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Ballroom Dancing History

Avanika Mote
Ballroom dancing represents elegance in the world of dance. Learn more about the ballroom dancing history through this story.
In earlier days, ballroom dance was only meant for the crème de la crème of the society and folk dances for the folks from the lower levels of the society. Usually, these dances took place on grand social occasions, social dinners, and even for competitions. The term 'ballroom dance' hails from a latin word 'ball', which means 'to dance'.
This kind of dance has evolved from a social activity to a competitive form of dance today. It has gained widespread popularity in America, Britain, Europe, and even in Asia. The globally renowned dances of this kind are the Viennese waltz, the slow foxtrot, the quickstep, and tango.
Any form is always performed by a couple (a man and a woman) in an elegant position called the 'closed hold'. In this article, you will learn the different kinds of dances that fall under this category and how it all began as a full-scale form of entertainment and passion, by knowing the ballroom dancing history.

Sixteenth Century

This dance form dates back to Renaissance period when Jehan Tabourot published his Orchesographie in 1588, which was a compilation of a study made in French Renaissance social dance. This compilation included the earnest of dances, like the livelier branle, the basse danse, the pavane, and the famous five-step dance called 'cinque pace' by Shakespeare - the gaillarde.

Seventeenth Century

In 1650, a new form of dance was introduced in Paris. It was called Minuet, which had its origins in a peasant dance in Poitou. The music was composed by Jean Baptiste Lully, and the legendary King Louis XIV performed it in public. Ever since then, the Minuet has been known as a stately court dance of the 17th century, and it continued to prevail the ballroom till the end of 18th century.
As time passed, king Louis XIV laid a new foundation to this act, by establishing an academy. His academy was called 'Academie Royale de Musique et de Danse', which had a set of definite rules for performing every ballroom dance. The rule of 'five positions' of the feet was also articulated in this academy.
After a long hiatus, the first ever segregation between the ballet and the ballroom dancing came into existence, as the academy provided professional dancers who emerged in ballet and the ballets, left the royal Court. The turned out position of the ballet technique surprisingly clung around in the ballrooms for more than two centuries, till the end of Victorian era.

Victorian Era

It was the Victorian era that saw the modern blend in this dance. When Carl Maria von Weber wrote Invitation à la valse, the Waltz took a significant modern face in England, in 1812. It was the Invitation à la valse that embarked the modernization of Waltz, as a form of pure music.
The Waltz faced massive criticism, since the people thought of it as a mark of indecency, that they linked with the position of 'closed hold', although the prejudice eventually faded. In the 1840s, the ballroom saw a series of new dances, like Polka, Schottische, and Mazurka.
Another controversy was raised that insisted on omitting the decorative steps in Quadrilles and other forms of ballroom dances.

Early 20th Century

Modern ballroom dances, like the jazz and the jive are originally rooted in early 20th century. Many new steps and changes were introduced in this period. During 1910, a reform was made in the dances, that allowed couples to move independently. This reform was already made in the waltz.
The second transition that took place was the craze of popular music like jazz, which was invented by the blacks in the USA. The new forms of music and the reforms made in the dances, led to the genesis of newer dance forms during 1910 - 1930.
Legends, like Vernon and Irene Castle, and pioneers, like Josephine Bradley and Victor Silvester studied several forms of ballroom dances. They codified and released these forms of dances.
The Arthur Murray organization in the US and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in England proved to be highly influential in spreading the knowledge of some basic movements of this dance.
In the thirties, the on-screen dance performance by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was highly acclaimed and gained an iconic status. There have been many other blockbuster hits on this type of dance, like 'Strictly Ballroom', 'Tango', 'Shall We Dance', and 'The Tango Lesson'.
The term ballroom dancing is synonymous with ten different styles of dances, five of which have gained an international standard. The top five such dances that have an international standard include the Viennese waltz, tango, the foxtrot, and the quickstep. The other five forms are international Latin dances.
These include the samba, the cha cha cha, the rumba, jive, and the Passodoble. The world has modernized itself and has not left the world of ballroom dance either! There are many further variations of these forms of dances, based on regional and style differences.
Salsa has gained a huge popularity over the years in almost all the parts of the world. Other variations include hustle, modern jive, mambo, Latin swing, and many more.
Ballroom dancing still remains as the most elegant and classic form of dancing. It divinely expresses emotions, love, joy, passion, and pain between two dancers. As the world moves forward, this form of dance has literally 'danced' its way into a contemporary age where it is just as revered as before.