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive.  In the Latin division, couples are not allowed to dance any lifts – the lady must have one foot on the floor at all times.

 2.  American Style:

This style is most commonly seen in the United States.

- There are 4 dances in the Ballroom Division:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz.  Couples are allowed to dance in contact with their partner, but also allowed to separate from their partner, allowing a different artistic interpretation.  This style is similar to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers days of dancing.

- There are 4 dances in the Latin Division:  Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Mambo.  Couples are not allowed to dance any lifts – the lady must have one floor on the floor at all times.

The structure of the American Style dances is slightly different than the World Standard dances.

Social Dances:

There are several other dances but not necessarily categorized specifically as “American Style” dances.  They are generally referred to as “social dances”, but may also be danced competitively.  They are:  Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing, Merengue, Hustle, Salsa, and some other dances, as well.

 3.  Cabaret or Theatre-Arts:

This division is very athletic in nature – it allows couples to dance lifts, and have fewer limitations.  It allows for greater artistic interpretation along with music of choice.



Where did it all start?  Each separate dance has its own unique origin.  However through history, the British and Europeans were responsible for helping to develop the ballroom dances.  For many years through today, the British have “ruled” the study of ballroom and Latin-American dancing, producing many world-renowned dancers.  Many of the world’s top dance coaches have hailed from England.  Today however, world renowned dance coaches can be found all over the world.

The Latin dances originated in Latin-America!  However, it was Arthur Murray who was responsible for developing the Latin curriculum and who made it teachable, sending dance scouts to Latin-American countries helping to develop the dances.  This time period for Arthur Murray dates from the 1930’s to the 70’s.  Europe and the rest of the world took some time to catch on.  Eventually, the British developed it even further to bring about the curriculum we have today, the World Standard Latin.  It was also Arthur Murray (and Fred Astaire) who helped to develop the American Style ballroom dances, which was primarily taken from the World Standard.


The Curriculum:

Like in figure skating, or in other forms of dancing, sports and arts, one works in levels, starting at the beginning and progressing to the most advanced to understand the curriculum and its school figures.  These levels are known as Pre-Bronze, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold Star.  Once a student has reached the highest level of dancing with a thorough understanding of the curriculum, the artistry of choreography is achieved.


The Technique:

There are 2 primary World Standard technique societies that “govern” dancing:  I.S.T.D. (Imperial Society) and I.D.T.A. (International Dance Teacher’s).  Both of these societies are involved with the technique in most all forms of dance, and yet similar in most aspects.

Other technique societies may exist (in Ballroom and Latin), but it is important to follow the structure based on these two main techniques.

Several  societies exist for the American Style curriculum.  Over the past few years, there has been much progress in trying to standardize the American Style curriculum into one or two main governing bodies as it is in the World Standard curriculum.  D.V.I.D.A. (Dance Vision) is becoming one of the main leaders in developing this.



For any student who wishes to learn dancing and the curriculum well, it is strongly suggested (and encouraged) to progress through the levels by taking student exams from a recognized member of World Dance Council (see further below).

There are amateur as well as professional examinations.  Most students will begin as amateur dancers until reaching the highest level, then generally will turn professional.

Amateur exams are affordable for students - only a qualified examiner can conduct the exam   The exam must also be arranged by a qualified instructor, when a student is ready.

During the exam a student will be asked to dance (with a partner) in each dance for the level being examined, for a time period of approximately 1 1/2 minutes.  A student will not be questioned nor asked to dance alone – very little conversation will take place between the student and the examiner.  No one else will be allowed on or around the dance floor during this time period.  Afterwards, the results for the exam are generally given to the instructor to discuss with the student, before the certificate and medal are handed out.

Exams are generally offered at various time periods throughout the year.


Professional Qualifications:

If a student is serious about learning dance, it is most important when searching for a dance instructor, that the instructor have appropriate credentials.

Professional credentials should be recognized by the World Dance Council, or a member of it.  Such recognized members may include (but not limited to) I.S.T.D., I.D.T.A., C.D.T.A., and some others.

Professional examinations from members of the World Dance Council, are most rigorous and only allow the highest level of professional knowledge to take – and to pass any exam.


Competitive Dancing:

As in most competitive world sports, there is a governing world body.  In dancing, this body is known as World Dance Council.  Although not limited to just competitive dancing, it still governs the world of dance.  From the World Dance Council, each country must have a governing body/membership.

For the jurisdiction of competitive dancing, I.D.S.F. (International Dancesport Federation) falls directly under World Dance Council.

For competitors, there are two divisions:  Amateur and Professional.  Amateurs and professionals must both have a registration number from the governing body of their country in order to compete.

The Competitive Divisions - There are several:

- International Style, American Style, Cabaret or Theatre Arts.

- There are divisions under the two main styles for Latin and for Ballroom.

- For amateurs, there are divisions for each level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Pre-Championship, Championship).  Most competitive rules require an amateur to achieve at least two to three first place titles before moving to the next level.  Most countries are now requiring a competitor to be examined at that level before competing in it.  Competitors dancing at a certain level must adhere to the curriculum at that level – a penalties judge is generally present during the competition.

- There are also divisions for age groups:  Juvenile, Junior, Over 35, Senior, etc.

- There are also divisions for Professional-Amateur competitions (known as Pro-Am) and either in a separate dance, in an age group, or at a level.

- There are also 10-Dance competitions.

- And yet, there are the titles that a competitor can achieve:  A specific competition title (such as Black Pool), a country title, and a world title.

 Most of the information above applies to amateur competitors.


An amateur competitor is technically one who does not accept money for their dancing, and in most all recognized competitions, this rule is strictly enforced.  Depending, some considerations may be allowed for amateurs to accept prize money, but only in exchange for expenses, and the like.  Amateurs will generally dance up to 1 1/2 minutes in each dance when competing.


Professionals generally compete to win a title plus prize money.  Some of the awards can be high, depending on the competition.

For professionals, there are no level or age divisions.  Professional competitors may have different competitive options such as Rising Star, Ballroom or Latin divisions, 10-dance titles, a specific competition title, or a country or world title.


For both amateurs and professionals, there are generally no more than 12 couples on the floor at the same time.  A process called “heats” is used to eliminate couples to the next “heat”, thus eliminating those to make it to a final.  In a final, there are 6 couples on the floor.  In some competitions, a final plus a solo dance will be required to determine a winner.


For competitors winning a country title (amateur or professional), these winners are then sent to represent their country in the world competition.  These competitions are held once a year.  A point system is also issued at the world-class level to determine a competitor’s eligibility requirements.



For high-level competitors there are few regulations placed on costumes.  Costumes obviously must be worn within “good taste”.  However, there may be some restrictions in place for competitors at the lower levels and for children’s costumes.

Generally the standard Latin attire that is worn by man and lady depend on the current “style”.  For the ballroom division, the man wears a tail suit, generally black.  The lady has more freedom with her ball gown – again, these can change based on the current style.  For the American Style divisions, the lady may have more freedom in the style of her ball gown.

Costumes designed for competitors can be very expensive and are made by top costume designers specifically specializing in ballroom and Latin attire.  There are generally costume exchanges, or “second-hands” available at many of the competitions or even on the internet.


The Judging:

Only recognized judges are allowed to adjudicate competitions.  Generally, there are several scattered around the dance floor.  Since there can be up to 12 couples on a floor at the same time, it is important to have these judges scattered around the floor to be able to view all the dancers at the same time.  Judges look at everything:  footwork, posture, partnership, floor-craft, presentation, etc.  Each judge may look at something or notice something different than the next judge – this is why it is important to have several.

A scrutineer is present at every competition.  The scrutineer’s job is to add up the judge’s totals for each competition, to determine a winner.

I hope the above information has given you a beginning education into the world of dance.  Please contact me if you have further questions:


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