Packard Dance Centre

A Brief Introduction to the Dances


From the German word walzen "to revolve". It is a graceful dance for couples in 3/4 time, and also the name of the music for this dance.  The dance that is popularly known as the Waltz is actually the English or slow waltz.

The waltz is danced at approximately 90 beats per minute with 3 beats to the bar.  The first of the three beats of waltz rhythm has a strong, propulsive impulse; it is followed by two lighter beats or steps (ONE...two...three). The dance, which developed in central Europe, shocked polite society when it was first introduced in about 1800, because of the tight face-to-face hold.

The waltz became the outstanding ballroom dance of the 19th century and is still maintaining a prominent position to this day.

There is also the Viennese Waltz, also known as the Quick Waltz.  It is the original form of the waltz and the first ballroom dance in the closed hold or "waltz" position.  The Viennese Waltz is danced at about 180 beats (98-60 measures) per minute.


Quickstep is a 'walking' dance, performed to rhythms that were African in origin, probably from the Latin-American tangos and rumbas or from the Afro-American jazz.

The quickstep is English in origin and developed from the foxtrot during the 1920ís and gradually evolved into a very dynamic dance with a lot of movement over the dance floor, with many advanced patterns including hops, runs, quick steps with a lot of momentum and rotation.  Dancers of the quickstep should appear to be very light on their feet, as the quickstep is an elegant dance, like the foxtrot, and should be smooth and glamorous. 

In some ways, the dance patterns are close to the waltz, but are danced to 4/4 time rather than 3/4 time.  The tempo of the Quickstep is quite brisk as it was developed to ragtime era jazz music which is fast-paced when compared to other dance music.


Foxtrot is a ballroom dance that became popular in both Europe and America following its introduction around 1914.

It was allegedly named after the comedian Harry Fox, whose 1913 Ziegfeld Follies act included a trotting step.

The fox-trot developed less strenuous walking steps for its ballroom version and the speed of the step varies with the music: half notes require slow steps; and quarter notes fast steps.

The fox-trot consists primarily of walking steps, chasses (step side, close step), and quarter turns.  Couples hold each other in the traditional ballroom position.

At its inception, the Foxtrot was originally danced to ragtime music but today, the dance is customarily accompanied by the same big band music to which swing is also danced.  From the late 1910's through the 1940's, the foxtrot was the most popular fast dance and the vast majority of records issued during these years were foxtrots.


The Tango is a ballroom dance that evolved in about 1880 in the lower class districts of Buenos Aires.

It originated from the merging of the Spanish tango with the milonga, which was a fast and sensual Argentine dance.

In the early 1900s the tango became socially acceptable and by 1915 it had become a craze in the fashionable European circles.

Early tangos were spirited and gay, but by 1920 the music and lyrics had become intensely melancholy. At the same time, the tango dance evolved from early exuberance to a smoother ballroom step.

Today, there are many tango dance styles, including Argentine Tango, Uruguayan Tango and Ballroom tango (both American and International styles).  What many consider to be the authentic tango is the one originally danced in Argentina and Uruguay, though other types of tango have developed into mature dances in their own right.


One of the most popular Latin-American dances, of Afro-Cuban folk-dance origin it became internationally popular in the early 20th century. Best known for the dancers' subtle side to side hip movements with the torso erect, the rumba is danced with a basic pattern of two quick side steps and a slow forward step. The music is in 4/4 time - one beat for the first step, one for the second and two for the third.

Rumba is a slow dance of about 120 beats per minute  In general, steps are kept compact and are generally danced  without any rise and fall.

Cha Cha Cha

The most popular of the Latin dances Cha Cha (originally known as the Cha-Cha-Cha) is a fast and rhythmic ballroom dance derived from the Latin-American mambo with a basic pattern of three steps and a shuffle, with a rocking of the hips. It originates from Cuba and was invented in about 1948 by the Cuban violinist (later band leader) Enrique Jorr?n and became a craze in the Americas and Europe after about 5 years.

The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or cha cha cha) and two slower steps on the one beat and two beat.


A ballroom dance of Brazilian origin, popularized in western Europe and America in the early 1940s.  Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance in 2/4 time but there are three steps to every bar, making the Samba feel like a 3/4 timed dance.  It is characterized by simple forward and backward steps and tilting, rocking body movements. Couples, in ballroom position, dance in place or around the floor but partners may separate to execute variant steps.


The name "Salsa" is the Spanish word for sauce, or a spicy flavour and Salsa also suggests a "mixture" of ingredients.

Salsa is normally a partner dance and it is a fusion of differing dance styles, that mixes African and European dance influences through the music and dances that are the roots of Salsa, essentially Puerto Rican and Cuban but also with influences from Rumba, Mambo and other dances. 

Salsa is a pattern of six steps danced over eight counts of music.  It has a side to side feel and turns form an important feature of the dance.


The Jive originated in the United States of America and was brought to England during World War II by the American GIs. The Rock-n-Roll is also based on the same moves as the Jive, but with an easier, less energetic timing.  Both the Jive and Rock-n-Roll are well suited to dancing to what is known as the 'Big Band Sound'.

Jive is a dance style in 4/4 time.  The basic step follows a six beat pattern, comprising eight weight changes:

  • Counts 1 2 - Rock step: man's left foot (lady's right foot) step back, right foot replace
  • Counts 3 a4 - Chasse to the left (lady to the right)
  • Counts 5 a6 - Chasse to the right (lady to the left)


In ordinary ballroom dancing, the man leads his partner, choosing what steps they will perform to suit their skills and available room on the floor. All couples on the floor are "doing their own thing"!

In sequence (or progressive) dancing all couples do the same steps at the same time - similar to formation dancing. 

The sequence for a dance like the Mayfair Quickstep or Rumba One is usually 16 bars in length. This is repeated several times during the course of the dance - if you watch carefully you can join in yourself (many people learn sequence dancing this way) or join one of the Packard Dance Centre Sequence dance classes.

You may find yourself doing sequence dances based on the slow foxtrot, cha-cha-cha, mambo, samba, quickstep, rumba or waltz, if these come up in a session! As all couples dance together, repeating a series of ballroom dancing steps several times, this makes the learning process easier.

In sequence dancing, everyone works together towards a common goal - to perform the dance as well as possible. A popular example of a sequence dance is the Glengarry Swing