Ballroom Dance > International style VS American ballroom

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

  1. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Beginning smooth is always taught that way; you only need to learn one or two of these modular groups to get around the floor. Once you start learning more material, and certainly by the time you get to continuity style, you have to learn about positioning and such, but it's always possible to fall back to the basics and finish the dance without having to stop.

    I would note that in International style, beginning quickstep naturally breaks down into modular groups as well. International foxtrot is really the dance that's impossible to learn that way.
  2. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    international foxtrot is simply impossible to learn altogether :)
  3. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member


    The "figures" often taught to smooth students are what you would consider groupings or amalgamations.

    I think the analogue would be:
    Progressive chasse to right Variation 1a
    Progressive chasse to right, closed impetus, 4-6 reverse turn

    Progressive chasse to right Variation 1b
    Progressive chasse to right, back lock, closed impetus, 4-6 reverse turn

    Progressive chasse to right Variation 2
    Progressive chasse to right, 4-6 natural turn, forward closed change


    Also, smooth tends to separate foot-closure (figures ending with feet closed) and continuity (figures ending with feet lowering apart) into bronze syllabus-closure and silver syllabus-continuity. When dancing foot-closure patterns, it is possible to carry momentum from the end of one figure to the beginning of the next. But it's very difficult. So bronze smooth is often danced in a very static manner. Step 3: bring feet together, lower heel...and STOP. Having killed the energy, it is possible to start up again in almost any direction (hence wide choice in figures). Whereas carrying the momentum through would limit the number (arguably to one) of directions in which one could proceed. Which is how bronze smooth would behave if danced well.
  4. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    +1. oy vey.
  5. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    I haven't seen beginning smooth being taught any other way. But then again, it's been a long time since I've been to a beginning class. Maybe someone somewhere does it differently. The old flyers from group classes I took 10 years ago list about 6 or 7 of those self-contained groupings for each dance. Until the person realizes that the groupings are not set in stone, I guess they're stuck with them. But with that many groupings there's enough variety for a social floor, so there's no incentive break them up in smaller pieces.
  6. Lyra

    Lyra Active Member

    I understand. That's a useful way to proceed for beginners who are mostly aiming at social dancing as it probably gives them the tools and the confidence to get out on the dance floor relatively quickly, which is always a good thing. Am I right in thinking that's technically not how "good" (always a loaded concept!) bronze smooth would be danced? Competitively for example?

    You could teach quickstep that way, but of all the dances I'm not sure that I'd recommend it. You sometimes need to get out of the way very quickly in quickstep and you might have a nasty accident if you're trying to finish a module!
  7. Jameswil

    Jameswil New Member

    My wife and I have been competing in the American style as an amateur couple for more than 10 years. Its been our observation that the two schools of dance have moved closer together. Elements of international rhythm have been integrated into American style rhythm by coaches trained in international technique. The Gold levels of American smooth incorporate more open figures but a substantial number of international elements as well. The terminology is the same, impetus turns, telemark landings, spin turns, etc. Some distinguised international competitors, such as Hawkins and Newberry, included open figures in their exhibition programs. American style still dominates the social syllabi in most studios but once you move beyond the social level, you are more exposed to elements of the international style in both rhythm and smooth.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Welcome, Jameswil!! :-D
  9. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    Yes, welcome to DF Jameswil!
  10. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I think that the two schools of dance are trying to move further away from each other! I am watching the DVD from the American style congress at the NY Dance Festival. So far, from what I have seen, there seems to be a strong desire to have American style very different from International style.
  11. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    I think perhaps they're trying to re-differentiate as a response to the styles coming so close together, which I'm a fan of. Otherwise, Rhythm will just become a Cha; a fast version of the Rumba; Swing, the sluggish Jive; etc etc.
  12. Jameswil

    Jameswil New Member

    I agree that at the professional level, American smooth seems to be going off the deep end. I watched a professional American Smooth comp on TV a few months ago and the competitors dancing Viennese Waltz hardly touched each other, danced maybe 4 bars in closed dance position. I am trained mostly in the American style but I still believe that you have to take the lady in your arms and dance with her. Its a challenge in Viennese Waltz but that's no excuse. BTW: That's why you see so many open figures on "Dancing With the Celebrities" because the coaches want to mask weaknesses.
  13. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Well, it's harder to dance alone. If you don't separate, you can cheat a lot more easily and cover up a weak follow in particular. (Open looks better for TV purposes, that's why the show does it, but watch how the stars often freeze when the pro's hands aren't on them.) Standard Viennese is easy, you have barely any options. I think where Smooth is more off the deep end is rewarding flexibilty tricks that aren't really dancing, but gymnastics. The more stunt work couples do, the harder it gets to tell one dance from another if you shut the music off.
  14. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    How much lead and follow are taught....

    This seemed like the most appropriate thread, and I guess this is more of a poll than anything else.

    I first learned american style. The vast majority of people at every social I know dance american style. In the past few years I have been learning and enjoying (for the most part) international style.

    I'm just curious, the ladies that learned to dance in the studio I go to now don't seem to connect (as in lead-and-follow connection) the way primarily American style dancers would with me.

    I remember at my old studio we would do this exercise where the follower would close her eyes, and the leader would lead her around the room, leading weight and direction changes. No such focus on lead and follow where I am now, and it really shows.

    But I also consider the syllabi. In American style, I was required to learn close to 100 figures and variations to complete the Bronze syllabus for one dance. In International style, maybe 10-12 bronze figures.

    It makes me wonder whether social followers in international style just have an easier time playing "guess the figure".

    Anyway, these are my musings, I was wondering what the experience of others is on this.
  15. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    10 closed figures in anything will be easier to keep track of than 100 figures some of which are in closed and some of which are in open...but I think the issue is very complex and depends greatly upon the level at which aperson is dancing
  16. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    My experience has been kind of weird in that regard. With "beginners" in international style, lead and follow works as well as can be expected. But it doesn't seem to get much better with experience and training. And I would also point out that this issue also comes up when I am dancing latin/rhythm with these same ladies, or club dances. You really can't play "guess the figure" in Salsa.
  17. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    I would bet that it has more to do with the specific studio and teacher than style per se. For example, my first international style teacher regularly did those lead-follow drills in class. However, I could imagine that your experience is not unique, given how the styles seem to be distributed in many parts of the country. As a rule (with lots and lots of exceptions and no intention of reopening either the am-intl debate or the social-competitive debate), in many places it seems that social dancing is dominated by American style, while people don't do much international except for competition. In that context, it would make sense that Am style lessons leading mainly toward social dancing would spend more time on lead-follow, since that matters so much in social dancing. Of course lead-follow is important in competitive dancing as well, but the necessity of spending more time than the social classes do on other areas of technique and performance may take time away from lead-follow training in some intl style classes. So your observation doesn't shock me, even though I haven't particularly experienced it myself.
  18. Mengu

    Mengu Well-Known Member

    I think I've seen it every which way. In an "american style only" environment, if I throw in an international step, some follows will be completely stomped, and just about stop dancing for a moment. Others, don't even notice I lead something they might not know, and just keep trucking along. In an "international style only" environment, I sometimes feel very loose connections, where the follower is indeed playing a guessing game, rather than follow (particularly happens in the local college scene). But I've also danced with follows who could follow an american style step very naturally and say, hey that was fun, do it again.

    It's all a matter of experience and training I think, and depends more on the individuals (and their teachers) than the actual styles or the environment.
  19. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    International style patters are usually shorter, but they're not self-contained (in other words, you can't mix them in completely random way). American style patterns are often amalgamations of more basic elements (that's why you end up having so many of them, it would be equivalent to listing all possible self-contained amalgamations of bronze standard patterns). This is my beef with how smooth is often taught (I think I complained about it earlier on this thread). Because the patterns are presented as self-contained amalgamations, the guy doesn't have to worry about precedes and follows so much. Hence some have a hard time working away from amalgamations.
  20. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    If we go with that idea of "amalgamations of more basic elements", and lets say we reduce American bronze to an equivalent number of figures to International, I'm still left with intermediate International style dancers playing "guess the figure" more than American style dancers, IME.

    In any case, @bia's post indicates that it is not universal across international style studios.

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