Ballroom and Social Dance

What's the difference?

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Ballroom Dance Info

People often ask, "What's the difference between Ballroom and Social dance styles?"  It's a good question, and one that deserves a clear answer.  S
o I' ll take a shot at it, noted as "in my humble opinion."

Social dancers have told me that you know it's ballroom because the dancers are "snobbish," as indicated by their head positions.  Others have said social dancers "just want to have fun ."  Those are two observations that might appear valid on the surface but lack a fuller and more accurate understanding of a different point of view.

Both social and ballroom dancers are there for the same reasons - the enjoyment of music, movement, and social interaction. The first key difference, though, is how each group defines enjoyment.  See if the information below helps.


The Social Dancing approach is where nearly all dancers begin.  One can have many enjoyable hours at your favorite dance venues with the "free and easy" social dance mindset.  It is also the best approach for someone who may dance only a few times a year.  Just get up off your seat, step onto the floor, and move your feet.  This is exactly what you need to do if you are thinking about taking up dance.

A subset of social dancers are those folks who discover they simply love one or two specific kinds of music or dances.  They seek out places where just Square or Round dancing is done, or maybe the freestyle of a small night club or two, or may find themselves an ardent fan of the Hustle, Salsa, West Coast Swing or Argentine Tango.

Folks who call themselves Ballroom Dancers were once social dancers but somewhere along the line, they came to a different realization and a new set of goals

That is, they wanted to learn how to dance elegantly, and to choose from a wide variety of dances and styles (smooth and rhythm dances, American and International styles), choosing figures that go with the lyrics and ebb and flow of the music.  Ballroom dancers  may draw upon a larger number of dance figures, mixing and rearranging the figures in order to create beautiful movement around the dance floor with their partners.

The Ballroom approach is simply a way of taking the fun of dance to a different level of focus.

Another dance growth goal for the more experienced dancer might be to lead or follow partners of any skill level.  Advanced dancers learn how to move as either a "lead" or a "follow" in order to improve their own roles by understanding the other side of the dance partnership.

If you want to dance several times a month and want to see your skills grow, then ballroom style training and dancing is the place to point your feet.

My Realization

That's what happened to me.  I "converted" to ballroom dancing after having the realization that the gracefulness of dancing I saw on TV (Dancing With the Stars) or in the movies (Shall We Dance?) was not taught in social dance classes.  So I started looking around, first on the web, then at dance studios, for a different kind of instruction.  That's when I found a real, live, ballroom studio. 

There, the instructors worked from one or more formalized syllabi, they had earned professional certification via rigorous testing, and they had experience in the world of competitive dance.

This kind of dancing instruction appealed to my sense of order and purpose.  I liked the idea that the figures had names that were consistent (instead of the instructor's pet names for them).  Finally, I liked the idea of a "Book" or "School Figures" approach to teaching.  I could buy the book and use it as a study guide - which means I didn't have to depend upon a self-proclaimed dance guru for my education.  As a "consumer," that just made more sense to me.

I discovered that, if and when my body had certain shapes, if my weight was stacked neatly over the balls of my feet, if I held my head in that spot to the lady's right side, and if I led from my legs and my core muscles instead of pushing the lady around with my arms and hands, I could dance with grace and elegance.  That's what was missing from my social dance classes.

I even found out, after my first try, that preparing for and entering a competition was flat out even more fun.  From experience, I now know that "doing it right" with good technique adds to my enjoyment instead of detracting from it.  I learned that at a ballroom dance venue, I can practice my competition routine and gain confidence that those figures can be done on a dance floor with other dancers.  As the years pass, my goal is to move up through the defined levels of dance skills (Bronze - Silver - Gold).  It can be your goal, too!  

Lastly, learning the many dances of the ballroom is, in and of itself, an enjoyable challenge. In the process, I am learning to dance the smooth, rhythm and club dances listed below: 

Foxtrot, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Tango, and Quickstep

Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba, Merengue, Bolero, Paso Doble, East Coast Swing, and West Coast Swing

along with club dances like the Night Club Two- Step, the Hustle, Salsa and the Argentine Tango

For all the pleasure now and in the future, I say, "Thank You!" to my Ballroom Style coaches and friends.

Won't you join me in the pursuit of dancing joy - 
 for the rest of our lives?

 And we dance . . . .