HISTORY OF SOCIAL DANCE

Social dancing (dancing for pleasure) really starts with the Cotillion and Quadrille. These are set dances for four couples, and their descendants are still around today in the form of English and Scottish country dancing and, of course American square dancing
Dancing in couples came along in the form of the Galliard, Minuet and Gavotte (each developing from the other), but each danced essentially at arms length, and in repetitive sequences.  Imagine trying to get close to your partner if she was wearing a crinoline. Or, possibly worse, under the eagle eye of a chaperone.
Then along came the Waltz. For the first time the man takes his partner into his arms. It was, of course, denounced as the instrument of the devil, the start of the corruption of human morals.  All the phrases that we were later to hear (or use) when the Tango, the Charleston, Jitterbug and Rock and roll came along; and all of which helped to ensure the success and longevity of each.
Having passed this major barrier, of taking the girl in his arms, social dancing progressed rapidly. Around 1910, the Tango arrived in Britain, via France, from Argentina. Its origins, heaven forbid, were with the sailors, gauchos and ladies of “negotiable virtue” in Argentina. The Tango then became schizophrenic, developing in Europe along the lines that are recognized today for Ballroom, and continuing to develop in the South American countries into what is now known as the Argentine Tango.
The presence of American soldiers throughout Europe following the first world war, aided and abetted by the recording process, and of course radio, popularised American music in Europe, and, because dance styles are influenced by music styles along came the One step, Foxtrot and a much slower Waltz.
During this period, many attitudes and styles became polarized. The THEATRE BRANCHES covering Tap, Ballet, and later Modern dance and Jazz were formed, whilst BALLROOM Dancers were trying to bring some semblance of order to their frenetically developing style. By the late twenties, the pattern we see today had emerged.  The One step and Quick Foxtrot had become the Quickstep; the Slow Foxtrot had developed a much more flowing form; the slower version of the Waltz was now danced with parallel feet; and the European style Tango.  These dances, which retain closed hold at all times, were to remain the backbone of the Ballroom Branch.
One thing that most people don’t realize today is that from 1920 through to 1980 Britain ruled the world as far as Ballroom dancing was concerned. We developed the style and the technique, and completely dominated the competitive field (both amateur and professional).  Even the arrival of Latin American dancing in the fifties didn’t shake this grip, and there were few Open Championships anywhere in the world that were not held by British couples during this period.
Whilst the Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot and Tango were following this maturing process, a form of dance that followed sixteen bar sequences and then repeated was also very popular in the ballrooms of Britain.  This branch of dancing was to have its technique standardized, and to become recognized as Old Time dancing, and was as popular as Ballroom dancing during the late forties and fifties. The Waltz, when danced in Old Time dancing, is slower than the Viennese Waltz (where it all started), but faster than the Ballroom Waltz.  Then there were three!!!
During the fifties, Latin American dancing started to become more popular. The Rumba, Samba and Paso Doble had been known in Britain for some time but with a very limited following. The Jive came along during the war (American forces again, war has a lot to answer for). The Viennese Waltz (the daddy of them all) was included as a Latin American dance, briefly. As was the Tango (now being danced in two branches). With the birth of the Cha Cha Cha in 1954, the scene was set for the International style Latin American branch of dancing. This was now, and is still, five dances. Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble, Cha Cha Cha and Jive. The Viennese Waltz is now used as the fifth Ballroom branch dance for high-level dancers.
Rock and Roll came along in the late fifties, followed in the seventies by Disco, later to become Freestyle.  Many thanks to Elvis and John Travolta.  Freestyle can be danced solo, or in pairs or in teams, making it a very popular style with children and unattached youngsters.
Line dancing, where the dancers perform sequences or routines in lines, is another form of where you don’t need a partner, leading to its popularity with older singles.
Other dance forms have achieved popularity as people have seen them whilst on holiday or in various films and shows. These include Mambo, Salsa, Meringue, Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Vallenato, Belly Dancing and Cheerleading.

The social dancer of today can learn and take medals in all of these styles of dancing. The Ballroom style is officially known as Standard, although rarely referred to as such.  The Old Time style is now officially Classic Sequence.

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