The Waltz is a dance performed to music with three beats to the bar. This means that if a step is taken on each beat, then each bar starts with the opposite foot to that of the previous bar. This can be a source of great difficulty for the beginner, but when mastered gives the dance a delightful romantic lilt.

The first record of a dance to 3/4 rhythm is a peasant dance of the Provence area of France in 1559, as a piece of folk music called the Volta, although the Volta has also been claimed to be an Italian folk dance at this time. The

word 'volta' means 'the turn' in Italian. Thus, even in its earliest days, the dance appears to have involved the couple turning as they danced.

The dance became very popular in Vienna, with large dance halls being opened to accommodate the craze: Zum Sperl in 1807, and the Apollo in 1808 (said to be able to accommodate 6000 dancers).  In 1812 the dance was introduced into England under the name of the German Waltz. It caused a great sensation.

Through the 19th Century, the dance stabilised, and was further popularised by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss.

Currently, the Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of about 180 beats per minute, with a limited range of figures: Change Steps, Hesitations, Hovers,

Passing Changes, Natural and Reverse Turns, (travelling or on the spot as

Fleckerls), and the Contracheck.


In the early 19th Century, the 'Waltzen' became popular through many parts of

Germany and Austria, with the local variants being called by the name of the

area in which they were danced. The form from 'Landl ob der Enns' in upper

Austria became very popular, and became known by the abbreviated name of

the 'Landler'.

By 1800 the Landler was described as having the same quick gliding rotating

movements steps as the Waltzen but done to a slower tempo.

A more sedate form of the fast Viennese Waltz, danced at a leisurely 90 beats

per minute, also evolved in America around 1870 known originally as

the 'Boston'.

The present form of the dance has been variously described as being derived

around 1910 in England both from the Landler  and from the Boston the dancers

began taking advantage of the slower tempo to add more figures, some with extra

syncopated beats, some with slow 'picture' steps. These give the dance light

and shade, and make it more interesting to perform and to watch.


As Ragtime music evolved into Swing through the 1920's, new dances such as the

Charleston, the Shimmy, and the Black Bottom became popular. The Charlston was

danced with wild swinging arms and side kicks to music at 200 to 240 beats per

minute. It subsequently became very popular worldwide, but the wild character

of the dance induced many sedate ballrooms either to ban it altogether, or to

put up notices saying simply 'PCQ', standing for 'Please Charleston Quietly'.

These dances became absorbed into a faster version of Foxtrot after a visit by

Paul Whiteman's band to the UK in 1923, becoming known as the Quickstep.

Currently it is danced at a tempo of approximately 200 beats per minute. It

retains the walks, runs, chasses and turns, of the original Foxtrot, with some

other fast figures such as locks, hops, and skips added.


The Portuguese imported many slaves from Angola and Congo into Brazil in the

16th century, who in turn brought their dances such as the Catarete, the

Embolada and the Batuque

A composite dance evolved in the 1830's combining the plait figures from these

Negro dances and the body rolls and sways of the indigenous Lundu. Later,

carnival steps were added like the Copacabana (named after a popular beach near

Rio de Janeiro). Gradually members of the high society in Rio embraced it,

although they modified it to be done in closed ballroom dancing position (which

they knew was the only correct way to dance anything). The dance was then

called the Zemba Queca, and was described in 1885 as 'a graceful Brazilian

dance'. This was later called the 'Mesemba'. The origin of the name 'Samba' is

unclear: perhaps it is a corruption of Semba, although another suggestion is

that is derived from 'Zambo' which means the offspring of a Negro man and a

native woman.

The dance was later combined with the Maxixe. This was also originally

Brazilian: a round dance described as like a Two Step, and named after the

prickly fruit of a Cactus. The Maxixe was introduced into the U.S.A. at the

turn of the 20th century.

The Maxixe became popular in Europe after a demonstration in Paris in 1905. It

was described as having the steps of the Polka done to the music of the Cuban

Habanera. The present day Samba still contains a step called the Maxixe,

consisting of a chasse and point.


 This had its origin with the African Negro slaves imported into Cuba, whose

dances emphasized the movements of the body rather than the feet. The tune was

considered less important than the complex cross rhythms, being provided by a

percussion of pots, spoons, bottles, etc. .

It evolved in Havanna in the 19th century by combination with the Contradanza .

The name 'Rumba' possibly derives from the term 'rumboso orquestra' which was

used for a dance band in 1807, although in Spanish, the word 'rumbo'

means 'route', 'rumba' means 'heap pile', and 'rhum' is of course an

intoxicating liquor popular in the Caribbean, any of which might have been used

descriptively when the dance was being formed. The name has also been claimed

to be derived from the Spanish word for 'Carousel'.

The rural form of the Rumba in Cuba was described as a pantomime of barnyard

animals, and was an exhibition rather than a participation dance The

maintenance of steady level shoulders while dancing was possibly derived from

the way the slaves moved while carring heavy burdens. The step called

the 'Cucaracha' was stomping on cockroaches. The 'Spot Turn' was walking around

the rim of a cartwheel. The popular Rumba tune 'La Paloma' was known in Cuba in


The Rumba was introduced into the U.S.A. in the 1930's as a composite of this

rural Rumba with the Guaracha, the Cuban Bolero (unrelated to the Spanish

Bolero) and the Son.

The British dance teacher Pierre Lavelle visited Havanna in 1947 and discovered

that the Rumba was danced with the break step on beat 2 of the bar, rather than

on beat 1 as in the American Rumba. He brought this back to Britain, together

with the names of the many steps he learned from Pepe Rivera in Havanna. These

together with dancing the break on beat 2 rather than beat 1, have become part

of the standard International Cuban Rumba.


When the English dance teacher Pierre Lavelle visited Cuba in 1952, he realised

that sometimes the Rumba was danced with extra beats. When he returned to

Britain, he started teaching these steps as a separate dance.

The name could have been derived from the Spanish 'Chacha' meaning 'nursemaid',

or 'chachar' meaning 'to chew coca leaves', or from 'char' meaning 'tea', or

most likely from the fast and cheerful'Cuban dance: the Guaracha. This dance

has been popular in Europe from before the turn of the century. For example it

is listed on the program of the Finishing Assembly in 1898 of Dancie Neill at

Coupar Angus in Scotland.

It has also been suggested that the name Cha Cha is derived onomatipeically

>from the sound of the feet in the chasse which is included in many of the

steps. This would account for it being called the 'Cha Cha Cha' by some people,

after the rhythm:

whereas others call it the 'Cha Cha' after the rhythm:

These differ only as to which beat of the musical bar is stressed by the

dancing: beat 4 in the first case, beat 1 in the second.

In 1954, the dance was described as a 'Mambo with a guiro rhythm'. A guiro is a

musical instrument consisting of a dried gourd rubbed by a serrated stick.

The Mambo was originally a Haitian dance introduced to the West in 1948 by

Prado. The word 'Mambo' is the name of a voodoo priestess in the religion

brought by the Negroes from Africa. Thus the Cha Cha Cha had its origins in the

religious ritual dances of West Africa. There are three forms of Mambo: single,

double, and triple. The triple has five (!) steps to a bar, and this is the

version that evolved into the Cha Cha Cha .

The 'Cha Cha' is danced currently at about 120 beats per minute.


This dance originated with the Negroes in the South East of U.S.A., where it

had an affinity with the war dances of the Seminole Indians in Florida. One

reference suggests that the Negroes copied it from the Indians. Another

suggests that the Negroes brought the dance from Africa, and the Indians copied

it. The latter is more likely, as the word 'Jive' is probably derived

>from 'Jev' meaning 'to talk disparagingly' in the West African Wolof language

The current version called the Jive has basic steps composed of a fast

syncopated chasse (side, close, side) to the left followed by another to the

right (right then left for the lady) followed by a slower break back and

replace forward. The hips are moved half a beat after each of the steps, and

the weight is kept well forward with all steps being taken on the toes.

In its beginnings, in 1927, the dance became equated with youth. Older adults

disapproved of it and tried to ban it from dance halls by the rationalisation

that because Jive was non-progressive, it disturbed the other dancers who were

progressing anti-clockwise around the dance floor .

The association between youth and this dance has continued through its

subsequent metamorphoses as Swing , Boogie-Woogie , B-Bop ( Beach Bop ) , Rock

& Roll , Twist , Disco , Hustle and Ceroc.


Tango developed in the late 1800’s, in the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina,

among the poor, and has often been associated with the prostitutes of that era,

who were said to gain customers through this seductive dance. We do not know

much of its earliest development within argentina, but we know that it was in

the early 1900’s 'discovered' by the higher society in Buenos Aires. It became

every popular and was, in 1930, known as Argentina’s most danced social dance.

Argentine tango is an intimate and passionate social dance (couples’ dance)

that is characterized by its closeness between the partners, rapid and

complicated legwork, and (today) a very slick and sexy look. There is a

distinction between what we call salon tango, or social tango, and the fantasy

tango, or choreographed tango. The salon tango is more intimate and has

improvised and less acrobatic moves, while the fantasy tango is based on more

elaborate, choreographed moved and is for theatrical purposes.

The characteristic instrument of Argentine tango is the accordion, although

many combinations can be found, including cello, violin, piano, flute, etc.

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