A spectator’s guide to: International Standard

Ballroom, International Standard, Modern, call it what you will, these are the dances that most people think of when it comes to ballroom dancing. Consisting of 5 dances, being the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and the Quickstep, Ballroom has been around, in some form, from as far back as the 16th century, although its current form has roots in the early 20th century. It has continued to develop since then, to create the exciting and dynamic movements you will see at the championships.
While all of the dances are performed in close “ballroom” hold, each dance has its own very distinct character that makes it unique. Owing to its origins in the early 20th century, the costumes worn by the dancers are tail suits for the men, without exception, and ballroom dresses for the ladies, creating that classic ballroom silhouette. Since the men are all wearing black, or in some cases blue, tails, it’s up to the sequined dresses of the ladies bring the colour to the floor. Ballroom dresses can run into the thousands of dollars when custom made for a dancer, and tails aren’t much cheaper.

When comparing the couples and choosing a favourite to cheer for, there are a few things to look for in the ballroom dances, including:

1.Technique: The correct use of footwork, rise and fall, and accurately danced figures that make up each dance

2.Posture: A good ballroom dancer displays excellent posture and poise, to maintain balance and create swing and shape.

3.Top line: The top line refers to anything above the arm line of the couple. It creates the frame of the couple, and so a strong top line doesn’t move around or distort. A good top line also assists the dancers when making turns

4. Floorcraft: Floorcraft is the skill of navigating the partnership around the floor without running into other couples. Everyone has different routines, and it takes experience and skill to be able to alter choreography on the fly, and then communicate it to your partner without breaking the flow or saying a word!

5. Grooming: In some cases, it comes down to the little things, like good presentation and grooming, to get you over the line. Attention to detail here can go a long way. A well-presented costume, neatly arranged hair and other such things all count in this sport.

The Five Ballroom Dances

International Standard features five dances, each with its own unique character and style. While we could spend all day discussing the various complexities, here is a very quick overview of what to look for from each dance.

Modern Waltz: Like a feather on the breeze, the couples dancing the waltz drifts across the floor, slow and dreamlike one moment, then suddenly executing dynamic spins and then diving into a dramatic lunge or line. Rise and fall is a feature of this dance, helping to give it that floating appearance.
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Tango: The most dramatic dance, Tango is the fire that rages across the floor. Using no rise and fall at all, the Tango is characterised by sharp staccato actions, head flicks, and a closer hold than that of the other dances.

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Viennese Waltz: From the dance halls of Austria, the Viennese waltz is a fast and lively dance, consisting of clockwise and counterclockwise turns that travel around the floor. More advanced dancers may also add a fleckrel, a series of turns on the spot. This dance is a real test of stamina for the couples.

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Slow Foxtrot: The foxtrot is all about smooth, gliding movements across the floor. Possibly the hardest dance to master in this style due to the extensive use of heel turns, as well as the effort required to maintain the smooth appearance consistently throughout the dance.

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Quickstep: Originally part of the foxtrot, the quickstep (or trickster as some call it), is fast, high energy entertainment. Runs, jumps, kicks, all while maintaining a body connection with your partner make this dance an exciting but challenging way to finish off this style.

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