Dancing is more fun when the dance naturally fits the music. Some people will apply the same dance to every song that comes along, regardless of rhythm or tempo; this just validates, however, the adage that “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Knowing a wide variety of dances and how they relate to the music will enhance your self-expression through dance.

Stages of Dance-Music Appreciation

A social dancer’s music appreciation passes though several stages.

As a new dancer, you’re likely to attend events at which a DJ or instructor might announce each dance (e.g., “take a partner for a salsa!”). Hence, the decision of which dance to perform is made for you. At our open dance parties on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, we will help you distinguish the music of each dance type in addition to observation of what our experienced students dance.

Later, you begin to attend social events where the dances are rarely announced. At this stage, you need to familiarize yourselves with the different types of music played at dances (e.g., Cha Cha, Swing, Waltz, etc.). You can take cues from other dancers on the floor, but they may not know much more than you do!

As you gain more experience, you may learn variations of each dance (e.g., American Rumba & International Rumba), or know several dances that can be performed to the same music (e.g., Foxtrot, Quickstep, East Coast Swing or Jive for swing music; or Cha Cha and Hustle for Latin pop or disco). This is a good time to explore the different ways that the dances relate to the music.

In time, you will have heard and danced to countless songs, and know how to choose a suitable dance for each song, should one exist. Remember, you can always choose dances that you know to fit the music, even if other dancers have picked another dance style. This is perfectly acceptable as long as you observe and dance with the flow of dance around the room.


(American Smooth and International Standard/Modern)

There are two main categories of these classic ballroom dances – The International Standard and American Smooth. All these dances are characterized by their precise elements of technique: footwork, rise and fall, etc. From this technique emerges a unique elegance and beauty.

The International Standard style includes five dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep. This style is danced widely in competitions throughout the world. The most obvious trait of the International Standard style is the dancers’ constant closed position, where the two dance partners never lose contact from the closed dance hold.

Four of the Standard dances have American Smooth counterparts: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. In the American Smooth style, partners often separate from closed dance position utilizing underarm turns and changes in position a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. American Smooth is quite popular at social dances due to its tremendous adaptability, and is danced at major competition events across North America. This is an expressive style that is fun to dance and to watch. The following are dances that fall under the category of standard and/or smooth and are danced socially at our dance parties:


Waltz develops good balance and control. The basic Waltz steps are the foundation patterns used in most ballroom dances. Correct posture, rise and fall, and flowing movements should be stressed to achieve good styling. The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz gives dancers a chance to practice balance and to move lightly with ease. It is considered a fundamental dance for all social dancers


Foxtrot can begin as a basic dance from which you can acquire a strong foundation of movement. Learning to combine steps easily and smoothly teaches variety and maneuverability. Being able to dance to slow, medium, and fast tempos will add confidence to your dancing and will assure fun and relaxation for your partner. The Foxtrot provides a good foundation for all dances and is sometimes called the “get-acquainted” or “first impression” dance. As this dance develops it ultimately becomes an extremely skilled dance that can be challenging at the highest levels of Smooth and Standard.


The Tango is one of the most beautiful of all the dances. Originating in Argentina and originally danced by the common people, it is characterized by earthy and dramatic movements. In order to achieve the distinctive style of Tango, it is important to develop controlled staccato footwork along with fluid graceful movements. The unique rhythm of the music is great training for timing and phrasing which develops as the dancer becomes more proficient. Tango practice is essential towards becoming a good dancer.

Viennese Waltz

This is the dance most people think of when conjuring up images of the classic formal “ballroom dancing”. It is the only main ballroom dance that predates the previous century and was refined by such wonderful composers as Johann Strauss whose music is largely associated with it. The steps became smaller and quicker as it developed, the turns smoother and more compact. Adding the tuxedo for the man and the graceful lilt of the flowing skirts for the lady gives us today’s Viennese Waltz.


Quickstep is the English version of the fast Foxtrot and was originally called the “QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston”. Today it is a dynamic fast dance with quick hopping steps set in with the smoother gliding figures. It is quite popular for competitive dancing and danced socially at our parties.

Rhythm and Latin Dances

(American and International styles)

For competitive dancing, the Latin dance styles are grouped into two main categories: American Rhythm and International Latin.

The American Rhythm style consists of five dances for the advanced competitive levels: Cha Cha, Rhumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, and Mambo. The International Latin style also consists of five dances: Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive, Paso Doble, and Samba.

When comparing the two styles, the most obvious difference is that they each have some unique dances. However, all the dances in each style do differ from their counterparts, in subtle ways; mostly having to do with technique and timing. You will find competitive events in each style. Socially, the following dances fall under the category of Latin and/or rhythm and all are danced at our parties with the exception of Paso Doble:

Cha Cha

The Cha Cha adds fun to your dancing through its syncopated steps and many open movements. When you can dance many interesting combinations with ease, you and your partner will be able to feel the pulsating Latin rhythms which make this dance so fascinating. The energetic rhythm of the Cha Cha encourages you to cut loose and let your personality show.


Learning the Rumba is a pre-requisite for good rhythm or Latin dancing. Body motion referred to as “cuban motion” is essential in most of these dances. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control.


Bolero uses a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. This dance is often said to have the rise and fall of Waltz, the contra-body motion of Tango, and the rhythm of Rumba. It is a favorite of dancers, as it incorporates many techniques similar to other dances to create a slow, sensual, romantic dance. It is often danced to ballads and romantic Latin music

East Coast Swing

Swing is actually not one dance but rather a family of dances that are often quite regional in nature. Often the term “Swing”, however, is used to refer to what is more formally known as the East Coast Swing. This is a spot dance with a carefree relaxed style and usually danced with a lot of circular rotation. The various speeds are excellent training for quick footwork and good leading & following, adding comfort and ease to other rhythm dances. After mastering the patterns, both men and women will find the East Coast Swing a fun and exciting dance to learn and practice. This dance brings forth a buoyant carefree movement and is one of the dances that become contagious.

West Coast Swing

WCS is a uniquely styled Swing dance started on the West coast of North America. It is an extremely adaptable social dance for many styles of music. Although it can be danced at fast tempos, it is usually danced to a slow or medium tempo and characterized by slot movements, anchoring, syncopations, rippling body actions and a push and pull connection of the dancers.


Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce” denoting a “spicy” and “hot” flavor to this popular dance style to a complex mix of many different rhythms. The fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz textures results in an aggressive high energy pulse which has become popular everywhere. Many of the patterns are closely related to those of the Mambo and Cha-Cha but the feeling here is much looser and allows you to truly develop your own style.


Mambo arose from a fusion of Cuban and jazz music characterized by a stirring Afro-Cuban beat. Mambo is an exciting earthy dance similar in structure to Salsa but with a more highly staccatto styling and more “grounding” into the floor and different timing. Good Mambo dancers are always popular and in demand as partners. The wild exciting music, and rhythmical body movements make the earthy Mambo irresistible.


Samba is the national dance of Brazil where it is danced in many forms depending on the region. It is associated with the Brazilian “Carnaval” and the music embodies its lighthearted rhythm and sensuality. The social samba is an extension of this and provides us with a fun and rhythmical dance that is quite unique among the latin dances. It can be quite a practical dance for many venues of social dancing.


Merengue develops “Cuban motion” and the ability to lead and follow material spontaneously. Merengue is the simplest dance to learn. Its uncomplicated timing makes it easy to feel the music and adapt to any partner. It is the only Rhythm dance that combines one-step timing with Cuban Motion and therefore is a help to all Rhythm and Latin dances. The marching type beat sharpens timing & coordination and the proper use of the accent develops a clearer interpretation of musical rhythm.


Bachata is a style of dance that originated in the Dominican Republic. It is danced widely all over the world but not identically.

The basics to the dance are three-step with a Cuban hip motion, followed by a tap including a hip movement on the 4th beat. The knees should be slightly bent so the performer can sway the hips easier. The movement of the hips is very important because it’s a part of the soul of the dance. Generally, most of the dancer’s movement is in the lower body up to the hips, and the upper body moves much less.


Jive is the name of a competitive dance in the International Latin division also characterized by up-tempo music and is one of the quicker versions of swing. It is primarily danced with triple steps done with a highly buoyant movement, sharp leg actions and a very upright posture. In other countries, it is sometimes known as Boogie Woogie.


Hustle originated in the 1970’s Disco Era and although the white suits and gold chains have faded away, the dance has stayed, giving us the fusion of Swing and disco. In its simplest form, it is a dance in which even a moderately skilled dancer can lead virtually anyone right away. This style is different from the popular line dance and is danced as a couple. Hustle is often danced with syncopated timing which is faster and highly exciting but requiring a higher degree of skill. Largely because of its tremendous adaptability to social dance music, Hustle is still one of the most popular nightclub dances across North America today. In Europe, it is sometimes known as Nightclub Fox.

Paso Doble

The dance depicting the bullfight where the male dancer is the matador and the female dancer represents the cape. The name comes from Spanish meaning “two step” and was originally a Spanish folk dance. Today it is a highly dramatic and flamboyant competitive dance in the International Latin division and is not usually danced as a social dance.

Other Fun Dances

The following are miscellaneous dances that are taught at Stardust Ballroom. If you are interested in learning a specific dance and are not sure whether we teach it or not, please feel free to contact us.

Wedding Dance

Your first dance together as husband and wife deserves a special moment that includes a special song and choreography designed especially for you two! Head over to our Wedding Page for more dance information and how to purchase your Wedding Package.

Theatre Arts

This style is used for competitive and exhibition dancing. It incorporates lifts and acrobatic movements with music and ballroom dance moves. It generally tells a story such as classical and modern dance. We specialize in this style due to our competitive experience in this style.

Country Two-Step

The Two-Step originated in the 1800’s by people who arrived here from Europe. It was an offspring of the minuet and they danced it as QQSS. In the old Western days when women were not allowed to dance with men, men danced together and that is the reason for the hand on the shoulder holding a can of beer and the other hand to the side. The only women who eventually danced with these men were Indian Squaws and that is where all the turns came about, because Indian women loved to spin. Two-step is a Western dance whose popularity has spread all over the United States.

Line Dances

Line dances originate from many ethnic dance styles from all over the world. One dances without a partner, often hand in hand moving across the floor. At social functions, you will see such line dances as the “hustle” line dance, kolas, etc. that are usually not complicated and great fun to join in and try the moves!


This dance was introduced to society in 1844. Every now and then it is revived because of its boisterous charm. It is supposed to have been originally created by a Bohemian girl. The basic step consists of a preparatory hop followed by a chasse done first to the left and then to the right. The Polka is still danced quite often throughout North America, sometimes at functions such as wedding dances, etc as one of the main social dances.

Nightclub Slow or 2-step

This dance is an easy playful dance that can be done to many pop songs. It is done to 4/4 time music and has similar patterns to those found in Salsa, although the style of this dance is much slower and smoother. This is a popular dance among wedding couples as it is usually a good tempo for the slower romantic ballads.

Lindy or “Lindy Hop”

The original swing dance that arose in the early 1930’s after the Charleston died out. Some recent musical groups have revived interest in the musical styles from the original Lindy Hop Era and have fired the imagination and enthusiasm of a whole new generation of Lindy Hop dancers. However, the acrobatic style used for exhibitions is not the same as the quietly rhythmic Lindy enjoyed by most dancers on the ballroom floor. Lindy steps are often incorporated in East Coast Swing dancing


See also Jive (jump to Jive). Jitterbug is also known as single-time swing or sometimes colloquially as “jive” or “boogie” depending on what area you live. It is usually done to faster Swing music and is a highly energetic and expressive dance. It could also be referred to as a toned down Lindy Hop. It is also a spot dance and highly useful on crowded dance floors.