There are many styles of swing dancing; when not specified otherwise, “swing” generally refers to jitterbug/east coast swing, the style that became so popular in the 1940′s and 1950′s. Jitterbug/east coast swing is danced to big band music, oldies, many Elvis tunes and more, including country-western.
West coast swing has crossed boundaries in swing, hustle, country-western and even social ballroom dancing. Characterized by the partners connecting to each other through stretch and compression, west coast swing is danced is to a diversity of music, including blues/R&B, pop, hip hop, funk, country-western and more, as well as various speeds, ranging from very slow and sensual (or sleazy) to faster and upbeat.
Not unlike the spicy food by the same name, this dance is hot – hot – hot. Three primary reasons for the popularity of salsa (similar to mambo) are that the music is exciting and enticing, that the basic rhythm/moves are easy to learn and that there are many places to go out salsa dancing.
Typified by its “hip action” (Cuban motion), merengue is considered to be one of the easiest Latin dances for beginners to learn because of the simplicity of the basic moves. Tempos for merengue music vary a great deal. Ideally suited to small, crowded dance floors, merengue is a dance that is easy to learn for beginners.
This quintessential Latin dance is found in social ballroom, salsa and even country-western and swing settings. Many salsa moves can also be used in cha cha with the simple addition of the “cha-cha-cha” steps to the syncopated beat. Cha cha is often danced at such gatherings at wedding receptions and similar parties.
Rumba is the most sensual of all of the Latin dances, with its slower tempo allowing for more hip action (Cuban motion). Rumba can be danced to a variety of contemporary pieces of music, including many songs that are chosen by brides and grooms for their first wedding dance (such as several songs by Michael Buble and even some country-western songs) because the basic steps of rumba are easy to learn and to do.
Hustle emerged in the 1970′s and, while devotees continued doing this dance, there has been a resurgence of hustle in the last 10 years. It is characterized by a unique syncopation and a lot of turning by the follower. The types and the tempo of music to which hustle is danced has evolved, but most people generally associate disco music with hustle, which was designed to be a fast, flashy dance for club and party music.
The two different styles of this dance are “club” foxtrot (suited for small spaces) and “ballroom” foxtrot (which moves around the room). In social dancing, with the uniqueness of varying the rhythms throughout any dance, foxtrot allows for optional musical interpretation and styling. In addition, foxtrot can be danced to traditional ballroom fast and slow tempos, big band music, Frank Sinatra tunes, Rod Stewart songs and more.
The most classic and oldest of all of the ballroom dances, waltz is also a staple in country-western dancing and elsewhere. Waltz probably has the simplest timing of all dances because there are no “quicks” or “slows.” What sets waltz apart from other dances is its rise and fall, which create the flow, elegance and smoothness – it is dance that glides around the room, but can include some stationary steps.
Two-step is what initially comes to mind for most people when think of country-western couples’ dancing. Developed in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, today’s two-step is danced to a wide range of tempos. Two-step is an energetic dance that moves continuously around the room.
Shortly after its inception, nightclub two-step was adopted by country-western dancers so that they could dance to “slow” music. With the addition of some more elaborate moves, this dance still retains its original feel of basic side-to-side swaying. Beyond the boundaries of country-western dancing, nightclub two-step has moved into the wedding reception/parties and social ballroom settings, where it is danced to ballads.