The foxtrot is a progressive dance (28 to 30 bars per minute) that was introduced in the 1910s by Harry Fox. It’s characterized by its graceful, flowing and smooth movements and 4:4 time signature.
Originally, the foxtrot was danced to ragtime music, and rose in popularity due to its novelty: at the time of its inception, it was the first social dance that permitted dancers to dance closer than an arm’s length from each other. Since the 1940s, it’s been the most popular social dance practiced, overshadowing its early predecessor, the Waltz.
Arthur Murray standardized the Foxtrot, and modern-day Arthur Murray Dance Studios instructors continue to teach his codified version, a lively and vibrant dance which gets some of its inspiration from elements of Tango.
The Waltz, similar to the Foxtrot, is a smooth, progressive dance (28 to 30 bars per minute) characterized by its gliding, graceful movements. One key difference between it and the Foxtrot is its time signature; the waltz has a rhythm of 3:4 time.
Though there are several references as early as the 16th century to a gliding or a sliding dance known in Italy as the Volte, it wasn’t until around 1750 that a dance known as the “Walzer” began to spread among Bavarian peasants.
The Waltz is usually practiced in a closed position, a position that – in the 18th century – scandalized many people. As shocking as the Waltz was when it was first introduced (and no doubt because of its shock value), the dance quickly gained in popularity, swiftly spreading from Vienna to other countries. The scandalously closed position that the Waltz first introduced ended up becoming the foundation for many other ballroom dances that followed. Arthur Murray Dance Studios teaches the classic slow Waltz (one of the best social dances that improve grace and poise), along with its variations such as the Viennese Waltz.
The Tango is a ballroom dance like no other. Iconic to the highest degree, this dance – filled with passion and longing – is often associated with the sound of screeching violins, red roses clenched between one’s teeth, and severely-parted, slicked back hairstyles. Technically, the rhythm of Tango is in 4:4 time at a staccato pace of 31-33 bars per minute.
Tango is thought to have originated in the 19th century along the border between Uruguay and Argentina, but some believe it may have come from Spain. In the beginning of the 20th century, Tango dancers (and orchestras) began appearing in Europe, popping up first in Paris, then London, then Berlin. The Tango craze continued to spread, eventually hitting the United States around 1913, and reaching a fevered pitch in the 1920s when Rudolph Valentino demonstrated his moves in the silent film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The Tango is the ideal dance to improve leading and following. It can be danced in an open embrace (where there is space between the bodies of the lead and the follower) or in a closed embrace (where the dance couple either connect chest-to-chest or in the upper thigh, hip region). Arthur Murray Dance Studios instructors offer the best of both worlds; students are taught the standardized American style of Tango dancing, which allows dancers to transition from a closed position to execute certain open moves, such as alternate hand holds and underarm turns, and to dance standing apart or side by side.
Similar to the Waltz in terms of its origins and core characteristics, the Viennese Waltz differentiates itself from the Waltz by one key aspect: speed. The Viennese Waltz (58 to 60 bars per minute), like the Waltz, has a 3:4 time signature but conveys a faster, lighter rhythm by slightly anticipating the second beat. Sometimes, the standard one-two-three rhythm of the Waltz is broken up with a one-two pattern while maintaining the 3:4 time; the result is that dancers end up dancing a two-step Waltz.
As one might expect from its name, the Quickstep is fast (48-52 bars per minute), and heavily syncopated with split beats. Despite its speed, the Quickstep should be smooth and elegant, as all dance styles in the smooth and standard dance category should be.
This dance originated in England and was standardized in America in the 1920s, where it was first danced in New York by Caribbean and African dancers. It’s a dance that is extremely dynamic, usually incorporating fast-paced hops, runs, and turns.
Interestingly, though the Quickstep evolved from the Foxtrot (combined with the (then) wildly-popular Charleston), this dance is nothing like the latter. Whereas the Foxtrot often encourages the lead to have an open feet position, the quickstep is usually in closed feet position. Three of the Quickstep’s general signature moves are chassés, lock steps, and quarter turns, all of which are taught by Arthur Murray Dance Studios instructors.