Ballroom dancing can be split into five different categories.
American Rhythm, American Smooth, International Latin, International Standard and Night Club.
Each of these categories has their own unique grouping of dances.
American Smooth and International Standard have similar characteristics and tempos which will cause the two styles to look like one another. They even have some of the same dances, however the tempos of those dances are different from one another. International Standard is unique in that the couples will never break frame, which refers to keeping both arms connected to one another. Whereas American Smooth allows for dancers to break apart from one another. Some would say this makes American Smooth more “contemporary."
American Rhythm and International Latin have similar characteristics and tempos which will cause the two styles to look similar, like Smooth and Standard’s relationship. They also share some of the same dances, like the rumba and cha-cha, but have them performed at different tempos. The most agreed upon distinction between the two styles is a mechanical/technical one. In International Latin, dancers’ knees should generally be straight when a foot is placed on the floor, whereas in American Rhythm, the knee should be bent and straightened as weight is transferred.
Below is a list with each of the categories and the ballroom dances that belong to them.
East Coast Swing
West Coast Swing
Night Club Two-Step
Within these categories there will be some shared tempos and characteristics amongst the dances, but never two the exact same. For example, you will notice that Cha-Cha and Rumba are in two different categories. Even though they share the same dance name, they are two different dances. The Rumba that is danced in the American Rhythm style, is danced at a much quicker tempo than the International Rumba. Simply put American Rumba is much faster than International Rumba.
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