Dance Tidbits – International Style vs. American Style

If you are planning on becoming a professional ballroom dancer and excelling in dance sport then you must have heard of International and American dance styles. These terms define ballroom dances that represent areas of dance to be judged in dance competitions. These categories use almost the same dances but they are different from each other, as one is specific to American influence while the other is more globally oriented.

International Style:

Standard: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep

Latin: Cha, Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive

These ballroom dances are taught in a standard way so they can be universally represented and understood anywhere in the world for judging purposes. International style is recognized in competitions throughout the world. It is more common to see International style in competitions than American style although many competitions represent both types.

In International style of dance, partners dance in a closed position. It is essential that there is precise body contact and movement coordination not only with you, as the dancer, but also with your partner. Of course the beauty and art of these dances comes only with perfect dance partnership, timing and a tremendous amount of practice.

Dancewear for International style is just as important as the dance itself. It is customary to see ornamentation on the back and sleeves of dresses since the form requires a closed position. Often we will see long, tight dresses with backs cut out as the dancer moves elegantly to the music.

American Style:

Smooth: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Foxtrot

Rhythm: Cha, Cha, Samba, Rumba, Mambo, Bolero, East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing

The American style of dance is indeed influenced by America. American style developed in the U.SA. These dances engage in many flowing movements and the partners do not have to dance in a closed position. It is common to see dancers twirling away from each other and the perfection and art of these dances lies in the precise timing the partners synchronize when they come back together.

Attire for American style has to do with both the front and back of the dress being elegant and flowing. Usually shorter than International style dresses, they have no frills interfering with the graceful twirls that occur throughout the dance.

It is more likely to see American style in social dancing. However, both International and American styles are intended for both social and competitive dancing.

Usually the appropriate music to the particular dance will be the defining difference in the dances in each category. There are subtle variations in the tempos of the music for International versus American style that set them apart.

You may learn other styles of dancing that are not strictly ballroom. Many of these dances are socially more fun and do have their place. However, when it comes to perfection, expertise, beauty and true finesse, nothing compares to International and American ballroom dances. Competition in these categories is fierce. Learn these dances well and you could be that much closer to becoming a “professional dancer” one day.

Happy dancing,

Thought Of The Week:

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the world” Archimedes



Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website