Useful Info



Many dancers, as well as dance teachers and studio owners, follow their opinion and hearsay regarding Ballroom, Latin and Latin-Club dancing. The following information was included in an article written for a dance newsletter a few years ago. It clarifies terms like ‘social dancing’, ‘professional’ versus ‘amateur’, and explains the ‘language of dancing’. Like any sport or recreational activity (such as ice skating), couple dancing can be categorized by one of the following (click for more information):


Social Dancing

The term ‘Social Dancing’ refers to all couple dancing performed socially or ‘for fun’. Social dancing can be done in either ‘American Style’ or ‘International Style’. Both styles can be danced in a competitive way, as well. It is a misconception when dancers refer to American style as ‘Social’ and International style as ‘Competitive’. In many parts of the world (Europe and Japan for example) dancers dance the International style socially. In other words, American style is danced mainly in the USA. The rest of the world (Canada included) uses the International style for social dancing, competitive dancing and showcases. Social dance types include all the styles used in competitive dancing (excluding Pasodoble in North America) and other styles.

Dance styles

Latin: Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Pasodoble, Samba, Jive
Standard or ‘Modern’: Tango, Viennese Waltz, English Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep.
Latin night club dances: Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Cumbia, Regeton
Argentinean style: Argentine Tango, Milonga, Waltz
Party: Hustle, Swing, Slow Rock (Blues), Twist, Charleston, Polka and more

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The Language of Dance

Social dancing can be considered a language. This is the major difference between Social and the Sport or Show forms of dancing. In any competition or show, the dancers perform ‘routines’. In social dancing the dancers have a conversation.

A short description of “The Language of Couple Dancing” (cited from the book “Ballroom and Latin Dancing and Culture”, by Gal Messinger) (hyper link) is given below:

  • The letters are the basic steps, positions and motions. This means that the building blocks of a dance are a set of basic steps positions and motions that could be combined together, creating one definitive action, or a “letter”.
  • The words in a language are similar to the variations / moves. A variation is a combination of basic steps, creating a structure. These structures are used by the dancers in the same way words are used in a language. When more variations are used, the beauty and richness of the dance can be seen.
  • The sentences in a language are similar to the combinations of the steps and variations.In this stage, the dancers are having a full conversation. The combinations are expressions of the leader by designing them and of the follower by reacting to them.
  • The tone and way of speech in a language are similar to the pace, force and character of the dance. The beat, the bar structure, and the energy of the music influences the combination of steps and variations. These three elements are defined from the most basic to the most complicated
    • Beat – the rhythm of the basic step, which also defines when is the first step is taken
    • Bar structure – defines a beginning and an end of an individual variation or a combination of variations.
    • Energy of the music – defines the type of steps and variations which are the most suitable for the dance.

The more profound the “language of couple dancing”, the more complex and creative the dance becomes. This means that in order to dance well, both dancers should feel free to express themselves with what they know about the dance, and to communicate this to their partner. A creative dancerwill use the vocabulary (steps, variations, syncopation, musicality, etc.) in different and interesting ways. The music synchronizes the dance and influences the energy, syncopation, speed and feeling of the dance. The logical structure of the music determine the dance steps (in Latin dancing the pelvic action is on the strongest beat or accent of the music, while the step size and sway are emphasized in the Standard dances).

Cited from the book “Ballroom and Latin dancing and Culture”, by Gal Messinger

A Personal Anecdote Regarding the Language of Dance:

Approximately 12 years ago I was in Tokyo, Japan on business. Because of my love of dance, I sought out a ballroom dance club. When I arrived, I discovered that I was the only foreigner there. Only two people spoke English: the doorman, and me. A quick survey of the dance floor revealed that everyone was dancing the International Style in a ‘social’ manner. The live band and the beautiful dance floor made me ‘bite the bullet’ and pay the $35.00 entrance fee. I immediately discovered that I could dance with everyone without saying a single word. I could not count out the rhythm, or say ‘quick, ‘slow’, and ‘yes’ or no’. The only language I spoke with the dance partners was that of dance. ” (Gal Messinger)

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Dancing as a Hobby – Hobby Class

Hobby Class defines an amateur dancer as one who takes dancing as a hobby. This way is another route of getting to a high level of dancing without competing. Usually, the first level of hobby class is done in group lessons. The next level could be a combination of group and private lessons. The term “Hobby” indicates a more serious approach toward dancing, but without committing to it as a competitive sport. Some dancers spend over 10 hours a week in learning and practicing dancing as a hobby (much like other hobbies). For people who not have a competitive desire, but want to reach self-fulfillment in their choice of recreational interest, the “hobby class” is the appropriate activity.

Many dance schools and studios teach the Hobby Class Ballroom and Latin Dancing around the world use a system to evaluate the student’s achievements. This system is often called the “medal” system, because it has three major levels: “Bronze”, “Silver” and “Gold”. Each level can have sub-levels (i.e. Bronze-2, Silver-3). Dancers can get a certificate after he/she is tested / examined.

Another type of approach to hobby class in Ballroom and Latin dancing is “goal setting”. In this case a dancer or a couple will decide which dances they want to learn and sometimes even which variations they will use.  The advantage of this approach is the flexibility in choosing the material which is the most suitable for the dancers

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Competitive Ballroom Dancing – DanceSport

It is a fact that the ten International dances (Standard and Latin) are recognized as International sport. These dances are divided into two categories. Each category has 5 dances.

Latin: Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Pasodoble, Samba, Jive
Standard or ‘Modern’: Tango, Viennese Waltz, English Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep.

As in many types of sport, dancing could be classified as recreational/social, competitive, or in a form of a show. Ice skating is a good example; it was recognized as a sport many years ago. The International Dance Sport Federation (IDSF) has defined it this way:

“DanceSport is a team sport. It is generally defined as partner dancing between a man and a woman combining as a couple (or groups of couples combining as a team) and using the required technique together with ‘floorcraft’ and artistic interpretation to produce a highly disciplined dance performance.”

In 1986, a study by the University of Freiburg (Germany) compared the heart and breathing rates of DanceSport athletes to those of swimmers and cyclists and found them similar. In 1989, a West Australian university published a similar study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In 2000, research conducted by Marcello Faina, M.D. of the Institute of Sport Science of the Italian National Olympic Committee came to the same conclusions.

Historical facts about Dance Sport:

  • 1909 – The first World championship in Paris.
  • 1935 – The foundation of the International Amateur Dancers Federation in Prague. This name was changed twice, and today, this association is called “International DanceSport Federation” (IDSF).
  • 1947 – The first Latin-American DanceSport world championship.
  • 1988 – The term DanceSport was adopted for Competitive Ballroom Dancing.
  • 1992 – Full recognition of ballroom dancing as an International sport by the General Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF).
  • 1997 – Full recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • 2000 – IDSF presents a demonstration of DanceSport to the IOC.

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Performance / Stage / Show Dancing:

In the dictionary, one of the definitions of art is: “The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance” (

Well, dancing matches this definition naturally and even better when it is used in a performance.

In most cases, performances are done by professionals, or advanced amateurs, to entertain the audience. These dancers are usually inclined to be externally motivated and self expressive, as they enjoy the response from an audience. The three elements of performance or showcase dancing are: skill; stamina and artistic execution. This type of dancing is highly choreographed and practiced to near perfection. The reason is that a performance of dance is very similar to any performance is that it takes a lot of effort to create, after years of training. Artistic dancers use a lot of feeling and emotions related to the connection between them. They also use a lot of music interpretation and sense its energy and characteristics. But one must not forget that a lot of technique is used in these performances, which are extremely technical and coordinated. A quick glance at a Ballroom or Latin dance show will reveal that this type of art is very complex and require both “right brain” and “left brain” activity which has to be in perfect synchronicity.

There are TV shows and movies that promote Ballroom and Latin dancing. An example for a Ballroom and Latin show is “Burn the floor”. The TV show “Dancing with the stars” is another example. When watching this type of show, especially the non-dancer spectator, one must remember that the artistic expression of the dancing couple may seem difficult or almost impossible, but their performance is the result of intense, diligent rehearsal before the show. This type of performance can be compared to a professional sport, such as seen in the NBA.

Cited from the book “Ballroom and Latin Dancing and Culture”, by Gal Messinger

‘Professional’ Versus ‘Amateur’:

A ‘Professional’ is a person that makes a living from the field he/she is in. A professional in Ballroom dancing could be a dancer, teacher or a studio owner. An amateur dancer is someone who is not dancing for a living. The amateur could be a competitive and/or social dancer. The level of dancing has no connection with these definitions. In Blackpool’s dance festival, the most popular events are the finals in both the professional and amateur categories. Each country and association have their own set of rules regarding the definition of an amateur and professional status. For more information, please look at the relevant website like the The Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association (“CDTA”) in Canada, or IDSF  for the world wide association.