Ballroom Dance > International style VS American ballroom

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by JIMMY, Jun 26, 2004.

  1. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    Up until the early 60's most ballroom dancing schools in the United States were teaching American ballroom style in bronze and silver categories International style was only taught when you started teaching the gold standard .
    when the 60's arrived ballroom dancing was almost nonexistent because the culture changed into none- partner dancing ( twist/the jerk/swim / ext ext .
    Studio owners lost a lot of dance teachers who taught American ballroom dancing, so they were forced to hire dance teachers from Europe mostly from England in order to fill in the positions in their dance studios. thus American ballroom style slowly disappeared and the international standard has taken over. you don't see any American ballroom style dancing any more. there is a major difference between the two styles. if you have any thoughts and regards to this subject I would be interested to read thank you all
  2. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forums Jimmy,

    Are you sure about this? My understanding is that most of what is taught in the studios is American style; at least it is in my area. :?
  3. Laura

    Laura New Member

    I first started taking lessons at a Fred Astaire studio, and my English-born-and-trained teacher taught me American Style first, as that was the studio's policy. This was in New York in the 90's. The studio where I take lessons now (in San Francisco) teaches American style dances in their social dance programs. So, in my experience at least, people are taught American style first and then learn the English style if they wish to go on to competitions or if they're just curious and want to try it.
  4. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I can't comment on the suggested history, but I do not by any means think it accurate to say that american style is gone. In fact, about the only studios where you would not find it are those few that are effectively training academies for international style competition, rather than the being built around the traditional studio base business of social dance.

    In terms of the existence of American Style today, I think you have to seperate it into two issues before you can meaningfully examine the topic: American Style Material, and American Style Approach.

    As others have already pointed out, American Style Material is alive and well. There are many people teaching it a a variety of levels from introductory/social through very ambitious competition preparation. While international style is more popular in post-beginner amateur competition, there is still a fair amount of American style danced - it might even be dominant in beginner to intermediate pro-am competition.

    The second issue, and the one that may really be dying out, is the idea of an American Style Approach to dancing. If you watch a contemporary smooth couple demonstrate basic material, while the figures haven't changed, you may decide their dancing looks nothing like what your parents did. The thing though is that the old, popular concept of how to dance this material was not grounded in any real understanding of motion technique or partnership dynamics. Today's smooth is a much more precise, technically developed dance than the way it was populary danced, and even taught, some time ago. It is true that a lot of the technical improvement has come from exposure to international style teachers, but you have to admit than an English couple's bodies are really not built all that differently from an American couple's. Whenever the two styles have overlapping goals, it's completely logical that enough experimentation is likely to lead to both discovering the same way of achieveing them - and of course they get there faster if they keep an eye on what the other is up to. It's true that today's smooth is no longer technically distinct from international standard in its underlying methods - but what has died is not a uniquely American concept of dance, but rather a situation in which teachers were often nearly as ignorant as their students. Today technically precise training is available to anyone who seeks it out, and we're seeing the results of an improved average level of skill in both the American and International style competitions.

    The situation does appear to be a bit different for Rhythm though. There actually is - or at least was - a unique motion technique for these dances. While the underlying ideas there were moderately sound, they are suffering some in a shadow between international latin technique on one side, and street salsa technique on the other. While Salsa has redefined what it means to just dance for fun, latin has set contemporary expectations for what dancing should look like, and also the degree of intensity that should be available in training. Someone seeking to teach real American Rhythm today would need to find students interested in actually learning dance technique, find inspiring role models within the style to point to, and present the unique rhythm technique with as much methodical detail as a boot-camp latin coach . And still, they'd have to worry about their best couples getting caught up in the greater popularity of latin at intermediate to advanced levels.
  5. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    Before the 60's there were many ballrooms in the United States hundred of thousands of people would go dancing every night instead of sitting home watching television or sitting in front of their computer . today the places to go ballroom dancing are few and in between in comparison and if you do go ,the dance floor is dominated by international type dancing you hardly see any American ballroom dancing on the dance floor. as for my post above there is a major difference between the 2 in footwork and style( especially style!!) thank-you for replying your comments of very interesting looking forward to reading some more.
  6. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I'm going to have to strongly disagree. While the popularity of ballroom dancing has gone down, the social dancing that is left is by no means dominated by international style. Rather, what you have seen is a trend towards technically sound dancing pushing some popular, but outrageously flawed traditional social habits to the margins. There is essentially zero difference in the footwork rules of contemporary international standard and american smooth for corresponding actions. Yes, some people prefer to use only toe leads, or fail to roll through their feet - but that's not American style dancing, but rather BAD DANCING (unless suggested by a totally distinct non-ballroom hold and poise, such as that of argentine tango)

    (Occasionally I'll guess wrong at a social and lead a continuity american style waltz, only to have the lady appologize that she doesn't know "international" Since it's unfamilair she's assumed it's foreign, when in fact it's the most uniquely American ballroom approach to this music. I'll then switch to what I think of as basic international waltz, and she will be quite happy - because if I pick my figures with care it's exaclty the same dance she knows as american waltz)
  7. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I think perhaps it depends on where you go. The place my wife and I went last night has mostly American style. A lot of the people there do dance continuity American style, though, which some people mistake for International.

    Other places that we go have mostly International style; in the Boston area, at least, you can find both if you look.
  8. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    I think i understand why the confusion .
    I am talking about ballroom dancing style before the 60's I'm old enough to remember LOL.
    what you all are talking about is today's contemporary American ballroom style dancing which is actually evolved into a kind of international style mixs of American /international
    Even the International style today is very different than before. If you look at tapes of Billy and Bobbie Irvine dancing ( who were the International ballroom dance champions 10 years running )you would see a big difference between International style then and today. hopefully someone on this board is old enough to remember the American ballroom style dancing I'm talking about lol :oops: :eek:
  9. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    What kind of qualities from that era do you see missing in today's dancing?

    In terms of the Irvines - yes, standard has evolved. But the leading dancers of that era are today's senior judges and officials. Their contributions are a large part of the foundation of where ballroom is today and it is their students and students students who are in the top ranks today. There has been evolution, and there are a number of faddish distortions in play at the moment, but Alex Moore's Ballroom Technique (first published in 1948) is till one of the most often referenced authorities. And if you want to start a good technical argument, just drop the question of Irvine CBM vs. Eggleton CBM...
  10. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    I'm answering in the understanding that your question is in reference to international ballroom dancing .( and I am talking about General style now. Not footwork or technical arguments ).

    The major difference that i see is that in the old international style, the man featured the woman. ( you know the old saying the woman is the picture and the man is the frame )

    today's Man style of dancing international is more flamboyant/flashy. which was actually Reserve more for the woman partner in those days.....
  11. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I'll admit to not having been there in the '50s, but stylistically, it does not look to me like the American style of recent decades is fundamentally different from what I see in the Astaire/Roger's films of the '30s. But I, too, am interested in more information about what differences you see - can you give us more description?
  12. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    The movies version that you see is the Hollywood interpretation of ballroom dancing actually represents Hollywood version of that era and it is show business type dancing( exaggerated IN style for public consumption). Not even resembling the actual ballroom dancing of that era,,,,,,,,,, it would be almost impossible to describe in words since my vocabulary is imited in regards to describing this. it is best if you could find some authentic documentary style films of actual ballroom dancing in those days I believe there is some existing of ROSELAND DANCE CITY from the 40's and 50's. or the harvest Moon ball... which was a yearly dance competition in New York City.
  13. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Actually I was primarily interested in what qualities of the old American Style you see missing today.

    In terms of standard, I do agree that the men have pulled more attention onto themselves. Today many lines are taught with the leader quite presented and shaped away from the lady, wheras I'm told before the men sacrificed themselves to improve the lady's shape. But if you think this is bad, just look at contemporary latin. (See how fast I can spin! Want to see me do it again? I am so hot! Who are you? oh yeah, they did say I had to drag a girl on the floor with me...)

    But in smooth there are possibly three competing trends. One closely resembles standard traditions, where the emphasis is on the lady but the man has many contributions to what she does, in effect dancing through her as something subtle he does gains its visual outlet in what she does. Another is more in line with the ballet concept of partnering, where the man is more of a prop about which the dancer (the lady) performs. The big difference here is that the severing of the closed hold means that unless the partners really try to maintain connection, a lot of what the lady does really is independent, leaving the man little role in the dancing of the partnership. Finally, the third approach seems to be to have both partners as co-equal "look at me" performers, utlizing neither the ballroom nor ballet traditions of drawing attention to the lady.
  14. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    It would be interesting to see film of dancing in earlier eras.

    However, I'd be hesitant to say that taking a camera into a social ballroom venue today would really capture contemporary ideas of dancing. There's a difference between what qualities are considered important today, and what qualities you would actually see if you spy on typical social dancers. Competitors aren't perfect either, given the kinds of compromises in dance quality they are sometimes willing to make in order to defeat the competition. I think if you wanted to document what is considered good dancing today, you'd have to go to a top retired pro like Stephen Hillier and ask him to show you his idea of good dancing in the abstract rather than competition-winning sense.

    It would be very interesting to see film of a lecture/demonstration by his British and American equivelents from 30 or 40 years ago.
  15. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Well, Jimmy did start the thread talking about social dance. I'd certainly be interested in seeing the tapes if they are easily available - though my impression was that social dancing in the 1950s was mostly swing, with ballroom relatively small. I'd be interested in Jimmy's take on that.
  16. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    WELL In regards to Latin international dancing style LOL, it has become so flamboyant and narcissistic that the difference between the man style and the woman style has been completely blurred let's put it this way if you take the DRESS of the woman and put it on the man and vice versa except for the man leading and the woman following you will see very little difference in the style LOL( and I don't mean this in any prejudiced way so please let's not start any drama LOL)
  17. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    Ballroom dancing was a very big in the 50's Arthur MURRY had a weekly television show teaching the public how to dance, there were over 1000 dance studios all over the United States teachings thousands of hours of ballroom dancing to the public. the swing that you are talking about was part of the teenage trend at the time. however the more mature crowd went ballroom dancing sometimes 2 three times a week. if you can find some of the television shows tapes you will also see some of the American ballroom dancing that was practiced at the time.
  18. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    The swing dance instructor for our club last night brought out some videotapes to show what "West Coast Swing" was like 3 decades ago, which does not resemble at all what the current style is. It was more like circular lindy with in my opinion various hustle/disco elements rather than a cool slotted dance that you see now. I would be interested if anyone did have videos of performances from "back in the day". I'm not sure the contrast would be as great, but who knows.
  19. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    This could indeed be intersting to see. However if the reference for 'then' is an AM teaching TV show, then the comparison reference for 'now' should be an AM teaching video aimed at the same market segment. I don't think it's fair to compare the ages unless you use the same type of sample from each.

    I continue to have a strong suspicion that the biggest difference between then and now is not in what was ultimately known or desired, but in how widely this knowledge was spread throughout the US. There has always been a mix between dancers with little, some, and a lot of training. My guess is that the biggest difference today is that those with a moderate amount of training receive more usefull information, from teachers with a more thorough understanding of the underlying issues, than those most of those who took a lot of studio training in past generations. For me the intesesting difference is not in the quality of dancing of the untrained, but in the effectiveness of the training presented to the dedicated towards helping them accomplishing what would appear to be their goals in a given dance.

    I would be really interested to look at an example figure where something like the accepted footwork appears to have changed over the past 40 years.
  20. JIMMY

    JIMMY New Member

    If there's anybody in reading this thread, that used to teach dancing between 1950 and 1965 I would like to hear what you have to say in regard to this matter . thank you all again for your participation in this thread :lol:

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