Ballroom dance typically involves two dancers, a leader and a follower, who maintain body contact throughout.  There are many different styles and forms within ballroom dancing such as:

  • Waltz: One of the smoothest styles of ballroom; it’s a progressive dance with long, flowing movements, continuous turns, and “rise and fall”
  • Tango: This sensual form of ballroom dance originated in Argentina.
  • Foxtrot: A smooth dance in which dancers make long and flowing movements across the floor.
  • Viennese Waltz: A quick rotating ballroom dance with a subtle rise and fall.
  • Cha-Cha: Lively, flirtatious style full of passion and energy. Known for it’s “Cuban motion” and unique style.
  • Rumba: Known as one of the most sensual and romantic of all ballroom dances.  This style comes from Latin descent and is often referred to as the “Grandfather of the Latin Dances.”
  • Samba: A Brazilian dance of African origin with a basic pattern of step-close-step-close and characterized by a dip and spring upward at each beat of the music.
  • Paso Doble: A very intense and dramatic dance that originates in Southern France. The style models the Spanish bullfight.
  • Jive: Originates in the US from African-Americans.  It is a lively form of swing dance and a variation of the Jitterbug.
  • Salsa: Originated in the Carribean, the salsa is a very upbeat style of ballroom.
  • Swing: This style consists of different groups of dances and originates in Harlem, NY. It developed with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s.
  • Bolero: This is danced to a slow tempo, and there are Cuban and Spanish forms of the dance that are different from each other.
  • Quickstep: This is simply a faster version of the foxtrot with intricate footwork.
  • Samba: One of the most popular Brazilian dances; can be danced solo or with a partner.
Argentine tango

Elements of Ballroom Dance:

  • Contact: the dancing couple maintains touch throughout most of or the entire piece
  • Frame: there’s a correct way to hold each other with each form of ballroom dancing
  • Poise: posture and poise are most important and differentiate ballet and ballroom from other styles – there’s an emphasis on the extension of the dancer’s upper body
  • Lead/Follow: it’s the follower’s job to make the following effortless
Viennese Waltz

Many female ballroom dancers wear a leotard or shirt with leggings or tights, and often times they wear a skirt.  Men usually wear a short sleeve shirt and pants.  Women always wear heels while ballroom dancing, and men typically wear shoes with short heels.  Women can wear their hair however they please, but it may vary depending on the difficulty of the dance.  If it’s a simple routine that doesn’t require sudden movements, the dancer may wear her hair down.  If it’s quick and filled with technique and partner lifts, she would want to wear it up and out of her face.

Ballroom attire

Ballroom dance costumes come in an assortment of colors and styles.  Typically, women’s ballroom costumes have a skirt attached.  Men wear pants and a button down shirt that sometimes opens up at the chest.  The costume depends on the style and the story of the dance.  If it’s a more upbeat style such as the cha-cha or the samba, costumes usually have fun and bright colors.  If it’s a slower or more calm style such as the waltz or the foxtrot, the costume will normally have a longer skirt.  Most ballroom costumes are heavily decorated with rhinestones.



Shawn Johnson performing the Cha-Cha with Derek Hough on “Dancing With the Stars.”

The music also varies and is dependent on the form of ballroom.  Slower styles such as the waltz and the tango have slower tempos, while dances such as the jive and the samba are danced to faster music.  Here is the paso doble shown in the final round of the 2015 World DanceSport Professional Division.  Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova perform the tango for Dance Sport Russia.