Dance: A Ballroom History

September 7, 2016

Ballroom dancing has been bringing people together for centuries. What I always wondered was, “How did it all get started”? So to the internet I went in search of the holy grail of dance. “What did you find?”, you may ask. Well, after hours and days of reading I’ve been able to compile not only a brief history of ballroom dance but the history of just about every dance out there.

So, today I will shall release my knowledge on to you about ballroom dances as a whole and as time goes by I will occasionally post the histories of my favorite dances.

In an effort to help you sound smart as well as adventurous, here is a (VERY) short history of ballroom dance that I hope you’ll enjoy.

In the beginning, there was ballet, and every ballroom dance we recognize today has been influenced by its movements. In the 17th century, ballet moved to the stage, leaving other dances to be performed at court that eventually resolved into the first ballroom dance we would recognize today, the slow waltz.

The waltz gradually became popular and upon reaching Vienna in the 1780s, it was adapted to the quick tempos of famous composers like Johann Strauss, giving birth to the waltz’s hyper-active sister, the Viennese waltz.

The waltzes were joined in the early 1900s by new partners-in-crime, the foxtrot and tango. Originally, the foxtrot was much more ‘trot-y’ than it is today. Tango too, was a very different dance when it migrated out of Buenos Aires, focusing on intricate foot movements with very little traveling

With the rise of jazz in the 1920s, a new breed of dances began to appear in African American communities and soon the Swing Era had begun. There were numerous styles of Swing, based on local origins and customs. One of the most popular, Lindy Hop, eventually gave birth to two offspring: East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing

Later, several styles merged with foxtrot, eventually creating the appropriately-named Quickstep. Still others were carried to England by American troops during World War II, where the rising optimism there churned out the spirited Jive.

While much of the world was swinging into the night, other developments in music were taking place behind the scenes. Musicians from the Dominican Republic and Cuba had been quietly setting up shop in the U.S. They carried with them the seeds of Merengue and Rumba respectively. Around the same time, European and African dance styles were mingling in Brazil creating the ballroom Samba. Mambo sprung up during the 1940s, in response to new Cuban rhythms.

And really, as far as the history of modern ballroom dances goes, that’s it in a nutshell!

 

 

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