About Ballroom

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There are nineteen competitive ballroom dances.  The dances are divided between the International style and the American style.  Among the International dances, there is a further subdivision into Latin dances and Standard dances.  The American style is also subdivided, but into the Smooth dances and the Rhythm dances.  Below is a list of all nineteen dances in their appropriate categories.

International Standard
International Waltz
International Tango
International Viennese Waltz
International Foxtrot
International Quickstep
International Latin
International Cha Cha
International Samba
International Rumba
International Paso Doble
International Jive
American Smooth
American Waltz
American Tango
American Foxtrot
American Viennese Waltz
American Rhythm
American Cha Cha
American Rumba
American Swing
American Bolero
American Mambo

Couples compete against other couples with similar training experience.  In a competition, these divisions are made with the following proficiency levels:

  • Pre-Bronze (sometimes called “Newcomer”)
  • Bronze (sometimes called “Beginner”)
  • Silver (sometimes called “Intermediate”)
  • Gold (sometimes called “Advanced”)
  • Pre-Championship
  • Championship

Newcomer through Gold are considered to be syllabus levels where permitted figures are restricted to those specified in certain official syllabi (usually those sanctioned by the ISTD).  Other syllabi include those taught by commercial institutions, such as Arthur Murray or Fred Astaire Dance Studios.  Pre-Champ and Champ levels are considered to be Open levels (sometimes termed simply as “Open”) and do not have any syllabus restrictions.

Level restrictions in competitions may be determined by length of time dancing or previous achievement.  The latter is usually determined based on how many times a couple may place in the finals of events.  Most collegiate competitions use the YCN rules.  Other competitions tend to use criteria set by the USABDA or the NDCA, depending on the competition.

Collegiate competitions are Amateur competitions, meaning both people in the partnership are amateurs.  This is in contrast with Pro-Am competitions (a student dances with his professional teacher) and Professional competitions (both members of the partnership are professionals).

Collegiate competitions are amongst the most competitive of the amateur competitions, especially for the syllabus levels, as they tend to host extremely large fields of dancers.  For instance, as an extreme case, the 2007 MIT Open had 187 couples competing against one another for Beginner International Rumba.  This is in stark contrast to many other competitions where there are often as few as two or three couples competing in an event.  There is also an increasing number of non-student adult and junior dancers taking part in collegiate competitions.