Dance Impressions offers instruction in the full
range of popular wedding
Please click on a link above for a brief history of
that that dance as well as some corresponding songs.
The Cha-cha is the youngest of the "Latin" dances. It
is a true American dance, developed in the dance studios in the early
50's as a mid-tempo variant between Rumba (a slow dance) and Mambo (a
very fast dance). It is believed to have started as a step in Mambo
- a triple step to replace the slow one to accommodate slower musical
rhythms. This developed into an entirely new dance in it's own right.
Slower modern music has often inspired the evolution of popular dances
such as Single Swing into Triple Swing and Quickstep into Slow Foxtrot.
Cha-cha music is slower than Mambo/ Salsa but not much. It it quite
a common upbeat musical tempo. The dance is alive and well in the Ballrooms
today. It is flashy, sassy and full of itself. The Cha-cha styling is
very similar to the Rumba and the Mambo. Like most Latin dances, your
weight is forward, and most of the movement is below the ribcage. The
steps are small, taken with the ball of the foot first to better execute
the hip action commonly known as "cuban motion". Cha-cha music is composed
in 4/4 time. The rhythm is danced 2-3-4 & 1 or "rock step cha cha cha".
Cha Cha is a great dance for couples to take up together.
· "Smooth" by Santana
· "Oye como Va" by Santana
· "My Maria" by Brooks and Dunn
· "Super Freak" by Rick James
· "Cuban Pete" by Tito Puente
Most Disco dances have strong roots in
Swing. The Hustle is believed to have originated in New York in 1970.
It went through many incarnations in the seventies, with line dances
for groups of people, solo movements that came and went, and partnership
dances. These partnership dances included The Basic Hustle, Latin, Spanish
and Tango Hustle (thankfully gone for good), and the most popular Street,
Three-Count or Swing Hustle that originated in California as the street
Hustle by skaters in Venice and Malibu. John Travolta and "Saturday
Night Fever" gave it its place in American pop culture. Hustle
is danced to the contemporary pop, Hip Hop, or "House" dance
music of the last 20 years. Most People dance New York style or Swing
Hustle. It is a fast, smooth dance which is all about hands. The lady
spins almost continuously, while her partner leads her back and forth
in a "slotted" linear formation.
· "Missionary Man" by The Eurythmics
· "Material Girl" by Madonna
· "Party All The Time" by Eddie Murphy
· "Last Dance" by Donna Summer
may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle."
Although often associated with the style of Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers,
the Foxtrot was actually introduced into the mainstream by Harry Fox
in 1913 in his Vaudeville Routine. As "Fox's Trot" was embraced by the
social dancers of the time, it became simply the Foxtrot. Foxtrot is
a "Ballroom" or Smooth dance, traveling around the line of dance (the
perimeter of the room in a counterclockwise direction). Smooth in fact
is the main description of the dance. Men generally like Foxtrot because
it is a lot like walking or strolling. Musically it is very easy to
hear the Foxtrot
rhythm ( I call it "The White Man's Revenge" - anybody can hear Foxtrot!)
The dance is in some ways similar to Waltz, but the focus is much more
linear, traveling straight around the room, rather than in a circular
fashion. It also has much less of the characteristic "Rise and Fall"
of Waltz. Foxtrot is an extremely useful dance socially and can be danced
to a variety of jazzy musical styles. Most of the Rat Pack standards
that are played at weddings and on New Year's Eve are Foxtrots. International
Foxtrot is is the very technical style that is commonly seen in Ballroom
Dance Competitions where couples remain ridgedly in the dance hold or
"frame". American Style Foxtrot has a fun "theatrical" quality
because the couples can open up to allow for spinning the women. Fred
Astaire and Gene Kelly both used the long, smooth movements of Foxtrot
to cover a lot of ground gracefully in their cinematic routines. The
basic beginner rhythm of Foxtrot is Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick. Higher level
patterns are often danced Slow-Quick-Quick. Many of our students have
selected this dance for their First Dance.
· "A Wink and a Smile" by Harry Connick, Jr.
· "L.O.V.E." by Nat King Cole
· "Fly me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
· "You're Nobody 'Till Somebody Loves You" by Dean Martin
· "Something's gotta Give" by Sammy Davis Jr.
· "World On A String" by Peggy Lee.
Mambo/Salsa is the latin equivalent of
Swing. Perez Prado is thought to have introduced it at La Tropicana
nightclub in Havana in 1943. Mambo Mania hit when Prado recorded the
song, "Mambo Jambo". The dance appeared in the United States in New
York's Park Plaza Ballroom, a favorite hangout of dance enthusiasts
from Harlem. The Mambo gained in popularity and in the 1950's was taught
in dance studios, resorts, and nightclubs in New York and Miami. In
more recent times Mambo has also evolved into Salsa. Salsa is a street
version of Mambo. Musically the main difference is that Mambo music
holds on the one beat and Salsa music hits on one beat. The steps are
pretty much the same. Mambo tends to be sharper in the footwork more
time is spent in closed hold and the man breaks on 2. Salsa tends to
be sexier, characteristically it has little kick like embellishments,
more time is spent in a two handed or apart position and the man breaks
on 1. Whether you call it Mambo or Salsa, the small steps are taken
ball of foot first with the knees flexible to allow for the hip action
known as cuban motion. Mambo is the forefather of Cha Cha. It also shares
many patterns in common with the other Latin dances Rumba and Bolero.
Mambo/Salsa is fun and flirty and socially is a great dance to learn
if you like Latino music.
The Merengue is one of the most popular
latin dances and the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and also
to some extent, of Haiti. There are two popular versions of the origin
of the Merengue. The first story alleges the dance originated with slaves
who were chained together and, of necessity, were forced to drag one
leg as they cut sugar to the beat of drums. The second says that a great
war hero was wounded in the leg during one of the many revolutions in
the Dominican Republic. He was welcomed home with a victory celebration
and, out of sympathy, everyone dancing felt obligated to limp and drag
The Merengue is a spot dance, meaning it doesn't move around the dance
floor so it is ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors. Merengue
is a fun dance with simple steps so it is easy to learn quickly and
the "1-2" march-like rhythm makes it a favorite throughout the Caribbean,
Latin America and South America. It is the perfect dance to learn for
those planning a honeymoon in any of these regions of the world. The
Merengue was introduced to the United States in the New York area and
like the other Latin dances is here to stay. You can merengue any night
of the week in any Latino bar in the area.
· "La Bilirrubina" by Juan Luis Guerra
· "El Costa de la Vida" by Juan Luis Guerra
you can walk you can merengue."
Every dance teacher I've ever known.
The Polka was originally a Czech peasant dance, developed in Eastern
Bohemia (now part of Czechoslovakia). Bohemian historians believe that
the polka was invented by a peasant girl named Anna Slezak in 1834 one
her amusement. It was composed to a folk song "Uncle Nimra brought a
white horse." Anna called the step "Madera" because of its quickness
and liveliness. The dance was first introduced into the ballrooms of
Prague in 1835. The music is played in 2/4 time (1 & 2) and sounds happy
and playful. The name of the dance (pulka) is Czech for “half-step”,
referring to the rapid shift from one foot to the other. The couple
danced around the room in a series of fast chasses (side steps) with
a distinctive hop, turning about 360 degrees every 4 beats. In 1840,
Raab, a dancing teacher of Prague, danced the polka at the Odéon Theatre
in Paris where it was a tremendous success. French dance instructors
seized upon it and Polkamania ensued. Dance academies were swamped and
in desperation recruited ballet girls from the Paris Opéra as dancing
partners to help teach the polka. This naturally attracted many young
men who were interested in things other than dancing, and manners and
morals in the dance pavilions developed a bad name and many parents
forbade their daughters dancing with any but close friends of the family.
The polka was introduced in England by the middle of the nineteenth
century. When it came to the USA it was taken up by the country western
set and is still danced in Country Competitions today. The western style
Polka is danced with less turning, with very little hopping and somewhat
resembles the two-step in its execution with a lot of turns for the
woman. After the WW2, American/Polish immigrants adopted the more european
variant of polka as their “cultural” dance and it is not uncommon to
see it danced by young and old at polish weddings today. The Polka was
standard fare on the Lawrence Welk Show. Most people will remember it
as the dance Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner did swirling around the ballroom
in "The King and I".
· "The Beer Barrel Polka" by Lawerence Welk
· "Shall We Dance?" from "The King and I" soundtrack
· "Back In The Saddle Again" by Gene Autry
The word Rumba is a generic term, covering
a variety of names for a type of West Indian music and dance (i.e.,
Son, Danzon, and Bolero). Although the main growth was in Cuba, there
were similar dance developments that took place in other Caribbean islands
and in Latin America generally. Traditionally, the music was played
with a staccato beat using instruments including the maracas, claves,
marimba, guiro, cencerro, and bongo or timbales drums. The native Rumba
folk dance is very sexual and danced extremely fast with exaggerated
Today's Rumba is danced very slowly and has romantic, flirtatious overtones.
The American style version is done in a "Box" pattern to a Slow Quick
Quick timing. In the Ballrooms we call it either the "Dance of Love"
(because you stare into each others eyes as you dance) or "The Ladies'
Dance" (because is shows off women to advantage). Many modern Country,
Soul and Latin love songs are Rumbas. The music has a slower Slow Quick
Quick rhythm and therefore more exaggerated use of Cuban motion (hip
movements) and a more fluid arm styling. The Rumba is a spot dance like
most of the Latin dances, which means that it does not travel around
· "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" Mambo Kings soundtrack
· "Falling Into You" by Celine Dion
· "Power of Two" by Indigo Girls
· "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green
· "Innocent Man" by Billy Joel
· "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" Strictly Ballroom soundtrack
· "I Do" by Paul Brant
The Samba originates from Brazil. It was
and is danced as a festival dance during the street festivals and celebrations.
The music has an joyful contagious rhythm which makes even non dancers
want to get up and dance. When one sees pictures of people dancing at
Carnival in Rio it is the Samba. It was first introduced in the U.S.
in a Broadway play called "Street Carnival" in the late twenties. The
festive style and mood of the dance has kept it alive and popular to
this day and the rhythm pervades popular music. The South America Samba
slower and more fluid its American counterpart, which is danced to a
faster tempo. Both styles have the basic "Samba Bounce". The beautiful
music of the Gypsy Kings epitomizes the addictive Samba style but many
modern singers have Samba rhythms.
· "Copacabana" by Barry Manilow
· "Stop" by Mark Anthony
· "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna
· "The Girl from Ipanima" by Sammy Davis Jr.
Most people tend to think that modern music is faster
than the old time standards but this is not the case. Modern music has
much stronger emphasis on percussion and therefore seems faster. There
are many kinds of Slow Dances. Essentially dance instructors went crazy
trying to dance the regular ballroom dances to the more modern tunes
which were just too slow! So they came up with variants to deal with
it. There are no standard competitions for these dances and they are
not pushed in the larger studios for that reason. Some of the various
styles are called: Foxy, Night Club Style, Society Tempo and Night Club
Two Step. The Slow Dance we teach is a variant of Foxtrot. It has two
walks followed by two side sways all done as "Slows" (stepping on the
down beat or "booms" of the music). It is excellent for dealing with
the romantic slow ballads often played in today's night clubs and is
one of the more popular dances we teach.
· "At Last" by Etta James
· "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
· "Endless Love" by Lionel Ritchie
· "If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful" by Whitney Houston
Swing is another all American dance which dates back
to the 1920's. We have Black Americans to thank for creating the Charleston,
Shag and the Lindy Hop (named to honor Charles "Lindy" Lindberg the
great American aviator) to go along with Jazz and Blues music. In 1934,
Cab Calloway introduced a tune called "Jitterbug" and the name stuck
to a 6 count beat variant of the dance. In the 1930's and 1940's, the
terms Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Swing were all used to describe the same
style of dancing taking place on the streets, in the night clubs, in
contests and in the movies. Swing Mania hit and Swing dancing has enjoyed
continuing popularity. Since the late 1940's, many regional variants
have evolved: the Push Whip (Texas), the Imperial Swing (St. Louis),
the Hand Dancing (Washington, D.C.), and the Carolina Shag (Carolinas
and Norfolk) just to name a few. After the late 1940's, the soldiers
and sailors returned from overseas and continued to dance in and around
their military bases. Many of the films from that era feature swing
The character of the Swing is upbeat and fun. It is a happy and playful
dance. East Coast Triple Swing and Single Step Swing tend to be very
circular in their movements and work more on a 6-count beat basic. The
Single Swing, being the closest to the original form, has simpler footwork
and is great for dancing to extremely up tempo music like the old Big
Band Tunes as performed by the likes of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
The East Coast Swing can be danced to slower, Blues, Rock or Country
music. The West Coast Swing and the Lindy Hop are danced more to an
8-count beat and are danced in a slotted fashion - both partners turning
180 degrees during every pattern, to exchange places. West Coast Swing
is very smooth and sexy and is quite popular with people who like country
and/or funk music. Lindy hop on the other hand can be very bouncy and
has incorporated the charleston kicks and various acrobatic lifts known
as aerials and looks a lot like what we see of Swing in the old B&W
Big Band WW2 movies.
LINDY HOP and SINGLE SWING SONGS:
· "It Don't Mean a Thing if You Ain't Got that Swing" by Duke Ellington
· "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets
· "Americano" by Brian Setzer
· "Sing Sing Sing" Swing Kids soundtrack
EAST COAST SWING SONGS:
· "How Sweet It Is" by Marvin Gaye
· "I Feel Lucky" by Mary Chapin Carpenter
· "This Kiss" by Faith Hill
· "There's Your Trouble" by the Dixie Chicks
"It Don't Mean a Thing if You Ain't Got that Swing.
Doowap Doowap Doowap Doowap Doowap Doowap!"
originated from Argentine, Brazilian and Spanish influences. The earliest
traces of the Tango date back to the latter half of the 19th century-to
the Milonga, an Argentine folk dance with Moorish, Arabic and Spanish
ancestry. Years later, the Argentine Gauchos (streetwise single men)
danced a modified version of the Milonga, in the seedy bars and bordellos
of Buenos Aires. The Milonguero dance hold in Artgentine Tango is called
"close embrace", where the couple are literally dancing chest
to chest. It gives Tango an immediate intimacy that the other dances
not have. This was considered far too riske for polite society.
was later taken on by Verne and Irene Castle renowned ballroom dance
performers. They Changed the hold to a traditional ballroom frame, toned
the dance down so that it could be danced in a socially acceptable manner
and restructured many of the figures to allow them to be taught like
tradional smooth dances. The International and American Tango Styles
danced in ballrooms today developed from this offshoot. Their unique
style is expressed in quick double takes with the head and stalking
panther-like movements complete with lunges and dips.
"Tangueros" (Tango dancers and singers) did not fair well
under Peron period but performance Tango known as "Fantasia" developed
in the mid 1950's and sustained interest in Tango in general around
the world. Fantasia being performance based, has many acrobatic movements
such as lifts, dips, twirls and of course the characteristic argentine
hooking and kicking steps called "Ganchos" and "Boleos". It can be viewed
as a dance separate variant, though many fantasia moves can be danced
socially by experienced dancers.
When The Argentinean Tango crowd refers to "Tango", they totally ignore
the American, International and Fantasia offshoots. Socially danced
in "Milongas" (Argentine Tango Dances) around the world there
are three basic types of Tango -- Milonga, Valtz and Tango. Each of
these three has its own distinctive features and music. Milonga, the
original, is danced very close, to very fast music and has a lot of
staccato foot changes and taps. You dance on every beat of the music.
Valtz is danced to Viennese Waltz music, hence the name. It is more
flowy and is danced more frequently on the first beat of a measure or
the "1" of "1-2-3". Tango is the most sensual of the three, danced to
slower, moodier music. It is therefore more precise. Controlled smooth
movements allow for the intricate footwork so often associated with
this dance. What makes this dance truly unique is that the gentleman
can set up situations for the woman to "play" or do embellishments which
she controls. Whether one dances in the "close embrace" or
in the more formal ballroom hold is decided by the dancers. Often at
Milongas each kind are played in sets of three or four and a couple
will tend to dance the set together.
Tango has a flavor quite unlike any other dance. The basic rhythm is
an 8 count Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow. The music itself leads to excess.
It is a dance that is ironically both showy, yet very intimate. Tango
has also been immortalized in such films as "The Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse"(Rudolf Valentino), "Scent of a Woman" (Al Pachino), "True
Lies" (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and "Assassination Tango" (Robert
· "La Cumparsita/Tango Please"(Medley) Strictly Ballroom soundtrack
· "Por Una Cabeza" by Tango Project
· "Habanera" from Carmen
no mistakes in Tango.
It's like life, if you get all tangled up, you
Al Pachino in "Scent of a Woman".
The Viennese Waltz is from the same root as the Waltz (see below). Currently,
the Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of about 180 beats per minute
and in competition has only a very limited range of figures: Change
Steps, hesitations, Hovers, Passing Changes, Fleckerelles with Contra-checks.
The rapid pace and continuous circling will make the novice dizzy at
first, but with practice it is a lot of fun. The nature of this dance
requires both the leader and the follower to maintain a good frame.
It is a "Smooth Dance" so it travels counter-clockwise around the room
at high speed. Warning to new dancers. The outside edges and corners
of the room are considered the Fast Lane and we pass on the outside!
Until you learn to move together well you want to dance more to the
center of the floor to allow the space for the more advanced dancers
· "Annie's Song" John Denver
· "Caribbean Blue" Enya (Shepherd Moons)
· "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music
· "Kiss of the Rose" Seal
· "I Can't Help Falling In Love" Elvis Presley
· Strauss Waltzes (warning: they are usually long, and may have tempo
The German "Landler", a folk dance, is supposed to be
the forerunner of the Waltz. During the 18th Century, a dance developed,
which was called the walzen, German for to roll, turn or glide. The
Walzen was met with outraged indignation by the older generation when
first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early 19th century
because it was the first dance where the couple danced in a modified
closed position-with the man's hand around the waist of the girl. Regardless,
the Waltz became popular through many parts of Germany and Austria.
The Waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian
composers - Franz Lanner and Johann Strauss: they set the standard for
the Viennese waltz (a very fast version of the Waltz, see Viennese Waltz
The first time the waltz was officially danced in the United States
was in Boston in 1834 by Lorenzo Papanti. The Boston, a more sedate
form of the fast Viennese Waltz, danced at a leisurely 90 beats per
minute. It evolved in America around 1870, and by the 1920's had slowed
down even more to ¾ time with strong accent on the first beat and a
basic "box" pattern of forward-side-together-back-side-together. This
version of the Waltz retained the characteristic traveling and turning
figures and the slower tempo but allowed for more figures including
a dip. International style Waltz, like Foxtrot, is danced entirely is
closed hold and is most commonly seen in the competitions. American
style opens up and allows for under arm turns and much more variety
of figures. Waltz is popularly known as the "traditional American wedding
dance" and is often used for Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances.
Its characteristic undulating rise and fall technique and shoulder sways
gives the dance an oceanic or floating quality. Country Waltz, a purely
American invention, is a variant of this dance which maintains the slow
1-2-3 rhythm but utterly ignores the box. The basic step is danced with
the man taking all 6 steps forward. In many ways it far more resembles
two-step than the traditional waltz.
· "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog
· "Fascination" by Nat King Cole
· "If You Don't Know Me by Now" Simply Red
· "Play Me" by Neil Diamond
· "Moon River" Breakfast at Tiffany's Soundtrack
· "Open Arms" by Journey
· "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof
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