Differences between American and International Ballroom Dancing Styles

Differences between American and International Ballroom dancing styles


Maybe you didn't even notice but there are several important differences between American and International Ballroom dancing styles. In this short blog post, we are gonna try to highlight some of the main characteristics that set them apart.

To begin with, let's review the subcategories of both American and International Ballroom dancing styles. 

American Style

  • Smooth: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz
  • Rhythm: Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo, Samba

International Style

  • Standard: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
  • Latin: Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive

Although the American Smooth style is to some extent akin to the International Standard style, American Smooth employs more separated and open figures, and International Standard is solely made up of closed figures.

A similar distinction can be drawn about American Rhythm and International Latin styles of dance. American Rhythm is most generally danced in the U.S. and Canada, whereas International Latin is danced in countries elsewhere.

Another important difference between American and International is the dresses worn in American Smooth and International Standard. Considering that American Smooth is not danced in frames like International Standard and International Standard uses less movement, the dresses have fabric or beading attached like wings, highlighting the upper part of the body. On the other hand, American Smooth dresses don’t need these floats since they actually hinder the open-patterned dancing Smooth requires.

Finally, American dance style is broadly speaking a social style whereas the International dance style is usually performed in formal competitions. Moreover, the International style heavily relies on the connection between partners, dancers are very close together so they lead, follow and move around as one. As a general rule, American ballroom’s open position is not allowed in the International dance style.