American Vs International Style : Dance Musings

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American Vs International Style

by Jersey Dance Team on 03/03/12

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is what is the difference between International and American style dancing. The next question is almost always “Which one is better?"

First, there are two "styles" of ballroom dance. International standard and American smooth. International standard includes waltz, tango, viennese waltz, foxtrot and quickstep. American smooth contains all of those with the exception of quickstep. International standard only includes steps in closed hold while American smooth includes closed hold as well as steps where the frame opens. Viennese waltz is faster in international style and waltz and foxtrot are traditionally slower. There are other nuances that make these styles different, but at first glance, these are the main differences.

In the Latin American style of dancing there is International Latin and American Rhythm. International Latin includes cha cha, rumba, paso doble, samba and jive. American rhythm includes cha cha, rumba, bolero, swing and mambo. Traditionally International latin involves a “latin motion” associated with movement arriving on a straight leg while American rhythm is associated with “cuban motion” where the dancer arrives on a bent leg and later straightens. As both of these styles of dancing have developed over time, we have begun to see examples of cuban motion in latin and latin motion in rhythm. 

As to the question “Is American or International style better?” I have to answer: neither. Both styles are different and serve different purposes.  For example, American tends to be used more in social dancing and international style in competition.  Many people pick one style and say that the other styles is “bad” or “low level” or “for snobs.” Everyone is different and likes different things. My advice is to not worry about which style is better and try them both. You may like one better than another or maybe you will love the nuances of each. Which ever style or whatever dances you like is a personal decision based on personal taste.  It's completely up to you!
Jersey Dance, we have tons of experience teaching both International and American styles.  Ask your instructors for demonstrations of either.At


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