a. General

Scientists believe that dance is an inherent animal characteristic used to communicate.  One of the most obvious illustrations of this feature are the mating dances of birds.  But dancing is broader than mating.  The Praying Mantis often uses rhythmic dance moves to hypnotize its prey just before a strike.   Religious ceremonies used dance with music to describe events.  Egyptians used dance to show sorrow at funerals.  Greeks used dance to open athletic competitions.  Cave drawings from India  9000 years ago showed ritual dancing.

b. Benefits of Dance.

There are scientific studies proving that dancing is healthy for the brain and body?   Harvard Medical School Dept. of Neurobiology published an article in 2017 showing positive health benefits, particularly brain function, associated with dancing.   In 2008 researchers studied the benefits from dancing.  Brain imagining showed specific areas of brain improvements.  A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that dancing improves brain health.  It studied the effect of various physical activities (cycling, dancing, golf, swimming, and tennis) on cognitive brain function.   Only one showed a positive response—dancing.  A study in 2015 showed that dancing is beneficial for the overall cerebral health.   The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation found that dancing promotes production of dopamine.  They discovered that dancing allowed people with Parkinson to “speak and walk better.”

c. Types of Dance.

Waltz:   One source stated that it was a folk dance filled with rolls, glides, and turns.  Other sources believed it started from the Volta dance which was two steps and a leap.  By the end of the 16th century the people of Vienna embraced the Waltz for the royal court.   At that time the royal dances were rigid and controlled with no smiles.  But the waltz changed that and it sparked a mini-revolt.  France took up the waltz but they danced it apart.  This changed in the 1800’s when the music of Johann Strauss became popular.  It quickly became the “in” dance.   Currently, there are many forms of the waltz including the Contemporary aka Viennese Waltz, International Standard, American Style, Mexican, the Cajun Waltz, the Tango based Valse, and the cross-step Waltz.  The popularity of the American Fox Trot almost destroyed the Waltz after WWI, but it came back strongly in the mid 1900’s.

Rumba or Rhumba.  The term rumba is synonymous with “party” in northern Cuba.  Some say the word developed in Spain meaning lavish display.  Most place the origin of the dance in the poor neighborhoods of Havana, Cuba.  Originally it was done to fast music with sexually frantic moves causing Cuban government to ban the dance in public.  It entered the United States on the East Coast in the 1920’s and particularly in the context with big band music.  In the 1940’s and 1950 the Mexican and American film industry romanticized the dance.  The emergence of Salsa in the 1950’s revitalized its popularity.   In the ballroom setting, the music timing slowed.  It is a rhythmic and syncopated dance in duple (2 beats per measure) time.   

Bolero Dance.  This Spanish dance is mimics the movements of the toreador in a bullfight.  Ther eis the Paseo where the dancers are introduced.  The Tranversa is the crossing, the Differencias are a series of steps showing grace and balance, the Finales are where the dancers pass each other in a flirtatious manner, and the Bien parado is a graceful acknowledgement of the audience.  It is similar to the Rhumba but slower at about 96 beats per minute.  It utilizes the rise and fall similar to the foxtrot but the third step is extremely slow providing an opportunity to emphasize the sexy seductive moves.

The Bolero was changed from a three-four, or Waltz beat, in Spain to a four-four time in Cuba, which is the time used today.  The tag name “Dance of Love” was adopted in tagged in Cuba. 

West Coast Swing:     Most people acknowledge that the West Coast Swing developed as an off-shoot of Lindy Hop.  Dean Collins in Los Angeles had an influence in its development along with Arthur Murray.  It was declared the official dance of California in 1988 by Senate Bill 2460 and became law without the signature of Governor George Deukmejian.  It is a slotted dance performed to any music with a 4/4 time, both slow (60 bpm) to fast (160 bpm) with a preferred beat around 108 bpm.   The most common basic figures are the underarm pass, left side pass, tuck pass, sugar push and the whip.  The West Coast Swing is danced worldwide with the most dominate scene being the United States.  

Argentine Tango.    In the early 1800’s many Spanish, Italian and African single men immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina looking for fortunes.  They frequented the bars in the bordello district looking for love.  There a “mating dance” became popular with a blend of European, African and Cuban music.  This dance was considered by the upper crust as sleazy, which only made it more alluring to the younger generation.    The African word for tango means “reserved ground.”  The men’s dress included slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs, a knife often tucked in the belt, and high heeled boots.  Anything satin was the ladies’ choice as long as it was slinky, had a long slit, and black.   The Embrace is a major component of the dance with the chests of the partners touching and the hips apart – the opposite for most ballroom dances.  The walk is mostly outside the legs of the followers, and often the men and women step with the same foot, i.e. both with their left foot and then right foot.   The ladies perform most of the intricate moves while the men take sole possession of “the attitude.”  

Night Club 2-Step.   According to Wikipedia, this dance was developed by 15-year-old Buddy Swimmer in the 1960’s.  Swimmer was a West Coast Swing dancer from Whitaker, Illinois.  He opened a dance studio in Costa Mesa, California in 1978 and the dance blossomed around the country.  It is danced to mi-tempo ballads in 4/4 time with a quick-quick-slow beat at 64-88 BPM.  The most noticeable song for this dance is Lady in Red.    It has a lot of similar moves as the Bolero and Rumba.    Ballroom dancers modified the rock backwards step and changed it into a side-crossing step as in Bolero.  This version has become known as the Ballroom Two Step.  

Fox Trot.  A California native Harry Fox (stage name) was a Vaudeville actor who moved to New York after the devastating San Francisco earthquake.  He popularized the dance (some say it was created by Vernon and Irene Castle) in 1914 on the roof of the Theatre Jardin de Danse.  There he performed his trotting steps to ragtime music.  It was a unique merger of slow syncopated 4/4 blues movements with eloquent long smooth strides.  The American Social Style uses a six-count Slow-Slow Quick-Quick steps while the International Style adopts a more aggressive four-count Slow-Quick-Quick pattern.

Polka.   The Czech word (pulka) for this dance means half step. This is a fast-paced with skips and jumps.  Some say that the current Polka dance had its origins in Czech region of Bohemia in the 1830’s.  A young worker named Anna Selezakova did a dance she called Madera.  It was fun and the dance quickly spread throughout Bohemia.  It is currently the most popular dance in the Czech Republic.  Polish refugees brought the Polka to the United States in the Chicago region.  The strides are one full step followed by two half steps following 2 beats per measure with jumps while constantly turning.  It is a very high energy dance.

Jive.    The Jive dance originated in the United States in the 1930’s.  Cab Calloway was a motivating force in bringing the dance to the forefront.  It is a high energy dance similar to the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug. 



Chicken Dance.  This is a dance that does not require a partner.  It is a staple at school parties and all Oktoberfest celebrations.  It was created by a Swiss musician named Werner Thomas and designed to mimic snow skiers.  The song and dance were created at the same time.  This song and dance is usually played at most weddings along with YMCA and Macarena.  The music record sold 40 million copies.  More people know how to do the Chicken Dance over most of the ballroom dances. 

d. Names with Embedded Links to Dance Websites.

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