Try as we may to describe these dances in writing, the best way to find out what they’re like is to dance them! Try out our Introductory Sampler, a Series Class, or stop by for one of our Friday dance parties and witness firsthand what all the different styles are like. You can also visit our YouTube channel to see some of these dance styles.
Bachata is a flirtatious Latin dance that originated in the Dominican Republic, is widely popular throughout the US, Latin America, and is steadily developing fans throughout the world. In the Seattle area you will find a more contemporary version of this dance being enjoyed. Rather than emphasizing footwork as in its more original form, some dancers have gravitated to a closer embrace while swirling and flowing with their partners. It’s a very ‘hot’ dance with loads of hip, rib, and body action and not for the faint of heart. When dancing Bachata be prepared for some serious body connection well beyond what you’ll find in other dances in the Salsa clubs.
Balboa is a form of Swing dance that started as early as 1915, gained in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s and has maintained a strong niche of enthusiasts even in present day. Generally, where you find Lindy dancers, Balboa will be part of the fun as well. The art of Balboa uses more subtle communication between the lead and follow, like weight shifts, that most viewers cannot see. As a result, Balboa is considered more of a “dancer’s dance” than a “spectator’s dance”.
Like Swing, Blues dancing originated from African rhythms and movement. Blues dancing is about emotions, and enables intense individuality in expressing the music and those emotions. Learning Blues dance enables the dancer to more fully understand dance concepts such as simplicity, clarity, creativity, expression, intensity and musical and emotional interpretation. This is a dance where creativity and individuality shine. Attention Tango dancers: If you enjoy the freedom and less structured aspects of Argentine Tango, then you’re going to love Blues!
The Bolero is often called the Cuban Dance of Love, although it was originally a Spanish dance with Moroccan roots. Contemporary Bolero is generally paired with smoother, dreamy music with Spanish vocals and soft percussion. This dance successfully blends elements of Waltz, Tango, and Rumba. It has similar footwork and timing as the Rumba, but incorporates a characteristic rise and fall similar to Waltz. It’s slow, graceful, and very romantic.
The Cha Cha is a playful and energetic cousin of the Rumba and Salsa. It evolved from a version of Cuban Mambo known as Triple Mambo. To make the dance properly fit the music, the triple steps were added between the forward/back breaks to fill the slower tempo. There is both a club and ballroom version of this dance. The club version is one of four popular dances you’ll experience in the Seattle Salsa scene.
Country Two Step is also known as the ‘Texas Two Step’ or simply the ‘Two Step’. It is a progressive dance that travels around the floor following a Quick-Quick-Slow-Slow rhythm. The music is traditionally of a country-western variety and is always in 4/4 time. Various open and closed positions are used throughout this lively dance.
Cross-Step Waltz had its beginning in the early 1900s, but is having a resurgence as today’s dancers appreciate its playfulness. It rotates and travels like a traditional waltz, but its easygoing and swooping nature gives it a style all its own. The basic footwork is beginner friendly, and more advanced dancers will love the wealth of variations.
The origins of East Coast Swing (ECS) can be traced back to the ‘original swing dance’, the Lindy Hop. In the early 1940s, the Lindy Hop was simplified by dance schools to become the ballroom dance eventually termed East Coast Swing. It is a very upbeat dance and is distinguished by its bounce, back break (rock step) and swinging hip action. It can be danced to big band standards as well as today’s Top 40 hits. Timing of steps can single, double, or triple-time to fit the tempo of the music.
It is commonly accepted that Foxtrot took its name from its inventor, the vaudeville actor Harry Fox who performed various versions of it on stage. Seeing this exciting new dance, audience members began to take what they had seen onstage and put it to use in the clubs and dance halls of the day. The formal hold is rather wide in the elbows and the dance is designed to have lots of progression around the dance floor. The Foxtrot can be danced to all kinds of music (though most commonly to big band styles) and is characterized by smooth, laid-back steps. Over time, the Foxtrot split into slow (Foxtrot) and quick (Quickstep) versions.
Based on older dances such as the Mambo, the Hustle originated in Hispanic communities in New York City and Florida in the 1970s. This was originally a line dance with a Salsa-like foot rhythm, that after some fusion with Swing and eventual shortening of the count to ‘and 1 2 3’, became the present New York Hustle. It is a high energy dance where the couple dances within a ‘spot’ on the dance floor. This dance works well with a lot of modern club music, not just the great vintage disco music that started it all.
Kizomba originated in Angola and is characterized by sensual pulsing beats and fusion of African dance styling. Danced in a very close embrace, it is slow and romantic. The music is often modern club music with electronic percussion.
Named for Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic in 1927, the Lindy Hop is the original Swing dance. It evolved in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. In its development, the Lindy Hop combined both partnered and solo dancing by using the movements and improvisation of African dances along with the formal 8-count structure of European partner dances. Lindy Hop can be viewed as the parent dance of both West Coast Swing and East Coast Swing and is found in almost every large westernized city. The Lindy Hop is a fun and energetic dance characterized by kicks, swivels, and a grounded posture. It can be quite athletic, even acrobatic, but we always start with the basics.
Merengue is a Latin dance with a two count beat, that you’ll often see danced wherever Salsa is danced. Merengue’s simplicity paired with the sensual body motion of the dance makes it a popular dance with beginners, but allows flexibility for more advanced dancers.
Originating in Buenos Aires, the Milonga is a fast paced dance that preceded modern day Argentine Tango. The Milonga places more emphasis on feeling the rhythm of the music and keeping the body relaxed.
Night Club Two Step was developed by Buddy Schwimmer in the mid-1960s and quickly became one of the most in demand social dances. Night Club is danced to mid-tempo ballads and is structured by a Quick-Quick-Slow rhythm. The frame for Night Club is more relaxed than the closed position found in the ballroom dances, though tone is always essential. Night Club Two Step is designed to be danced to songs that don’t fall comfortably into the category of Waltz or Rumba.
Rueda de Casino is Salsa meets Square Dance. Really, no kidding, and it’s super fun! It started in Cuba in the 1950s and is a type of round dancing of Salsa. Couples form a circle and moves are called out by a caller in Spanish (or in our case Spanglish), and dancers swap partners just like in square dancing.
Ballroom Rumba derives its movements and music from the ‘Son’, a Cuban style of music with Spanish guitar, African rhythms and percussion instruments. Rumba was introduced to the US in the 1920s, increased in popularity during the ’30s and ’40s and was finally standardized in the mid 1950s. All Latin dances have a characteristic hip sway, however it is most pronounced in the slow ballroom Rumba. Rumba is the classic romantic Latin dance.
Brought to the US in the 1960s, Salsa literally means “sauce”—hot, spicy, and full of Latin flavor! Though many get caught up in the age old debate as to who ‘invented’ salsa (Cubans or Puerto Ricans), the truth of the matter is that Salsa is a distillation of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Two of the main styles today are L.A. and N.Y. Salsa. Although each emphasizes a different beat, both are a melting pot of Son, Cumbia, Guaracha, Merengue and modern beats. New patterns and expressions are constantly being added to the menu of options, while always keeping the original fiery, spicy attitude of Salsa alive. This is one of the most popular social dances in the world.
Samba is believed to have originated on Brazilian plantations where European music was mixed with African rhythms. This served as a kind of oral history and was danced solo with rapid hip movements and quick transfers of weight. Samba came to the US in the late 1920s via Carnival and was popularized through various films. In the US, Samba evolved into a couple’s dance that was standardized as a ballroom dance in 1956, however it still remains a solo dance in Brazil. While ballroom Samba is different than the Samba danced in the streets in Rio during Carnival, they both have the same Afro-Brazilian origins, and ballroom Samba is often danced to the same lively Brazilian music.
The Shag originated in the Carolina states in the late 1930s and has roots in Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. The early swing music was fast, big band swing but the term ‘Shag’ didn’t come out until about a decade later. By the early ’50s, Shag adopted the tempo and feel of Rhythm and Blues. Shag emphasizes grace and smoothness over turns and athleticism. Unlike other styles of dance, Shag is danced ‘from the waist down’ – with smooth tight footwork and ‘rubber knees’.
Ballroom Tango comes from Argentine Tango but as it was adopted in Europe and North America in the early 1900s it evolved into a dance of its own (eventually with sub-styles: ‘International’ and ‘American’). The dance was simplified, adapted to the preferences of conventional ballroom dancers, and incorporated into the repertoire used in International Ballroom dance competitions. Ballroom Tangos use different music and styling from Argentine tangos, with more staccato movements and the characteristic ‘head snaps’. Ballroom Tangos are passionate, dramatic, and performed with a sharp quality of movement.
Argentine Tango was born in the cultural melting pot of Argentina in the late 1800s. Since the dance is almost entirely improvisational, there needs to be clear communication between partners. It is danced in an embrace that can vary from very open to very closed. Closed embrace is often associated with the more traditional styles, while open embrace leaves room for many of the embellishments and figures that are associated with ‘Tango Nuevo’. While there are patterns or sequences of steps that are used by instructors to teach the dance, even in a sequence every movement is led not only in direction but also speed and quality (a step can be smooth, pulsing, sharp, etc.). Argentine Tango’s improvisational aspects can make it sometimes smooth, and sometimes sharp, but always passionate! It is an incredibly expressive form of social dance.
The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either toward their right (natural) or toward their left (reverse), interspersed with non-rotating change steps to switch the direction of rotation. It is a very rapid, traveling form of Waltz. Because of its speed, we recommend you get thorough exposure in other ballroom dances before taking on this high power, energetic dance.
Many attribute the origin of the Waltz to Vienna, where it spread throughout Europe in the late eighteenth century. Until that time, court dances were usually comprised of elaborate bows and curtsies, with little physical contact and proper form was essential. The Waltz developed from an Austro-German country dance called the Ländler and was the first popular dance to feature the closed position. This closer embrace was originally deemed scandalous and immoral. Thinking Waltz as ‘scandalous’ today really puts history in perspective, especially when you’ve witnessed today’s modern Bachata!
By the early 1900s the Waltz became a tradition of ‘sophisticated gatherings’, and that’s probably when it started to become the traditional first dance for wedding couples. Danced to music in 3/4 timing, the Waltz is a beautiful, graceful, flowing dance with characteristic rise and fall that incorporates a wide variety of musical genres. This is a great dance for beginners to start out their ballroom training.
West Coast Swing (WCS) is a partner dance derived from Lindy Hop. It is characterized by a distinctive elastic look that results from its basic extension-compression technique of partner connection, and is danced primarily in a ‘slot’ on the dance floor. WCS is arguably the most diverse and flexible choice for social dancers due to its dance-ability with virtually any genre of music. The stylization of WCS will change based on whether the music is smooth blues, dynamic hip hop or anything in between. Though the initial learning curve is very steep, great rewards lay ahead for those who put the time and effort into this very popular and expressive social dance.