What’s the difference between International Ballroom and American Ballroom Dance?

What’s the difference between International Ballroom and American Ballroom Dance?, CareToDance | Private & Group Dance Classes and Lessons in Sydney NSW

As a specialised Ballroom Dancing studio, one of the most commonly asked questions we hear is: What’s the difference between International Ballroom and American Ballroom Dance? (Also known as “The American Smooth”). In this article we will take a closer look at some of the main differences, similarities and links between the two.

International Ballroom VS The American Smooth: Top 5 differences

The Dances

  • The American Smooth is made up of Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot & Viennese Waltz
  • The International Ballroom is made up of Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

The Dance Frame

  • The American Smooth features every frame you can think of.  Whether that is a closed hold, promenade, side by side, or some creative, non-traditional, dance frame the world has yet to see.  It’s all free and clear frame-wise for the American Smooth.
  • The International Style Dance frame is restricted.  You must stay in your dance hold, facing your partner, maintaining body contact, at all times.  There are no open positions in its dance styles.  

The Costuming

  • The American Smooth treats costuming in the same fashion as their dance frames – there’s plenty of room for interpretation.  Granted, the leaders will wear a suit, and the followers will wear a gown, but you’ll often see more skin on the ladies, more colour options on the gents, and occasionally, a dress that looks like a Latin costume and a gown were spliced together.
  • The International Style is a bit more traditional.  It’s rare to see the gents in anything other than a standard tail suit.  For the ladies, the gown will commonly have an attachment to the sleeve to enhance the flow of the dress.  Speaking of which, the gowns, in general, have a lot more fabric to create more movement.

The Technique

  • The American Smooth features all of the same requisite footwork, swing, sway, rise and fall, and head position as the International style.  Since a lot of the Smooth takes place outside of the dance frame, many principles of Latin dancing, arm styling, and dramatic interpretation of each dance are also a big point of emphasis.
  • The International Style benefits from its singular “dance-framed” focus.  While it may be more tedious and repetitive, the footwork, frame, and musicality of the best International Standard dancers are marvelled and sought after. 

The Application

  • The American Smooth is built on a foundation of social dancing.  This makes it easy to transition from ballroom halls to dance parties, office functions, or nightclubs.
  • The International Style is a bit like a tuxedo or evening gown.  It may not blend into a lot of environments, but when it’s in the right one, it’s striking.  So it may be rare to see this style blend well at a less formal gathering, but with a great frame and smooth movement, blending in may well be impossible.

Final Thought

One of the greatest things about this hobby is that you don’t need to pick sides.  In fact, all of us ballroom dancers can learn from both and use it to improve our dancing progress.  While there are some passionate dance students on either side, cutting one out in favour of the other can limit your overall enjoyment during your dancing journey. 

Think of this fact:

Many of the top American Smooth professionals work with International Standard dance instructors and many of the top International Standard professionals work with American Style coaches. Why?  Because each side appreciates what the other is doing and you can always gain something by trying new things especially throughout your dance journey.  

Hopefully, this clears up any lingering questions you may have about the difference between these two ballroom dance styles

For more information, please feel free to checkout our other articles (see below) or contact us.

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