The name Paso in Spanish means two Step and may be distinguish from Paso a Dos which means dance for two. Two-step refers to the marching nature of the steps. The Paso Doble is a theatrical Spanish dance. It is based on the bullfight and it portrays the torero (bull), matador (bullfighter) and his cape.
Bullfights date back to ancient Crete, but only in the 1700 were they held in Spain. The dance itself became popular among the upper classes of Paris in the 1930's and acquired a set of French names for many of the steps.
One of the most dramatic of Latin dances, the Paso Doble is a progressive dance. The dancers take strong steps forward with the heels, and incorporate artistic hand movements. The forward steps or walks should be strong and proud. The step Apel is much like when the matador strikes the ground in order to capture the attention of the bull. All moves of the Paso Doble should be sharp and quick, the shoulders wide and down, the head held high and back. "Keep watching that bull!” urged my former dance teacher Mary Waite, to represent arrogance and dignity. Often it is choreographed to the tune "Espana Cani (the Spanish Gipsy Dance), which has three crescendos in the music. These highlights are usually matched in the choreography by dramatic poses, adding to the spectacular nature of the dance.
What you learn
It’s time to get down and party! This is the ultimate feel-good dance, where hot Latin rhythms and wild, seemingly unstrained, moves gives you a real flavour of Mardi Gras. The Samba is the most explosive and celebratory of all the ten dances in Ballroom and Latin, a wild collision of African steps and Brazilian rhythms that's become hugely popular all over the world. Sexy costumes, bright colours and up-tempo music make it a favourite with audiences.
Like the Rumba, the Samba can be traced back to rhythms and steps brought to the New World by African slaves. The name derives from a Bantu word meaning to pray - and the dance and music originated as a way of calling forth the gods and inducing trance in worshippers. The steps were modified in the 19th century, transforming a wide range of steps into a partner dance that began to catch on in the USA and by the 1920s in Europe. Further boost to the Samba popularity came in the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and in the 1940’s Carmen Miranda. Ballroom Latin American Samba, as danced competitively today, was formalised in 1956. When you watch the Samba, you should be transported to Rio de Janeiro for Mardi Gras.
Samba music makes everybody want to move their hips, and that’s really what it's all about, the looseness and fluidity of the hips and the rhythm that this gives to the legs characterises the Samba.
The Rumba is the dance with an irresistible mixture of passion and rhythm. It is a seductive dance, it tells the story of love between a man and a woman, they flirt and then there's attraction, the woman tries to get away, but the man pulls her back. It's the only slow Latin American dance – keeping to rhythm is all-important. The couple has to be disciplined always showing the right kind of lines, it's one of the hardest dances for a beginner to master! Put in the hands and feet of the professionals the Rumba is one of the most romantic performances of all the dances.
The Rumba has always had a slightly risqué reputation in dance circles. Its origins are ancient, going back to African ritual dancers that were transported to the New World by the slave trade. It surfaced in its modern form in Cuba in the 1880s, where it was repressed by the authorities for its “lewdness and overt sexual overtones.” In consequence a sanitised version was popularised in America in the 1930s, where it spread rapidly due to the popularity of songs it could be danced to.
The jive is the light, bright, contemporary dance in the Latin-American canon, and it gives the dancers a chance to show off a much further variety of moves, drawn from dozens of different traditions. The Jive may have solidified in the 40s and 50s with the elements of the Lindy hop and the Jitterbug but it continued to develop with greater freedom than other dance.
The exact origins of the Jive are obscure, some say it's based on Seminole Indian dancers, others that it derives, like so many Latin dances, from steps performed by the slaves in the New World. By the 1880s, a form of Jive was danced competitively in the southern states of the USA - but it wasn’t until the jazz-craze 1920’s that the Jive became the official youth dance of America. With its quick movements and spins, it was frowned on by the older, more traditional dancers. GI’s brought the Jive to Europe in the 40s, where it was considered a "corrupting influence” (just like the Waltz, over 100 years earlier). During the 50s, it mutated into swing, boogie-woogie, jitterbug and rock and roll.
Jive can look like its pretty free form at times, but in fact it’s a stylised dance that takes elements from all over the place.
Cha Cha Cha
The Cha cha cha is a lively dance which allows the dancers a bit of fun and flirting. It is one of the first dances we teach, as the basic steps are easy to pick up, as you progress so does the technique! The Cha cha cha is the cheeky younger cousin of the Rumba. They share similar step patterns but the mood could not be more different. The Rumba is all about seduction but the Cha Cha Cha is fun and light-hearted, couples are expressing their delight in each other's company.
During the 1940s, everyone was dancing the Mambo or at least having a go, as it was hard and fast and difficult to perfect. Orchestras started slowing the music down and a new dance, a modified Rumba was introduced to go with the easier pace.
There's some debate about the origins of the name: some say it is a Haitian word for a bell-like musical instrument, others that it represents the sound of sandals slapping against the floor, as danced in Cuba. The Cha cha cha, as danced today, was formulated by dancers Pierre and Lavelle, they introduced the triple step that now differentiates it from Rumba. Cha cha cha can be danced to authentic Cuban music, or Latin Pop.
The 5 Latin dances
The Viennese Waltz is considered the original form of the waltz. It was the first ballroom dance performed in the closed hold or "waltz" position. The dance that is popularly known as the waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced at approximately 90 beats per minute with 3 beats to the bar, while the Viennese Waltz is danced at nearly twice the speed, about 180 beats per minute.
The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either toward the leader's right (natural) or toward the leader's left (reverse), interspersed with non-rotating change steps to switch between the direction of rotation. A true Viennese waltz consists only of turns and change steps. Other moves such as the fleckerls, American-style figures and side sway or underarm turns are modern inventions and are not normally danced at the annual balls in Vienna.
The aggressive, yet sexy, Tango is full of Latin passion and stirs up real excitement when danced with the control and power it demands. The Tango brings a touch of passion into the ballroom world and it's much more serious than the frothy Foxtrot or the whirling Waltz. While the Foxtrot and Waltz are gliding dances, the Tango is flat and staccato, with sharp foot movements performed at lightning speed, it is more stop-and-go than the fluid sequences of other ballroom dances.
Emerging from the black ghettos of Argentina in the 1890’s, the Tango originated as a dance enacted between a prostitute and her client or between an unwilling woman and a smelly gaucho. The man's flex knee-posture recalls the stiff-legged walk of the gauchos in their leather chaps, the woman's stance, head held back, allegedly derives from the fact that most of the men hadn't washed after a day on the ranch! In the prostitute and client story, her right hand is low on his hip fishing for his wallet!
Argentinian bands and dancers took the Tango to Europe in the 20th century, where it was cleaned up and became a pre-war craze, although it never lost its shady reputation.
The Foxtrot is an elegant and graceful ballroom dance, which evokes images of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and the ballroom dance floors of the 1930’s. The slow Foxtrot is every ballroom professional’s dance - an elegant, gliding, sophisticated number. As in all ballroom dances, no matter how complex the technique it’s masked with an illusion of ease and grace.
Back in 1914, at the height of the Ragtime craze, American vaudeville performer Harry Fox was having a difficult time finding women to partner him in a complicated two-step routine. As a result, he added slower steps, creating the slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm that Foxtrot has today and people starting copying him. Before long, revellers at the Jardin de Danse nightclub, situated above the theatre where Fox was performing, started doing their own version of Fox-Trot. It was picked by dance stars Vernon and Irene Castle, who incorporated it into their act and made it the epitome of the ballroom grace and style that it remained through countless Astaire-Rogers films.
Think Hollywood, Think Glamour, Think 1930s nightclubs, and you've got the idea of the Foxtrot style.
The Quickstep brings a smile to the face of any ballroom dancer. It’s a fast and vibrant dance - not to mention being one of the simpler dances in the ballroom-dancing repertoire!
The fastest and happiest of the ballroom dances takes the couple speeding around the dance floor in a mixture of classic gliding movements and quick kicks and flicks. When it really gets going, the Quickstep can be as dramatic as the Tango, as athletic as the Cha Cha Cha - and it gives the ballroom brigade a chance to show off some pretty fancy footwork.
As the Foxtrot became the most popular dance of the 20s, bands started to play the music faster and faster, making it hard for all but the most skilful couples to keep up with them. And so the Quickstep was born, incorporating elements of the Charleston - another dance craze that was sweeping America and Europe at the time. English dancers Frank Ford and Molly Spain introduced it into competitions in 1927. Without the large open-leg movements of the Foxtrot and with several possibilities for new figures, incorporating hops, runs and rotation.
The Quickstep is all about the mood. It’s actually quite a simple dance and there aren't that many steps, so the dancers have to get the right mixture of smooth, gliding action and fast, showy kicks and flicks. When a Quickstep is done well, you should be watching it with a big grin on your face because it's so light and joyful
The epitome of elegance, the Waltz is the dance that most people think characterises ballroom dancing. But the shuffling of amateurs demonstrates that it is more complicated than it appears. There was a time when the Waltz was regarded as scandalous and overtly immoral.
Derived from the Volta, a French peasant dance, it became popular in Vienna in the 18th century spreading rapidly across Europe. When it reached England, it was immediately denounced in polite society for its excessive physical contact (social dances had hitherto kept partners at a decent arm's length). When the Prince Regent included it in a ball he held in 1816, The Times described the Waltz as “the indecent foreign dance...an obscene display". Needless to say it rapidly caught on.
A Waltz should flow, it has rise and fall, a lyrical, musical feeling that should be magical to watch. To an audience, it appears to float on a cloud. Waltz is all about the basic ballroom hold: his posture must be erect and vertical, and whatever shapes the couple get into they must maintain all points of contact, touching, not clinging, there should always be lightness about it. The Waltz looks easy, but it really is a controlled dance. You have to be strong and supple to do all the turns and Oversways, the discipline is hidden by the magic and romance of the movement. It’s an illusion.
The 5 Ballroom dances