Dance Styles - Differences and Similarities

When we talk about dance styles we are not just talking about the different types of dances. Dance styles can also include the interpretation of a particular type of dance in a particular style. Before we can look at dance styles differences and similarities it is necessary to find out more about what a dance style it and how it affects types of dance.

What is a dance style?

No, it is not the tango or the cha-cha! These are actually called dance steps! A dance style is how a dance step is carried out and how it is being danced. There are two predominant styles of dance – American style and International style.

The American style is favoured by the USA and was founded in the American dance studios. Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire both ascribed to this style. The British founded the International style by standardising their dance steps through dance schooling such as the International Dance Teacher’s Association.

Nowadays, most countries use International style, but in certain places such as North America, both styles are commonly used. This means that any type of dance, even Latin dances, are performed in both styles. Other names for American style are Smooth or American Smooth, and Latin dance in American style is called USA Rhythm. People also refer to International style as Modern dance style.

Differences and similarities

There are obvious variations between the two styles, but the most notable difference is that the two styles contain and teach dissimilar dance steps. For instance, American Ballroom Style will only teach four dances while International style has five. International will teach the Slow Foxtrot and the Quickstep, neither of which is part of American Style.

American Latin contains the Bolero and Samba while International will teach the Samba. Even though both styles do teach the Rumba, the steps and the flow are likely to be different, but based on the same principles. Even the tempo and dancing figures are diverse. For instance Smooth style allows partners more freedom to release arms and will allow movements such as dips, turns or dancing side to side – none of which is acceptable in International standard. Body positions in the slower dances such as the Viennese Waltz are also different and the rises and turns are done differently.

How can you tell the difference?

You can distinguish between the two styles by noting two things: position and leg action. The most important indicator of style is the dance positions. If the positions are closed, arms permanently linked or entangled, it is likely to be International. American favours a more open position with independent moves. Latin dances can be distinguished by the leg movements of the dancer – a straight leg action will usually be International Latin.

Arthur Murray dance studios teach all steps of ballroom and Latin dance and are experts on the flow and the positioning of their steps. Call your local studio to make use of your complementary first lesson and to find your own style and steps.