Print this page

Before you start


 

Dance Styles
 
In this section you will find basic definitions of various dance styles in Country, Latin, Ballroom and Swing. Please keep in mind that many dances are “crossovers”, meaning that they can be danced in a couple of different categories. For example, Waltz is a dance style that can be danced in Ballroom or in Country. The rhythm is the same, only the flavor of the music changes.
 
“Is this a Nite Club 2 or a Waltz?”
 
As a new dancer, this is one of the most common questions. You often hear of dancers not knowing what dance to do until either the dance style is announced, or they see what other dancers are doing. 
It takes a little time to start hearing the underlying rhythm patterns, but it does happen. New dancers face the challenge of learning how to tell the difference between various music styles. There are several different rhythm patterns that make up most of the popular ballroom, Latin, swing, and country styles.
To understand what makes a particular song right for a given dance style requires listening to the underlying rhythm pattern. This pattern is not the melody, but the percussion pattern. This pattern can come from a number of different instruments, including drums and piano. 
 
Understanding Timing
 
Timing is a basic way to measure and identify music. Here are some definitions that will help to understand timing.
 
Tempo:  Italian for time.  Usually represented as Beats Per Minute (BPM). Tempo is simply the speed of the music.
 
Beat:  Beat is the unit of measurement in a measure.  A recurring pulse in the music usually represented by a drum.
 
Measure:  Simply a segment of time.  A measure’s length will vary from song to song.  A measure will consist of a number of beats which is used to identify the timing.  A measure with three beats and the first beat is the strong beat is considered 3/4 time. 
 
Timing:  A representation of the number of beats in a measure and what beat receives emphasis.  The top or first number contains the number of beats per measure.  The bottom number represents the emphasis or strong beat.  3/4 timing the emphasis is on the quarter note, 3/8 would be on the eighth note,  3/2 timing the emphasis on the half note.  Most dance music is emphasized on the quarter note so you will usually see 3/4 or 4/4 timing for example.
 
Phrase:  A group of measures/beats.  A Phrase can consist of 8, 16, 24, 32 or more beats.
 
Mini Phrase:  A grouping of two measures usually counted 1-8.  This is the most common phrase discussed when taking dance lessons.  The first beat of a mini-phrase of 8 is slightly accented which is why you will often hear an instructor start counting 5,6,7,8 in classes.
 
Basic Phrase: A group of eight measures consisting of a total of 32 beats.  This is sometimes called basic phrase.  This is very commonly used in choreography.
This is not an actually a rule, but eight and thirty two beat phrases are what you will usually find in music used for dance.   Some Blues music is phrased in 16 or 24 beats and some music will go as high as 40.
 
 
 
 

Previous page: For New Dancers
Next page: Country Dances