Waltz and Quickstep are the most common dances for beginners, though Tango, being a dramatic dance, is often popular. The ballroom dances can be more difficult to dance as they require a lot of control and closer contact with your partner.
The modern waltz was developed in the early part of the 20th century and is played at a tempo of 30 bars per minute. The basic figures are based on diagonal patterns producing a smooth, easy progression around the dance floor. The modern waltz was introduced at the first ever World Championships held in London in 1922.
Often the waltz is the first dance taught to beginners, as it has a simple construction, regular, even changes of weight and a slow tempo. This dance is a great social dance and provides an ideal beginning for people to listen to music and become more at ease on the floor, however it can be difficult to master and to feel as though you are really dancing rather than just walking through the steps. I therefore teach the waltz after other dances have been mastered.
The quickstep originates from the 1920s when it was developed by people to interpret the more sophisticated up-tempo music emerging at that time. A dance based on walks and chassés, it has a tempo of 50 bars per minute. It is a bright and happy dance that is also based on a diagonal pattern like the waltz. The basics of this dance are not to difficult to learn and you can find yourself progressing around the floor in a relatively short time. I therefore teach this dance as the first ballroom dance for beginners.
Ballroom tango originated from the original tango, or Argentine Tango. For years it was seen as scandalous to dance but gradually it was cleaned up and became socially acceptable in Europe in the 1900s. It has a very different hold and feel from the other ballroom dances. Rather than flowing around the floor it has a staccato feel and projects an element of feline stealth during the walks.
The foxtrot made its first appearance in the States in 1914 and it was danced by the black population of New York for some time before it was popularised by white America. The lilt of the new foxtrot music was an overnight phenomenon and soon crossed over into England. The slow foxtrot needs a great deal of space and is a difficult dance to learn. For beginners, or on a crowded dance floor, I recommend dancing the Social Foxtrot. This foxtrot uses the same basic figures as the quickstep, but to a slower tempo of 30 bars per minute.
The Viennese Waltz
The Viennese Waltz is rarely seen outside of the competition environment, though it is danced more socially on the continent. It is seen by many dancers, and competitors, as a dance of endurance! The ideal tempo is 60 bars to the minute but the figures may be danced to any waltz played between 44 and 64 bars per minute.