A Brief History Of Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom dancing has been around for a very long time at different capacities, and it’s still a very important part of the dance world today. There are many fans of it that enjoy watching it be performed. And there are many people who like to perform it whether that be in a casual or professional capacity.

So in this article we’re going to be learning about how ballroom dancing got its start, and some general history about it to spread knowledge about this beautiful art that means so much to so many people. Let’s get started!

What Is Ballroom Dancing?

Before we really get into the history of it, it only feels right to discuss the technicalities of what ballroom dancing is. Just in case some people aren’t familiar with the term and what all it entails or you just need a quick refresher.

Ballroom dancing is a type of dance style that requires a set of two people to be partners, and these partners flow through a set of prescribed steps. There are many different ballroom dances, and each of them have certain traits and steps that you have to take to be considered as completing the dance.

Jim Bobberton of often reminds people that dancing is often seen as quite glamorous since it is often portrayed on reality tv shows such as Dancing With the Stars, and it has quite a bit of media attention. There are many popular movies that focus on certain dances within this genre as well. So ballroom dancing is considered very well known across the world.

When Did Ballroom Dancing Originate?

The beginnings of ballroom dancing, although it may not have looked like it does today, is thought to have started in the 16th century. But it could’ve been around for much longer than that in some form. Obviously ballroom dancing has transitioned and shifted a lot throughout history which we will get into.

The first ballroom dance that has been noted was in the 1580s, but it became more and more popular and diverse as time went on. By the 19th century, it was solidly implemented into society and it started to take shape into being the ballroom dancing that we think of today.

How Did Ballroom Dancing Start And What Was It Like?

Much of ballroom dancing was derived from the tradition of court dances from the 17th and 18th centuries. So ballroom dancing has its roots in the higher classes and was only enjoyed at society events, unless you had a hard to come by invite to one of these events then you were going to miss out.

A fun fact about early court dancing is that originally you had to perform these dances while facing the throne or else you would violate a very important rule of court, which was to never turn your back on your ruler! In the 19th century the rules started to relax, and you would only have to face the throne for special events.

But early ballroom dancing wasn’t always performed for royalty. Other privileged people of the time such as rich landowners, renowned military families, and royals with less prestigious titles would host events called “assemblies” in which there would be a lot of ballroom dancing. Even these more “casual” events had a lot of etiquette rules though.

There would typically be an orchestra or band that would play live music that would alternate between faster and slower paces. The dances would’ve been chosen ahead of time and the schedule announced at the beginning of the evening so that everyone was doing the correct dance at the right time.

Public dance halls and other establishments for the lower class also had some ballroom dancing but the rules were much less strict, and it was more about having fun. So the experience was much more relaxed and less regulated.

Other Historical Information About Ballroom Dancing

Now that the larger and most important sections are out of the way, we can discuss some of the smaller historical details that a lot of people might find interesting or have questions about.

How did they learn the dances in the beginning?

Dances were typically taught by the older generation passing their ballroom dancing knowledge along and teaching the younger generation. If the family was well off then dancing tutors may have been hired for the children. And if all else failed, there were pamphlets that you could purchase that would help with the learning process.

What were some of the earlier dances?

The farther you go back in history, the more conservative the dances are. So in the beginning you would see a lot of waltzes, polkas, and other dances that weren’t seen as too scandalous (although even the waltz had a tough time being accepted into society at first). Dances like the Tango and the Jive weren’t very well received at first, and took society some time to warm up to.

Were dance cards really a thing?

We’ve all seen a period piece on tv where the young star is filling up her dance card with all the handsome bachelors at the party, but it almost seems too romantic to have actually existed. Happily it did though, and each young lady had a decorated card that she would use to list names of young men she had accepted for each dance.

So hopefully this article has been informative, and you know a little bit more about ballroom dancing than you did when it started. There is so much more to know and appreciate about ballroom dancing, so make sure to keep learning! And if you’re interested in learning ballroom dancing yourself, then remember that it is still very popular even today and there are plenty of resources out there.


4 Styles Of Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom dancing has been a recreational and social tradition for hundreds of years, and in more recent years has even transitioned into having a competitive scene that many enjoy participating in or even just watching.

So ballroom dancing is and has been an important part of society for a very long time now, but there are many different varieties of it that need to be appreciated. In honor of all the varieties, today we’ll be discussing four different styles of this art that is ballroom dancing.

There are much more than four styles, but these are some of the more classic dances that you’re more likely to see done. And who knows, after this article you might even want to learn them yourself.

#1 – The Waltz

History –

The Waltz was introduced in the 18th century, and was quite scandalous at the time due to the embracing couples. It was really popular in the 19th century for the first time and maintained that same popularity in the 20th century. Now it is one of the easiest dances to learn for beginners, and is a popular choice for first dancing at weddings.

Characteristics –

Characteristics of the Waltz are step, slide, and step in ¾ time. There’s lots of swaying and “rise and fall” turns in this dance which give it a very elegant feeling. People dancing the Waltz will also keep their shoulders parallel to the floor rather than vertical to it.

Variations –

There are different variations of this dance including the Viennese Waltz, International Style Waltz, and the classic American Waltz. The American Waltz is unique in the way that the pair of dancers can move through closed and open dance positions, so the duo can move away from each other unlike with other Waltz variations.

Extra Note –

The Waltz is also classified as a “smooth” dance in American style dancing, and it shares this category with dances like the Viennese Waltz, the Tango, and the Foxtrot. Overall the Waltz is a beautiful dance with a lot of history, and it truly is one of the best beginner-friendly dances to learn if you’re interested in ballroom dancing yourself.

#2 – The Foxtrot

History –

This dance is one of the most popular ballroom dances of all time, but it was introduced to the world a bit more recently than the Waltz. It was officially introduced in the 1920s, and many think that it originated from African American nightclubs before Vernon and Irene Castle led to it being popularized.

Characteristics –

Some of this dance’s traits are similar to the Waltzz since they are both “smooth” style dances, but the Foxtrot is set apart by its unique combination of fast and slow steps based on the tempo of the song. Longer steps are taken slowly and as the music speeds up the steps get shorter and quicker.

Variations –

With certain choreography and depending on the dancers themselves, there can be variation within every dance style, but the main two variations of the Foxtrot are the social Foxtrot and the slow Foxtrot. The social Foxtrot is the original version and the variation that is best for beginners, while the slow Foxtrot is more complex.

Extra Note –

The music typically associated with the Foxtrot is big band swing-style music. The tempo is normally around 120 to 136 beats per minute and it’s most commonly written in 4/4 time. So if you enjoy dancing to this type of music then the Foxtrot might be the perfect dance for you to learn.

#3 – The Tango

History –

As with a lot of ballroom dances, the Tango was originally only found within lower-class establishments. Its place of origin seems to be Buenos Aires in Argentina, but by 1915 it was becoming popular in all of Europe and only gained popularity from there. It was first introduced to America in New York in 1910.

Characteristics –

One of the Tango’s trademarks is the seductive quality of the dance and the cat-like, almost stalking movement and steps. Other main traits are a close hold and a low center of gravity. And one more quality that differentiates this dance from other smooth dances is that the lead’s arm is farther down on the follower’s back.

Variations –

The Tango might have one of the most well-known variations of any ballroom dance, The Argentine Tango. The Argentine Tango is actually sometimes called the “traditional Tango” because it is so close to the original version, and the ballroom Tango that you see the most often now isn’t as traditional.

Extra Note –

The Tango is a ballroom dance that is shown a lot in the media, there are many popular movies based around it and it is featured often in reality tv shows centered around dance. For this reason, it’s a very popular dance to learn and there are many resources that you can use to do so. We also find that most of our friends enjoy this dance the most compared to the rest. Our past client and dear friend, Tim Raney from, was one of our first clients to take a Tango lesson before he moved out of state. He enjoyed it so much that we now always find a club to dance the Tango in when he visits on vacation.

#4 – The Jive

History –

The Jive is more of a general term that encompasses several different dances that share similar traits and styles than it is one singular dance itself. The Jive became known during the 19th century, and in 1968 it became the fifth International Latin dance to be accepted as a competitive ballroom dancing option.

Characteristics –

This dance is the fastest of the Latin ballroom dances, and it is also the most energetic. There is less actual movement around the dancefloor than with other dances as well. Instead there are more bending, kicks, knee lifting, and rocking of the hips to give it energy while staying mostly in the same spot.

Variations –

There are a lot of variations to the Jive purely because it is a general term and a lot of dances are included in its category. Some of the more popular dances that would be referred to as a Jive would be the Lindy hop, the jitterbug, and the boogie-woogie. But note that there are many more variations as well.

Extra Note –

Since the Jive is such a happy and upbeat dance with so many variations, it’s one of the best dances to learn if you’d like to insert more of your personality into your dance. And it leaves more room for musical selection as well, because you can dance the Jive to a lot of different songs depending on preference.


Social and Ballroom Dance Classes

Do you love Ballroom and social dances? Us too!

We are currently accepting a small number of students that are totally serious about learning dance, the history of dance, and genuinely appreciate the processes involved. We’re willing to put our time and compassion for dance into your life, if you’re willing and able to learn. If you’re willing and able, let’s get started today!

So where do you start? If you’re just looking to have fun or learn a formal dance for an upcoming wedding, cruise or vacation, then you should sign up for our social dance lessons. These lessons have all the knowledge that you’ll need to shred those other bridesmaids on the dance floor.

We can also teach basic ballroom or Waltz lessons via Skype or other video conference platform. We’ve partnered with several wedding and events coordinators around the US to offer online lessons to soon-to-be married couples. Here’s what one of preferred vendors,, has to say about our online services, “Blue Ridge Ballroom has been an absolute pleasure to work with. Weddings can be so stressful, especially for those brides and grooms that don’t dance well. BRB has been able to coach several of our clients online and get them comfortable with some basic moves for their special night.”

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more formal, I suggest you learn the fantastic art of ballroom dancing competition team. You can sign up for that here as well.

Still reading this post?  Well then, maybe we are what you are looking for.

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Coming in for private lessons, seasonal workshops and super-secret practice sessions? Can you make that happen two or three times a week?  Would you even do more if you could?

Practicing at home either by yourself or with your neighbor?

Are you able to comfortably spend $275 on monthly tuition? Prices include dance lessons, workshops and one-on-one instruction twice monthly, and a free eye-patch (for fun).

Trying out for our competition ballroom team?

Attending a bi-annual Dance Camp with Dad?

Traveling around the World if we make it finals ?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, we want you to register for classes now!