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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

American Style vs. International Style: What Are The Differences and Which Is Best For You?

Today’s post is going to be all about American style versus International style. For those of you who are new to ballroom or dance at studios that teach only one style, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about.

Ballroom dancing has two very distinct styles: International and American.  If you live outside of North America you may not be familiar with American style, though it is gaining popularity internationally. International is the standard (no pun intended) throughout the world. If you don't live in the United States, you probably dance International. 

If you’ve just started or are thinking about starting ballroom lessons, you should familiarize yourself with the style differences, so that you can make an educated decision on which style best fits your needs and interests.

The easiest to spot difference between American and International styles are the different genre names. 

American Style
International Style

And the dances themselves:

American Smooth
American Rhythm
International Standard
International Latin
Waltz (Slow Waltz)
Foxtrot (Slow Foxtrot)
East Coast Swing
Viennese Waltz
Cha-Cha-Cha (Cha-Cha)
Viennese Waltz
Paso Doble

Although many of the dances share names between the styles, the rules and figures are often quite different. This is particularly true for Smooth and Standard, where Standard does not allow open figures (you must never break frame) while Smooth does. There are also differences in the music timing between same-name dances between the styles. Check out Smooth Viennese Waltz here compared to Standard Viennese Waltz here

Because Smooth and Standard have such different rules regarding open figures, it is easier to spot the difference when you see them in the wild. Rhythm versus Latin can often be trickier. For example, see Rhythm Cha-Cha 
here versus Latin Cha-Cha-Cha here. Tough to tell, right? Technically, the Rhythm dancers should be dancing on a soft, or bent, knee. In contrast, the Latin dancers dance on a straight leg. However, even this difference between Latin and Rhythm is disappearing as straight legs are slowly becoming the preference in Rhythm also. Here is a more obvious difference between Rhythm and Latin: American Rumba versus International Rumba

When it's time to make your decision about whether you want to focus American or International style, you need to keep a number of things in mind. First, if you are an adult dancing in the United States, you are by and large better off learning American style. It is widely competed here and gaining worldwide popularity at a breakneck pace, but more importantly it is easier to dance socially. However, if you have no desire to dance socially and your goals a purely competitive, International might be a better fit. Keep in mind that opting to learn American does not prevent you from learning International-only dances. You can ask your instructor to teach you these in addition to your core American syllabus. If you're a parent looking to get your child into ballroom, I strongly recommend having them learn International style. Although this is a controversial perspective, having danced both American and International styles, I think International gives you a better base and stronger dance education. It is very easy to transition from International to American, but many people find the reverse much more difficult.

As you're working to figure out the dance education you want for yourself or your child, I hope this post has been helpful! Before you make your decision, I recommend watching videos of both styles to see which suits your preference, needs and goals. Until next time... Happy dancing! 

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