The History of Ballroom Dancing and its Origins




History of Ballroom Dancing: Shifts in the World of Dance

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Many people don’t know the history of ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing dates back centuries and has evolved over time. In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of ballroom dancing and how it’s changed over the years.

We’ll also discuss some ballroom dancing styles that are popular today. By understanding the history of ballroom dancing, you can better appreciate this art form and its many forms. So let’s get started!

Origin and History of Ballroom Dancing

Let us now have a quick look at some of the notable happenings in the world of ballroom.

Timeline of Ballroom Dance: Early Modern Period

Folk dances of the European peasantry likely influenced the earliest form of ballroom dance.

These early dances were simple but gradually became more complex as they spread throughout Europe and developed into distinct regional styles.

For example, the minuet originated in France in the 1600s, while the polka came from Bohemia around 1830.

Jehan Tabourot was able to document the earliest forms of ballroom dancing in his book Orchesographie.

This was way back in 1588, and it was about studying social dance during the French Renaissance.

Some of the dances mentioned are pavane, the livelier branle, the solemn basse dance, and Shakespeare’s favorite, the galliarde.

During the 1650s, a new form of dance came into light called the minuet.

This was actually a dance from the peasants; however, it gained popularity and was danced by King Louis XIV in public.

Therefore, it became acceptable to the nobles and turned into the most popular dance of the 18th century.

It was by the 16th century that King Louis XIV started the Academie Royale de Musique et de Danse.

This was the first time that dance was regulated in as much as having at least five positions for the feet.

This was also the time that ballet and ballroom were distinguished as ballet was concentrated on being performed onstage.

Timeline of Ballroom Dance: 19th Century

In 1812, the Waltz gained popularity in England.

Carl Maria von Weber wrote the book, Invitation to Dance about how the waltz was adapted into what they call the sphere of absolute music.

As mentioned, not everyone liked it at first due to the proximity of patterns, but they got over it eventually.

From here on out, other dance styles stemmed from the waltz, which involved a lot of decorative steps.

Timeline of Ballroom Dance: Early 20th Century

As you might notice, trends and dances change based on music.

So by 1910-1930, it is all about jazz.

This was when many people invented different types of dances; some even had independent choreography.

People like Irene and Vernon Castle, Victor Silvester, and Josephine Bradley were the ones who analyzed these dances and codified them in categories to fit certain standards.

What Is Ballroom Dance

Ballroom Dance and Glamour: Dance and Glamour

Let us first talk about what ballroom dance means.

It has many definitions, but in a nutshell, it is a type of dance that is done with a partner for recreational purposes.

But we all know this is no longer accurate because ballroom dancing is now part of competitive sports.

Due to the changing times, it narrowed its scope to only five international standard and Latin-style dances.

We are going to discuss these two styles later on.

That said, ballroom dancing was derived from the root word ball, which in Latin is “ballare,” meaning “to dance.”

In the past, as we have seen in countless movies, it is done as a social dance for the rich folk when they throw presentation balls.

It is widely spread as any other dance, but the style and techniques remain true to its roots.

Ballroom Dance Types: The Two Styles

As we have mentioned earlier, there are two recognized ballroom dancing styles.

The first is the international standard style, and the other is the Latin style dances.

Let us briefly discuss each style.

1. International Standard Style

Beginning Ballroom: Why's, Do's, Don'ts, and Shoes, 2nd Edition

This one has five dances under it, and these are the following:

a. Waltz

This is a combination of step and slide, with a count of three-fourths per step.

It also includes a lot of turning, and the couples have a close frame, which was considered scandalous but became the norm in the 19th century.

b. Tango

A closed frame is the name of the game for this dance.

It consists of many irregular counts, fierce movements, and individual freestyle.

c. Foxtrot

This is usually danced with music that has a swing style.

It is one of the easiest dances, including side and walking steps.

d. Quickstep

Many people think it was supposed to be a march that turned into something entirely rhythmic.

In the past, this dance was used in balls that celebrated heroes, presidents, governors, etc.

e. Viennese Waltz

This is actually the oldest form of the waltz.

It is believed that it originated from folk dance in France.

Just like the regular waltz, it consists of a lot of turning.

2. Latin Style Dances

This also has five dances under it, and they are:

a. Pasodoble

This is an interesting type of dance that imitates a bullfight.

It originated in Spain, and it was considered a military march.

b. Cha-cha

It has Cuban origins and is unique as the feet combinations are not always exact.

It is a mixture of turning and fast pacing.

c. Rumba

This is a combination of Afro-Cuban and American dancing styles.

Some refer to this type of dance as the dance of lovers or the dance of anger.

It consists of a lot of big and bold movements.

d. Samba

This dance style came from Brazil.

It combines stiff and rhythmic movements to be danced to almost any type of music.

e. Jive

This has African-American influences and is composed of very lively and rhythmic movements.

With this one, you can stride and turn while doing a swing.

Collegiate Ballroom

There is a part of the ballroom world dedicated to college students.

These chapters are typically clubs or teams interested in ballroom dancing.

Teams hold fundraisers, social events, and ballroom dance lessons.

Ballroom dance teams aim to have fun and learn to dance well.

There is a strong focus on finding a compatible dance partner and bonding with teammates.

Elements of Ballroom Dance Competition

In the competitive ballroom, dancers are judged by diverse criteria such as poise, the hold or frame, posture, musicality and expression, timing, body alignment and shape, floor craft, foot and leg action, and presentation.

Judging in a performance-oriented sport is inevitably subjective in nature, and controversy and complaints by competitors over judging placements are not uncommon.

Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ)

What is the oldest form of ballroom dance?

The oldest form of ballroom dance is the Waltz. It originated in the 1700s in Austria.

How has ballroom dancing evolved?

Ballroom dancing has evolved over time to become more complex and technical.

Dancers now use more advanced steps and movements to create a more fluid and graceful dance. Additionally, ballroom dancing has grown in popularity, which has led to the development of new styles and forms of dance.

What is the ballroom dance developed in 1910?

The ballroom dance developed in 1910 is the foxtrot. It was created by Harry Fox, an American vaudeville dancer and choreographer.

The foxtrot is a slow dance that incorporates both forward and backward steps.


  1. Ballroom dance From Wikipedia
  2. Types of ballroom dance

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4 responses to “The History of Ballroom Dancing and its Origins”

  1. Babsie Wagner Avatar
    Babsie Wagner

    I always thought ballroom dancing was a marvelous thing to behold, and I have to say I am always impressed and captured by couples doing it at weddings and dance halls.  Most couples spin in a slow circle going side to side in the most boring way, and I just don’t understand why such a beautiful art kind of went to the wayside.  I have always wanted to take a ballroom dancing class, but my honey never was interested.  Guys!  LOL!  Thanks for the great article.  I might have to do it without him.

    1. Jonathan Avatar

      Hi Basie! Thank you for your comment, hopefully you get to start dancing soon! 🙂

  2. Sujandar Mahesan Avatar
    Sujandar Mahesan

    I really don’t have any personal interest on Ballroom Damcing but like everyone I just atleast wanted to know what it was and how it was created. This article was really interesting to read for me because it had everything I need to know about Ballroom dancing and it’s history. 

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    1. Jonathan Avatar

      Hey Sujandar!… Thanks for stopping by and for your feedback!

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