Frequently Asked Questions

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How should I dress for dance classes and what kind of shoes do I need?
What are the differences between American and International styles of dance?
What is Studio Etiquette?
Why is Ballroom & Latin dancing so popular these days?
Can you recommend some dance music that is good to practice to?

Dance Descriptions

What is Bolero?

What is ChaCha?

What is East Coast Swing?

What is Fox Trot?

What is Mambo?

What is Merengue?

What is Rumba?

What is Salsa?

What is Samba?

What is Swing Hustle?

What is Tango?

What is Viennese Waltz?

What is Waltz?

What is West Coast Swing?
How should I dress for dance classes and what kind of shoes do I need?

Dress comfortably and casually for class. Men do not wear suit jackets. They restrict your movement. Anything from jeans and t-shirts to dress slacks and a nice shirt is acceptable. Ladies may wear jeans, slacks, skirts, whatever you feel comfortable in. It's a good idea to dress in layers: start with a sweater until you get warm. Bring a water bottle too. On Friday nights you have the opportunity to dress up a bit more if you wish and we even wear costumes on special theme nights. See the schedule on the News page.

All students are required to bring a change of shoes to class, whether they have dance shoes or not. It is important that we keep the dance floor clean and dry, especially for those wearing suede soled dance shoes. You don't have to buy dance shoes right away but you may want to consider getting a pair later on. For now, wear the best you have.

Smooth-soled shoes are best so you will glide rather than grip the floor. Do not wear cowboy boots, hiking boots, running shoes, flip flops, slip on shoes of any kind or very high heels. Bare feet and socks are not permitted as they are simply unsafe. There are dance shoes specifically designed for ballroom, latin and swing dancing. They are extremely comfortable and well worth the investment if you want to be able to dance your best. They are no more expensive than a pair of dress shoes. For ladies the most significant advantage is that the heels are placed right under your centre of balance rather than at the back of the shoe which makes it wobbly. You will not feel wobbly in a pair of dance shoes. I recommend wearing a heel no higher than 2 inches. You can get everything from beautiful open-toed latin sandals to lace up practice shoes which look best with slacks and are the most comfortable of all. Character shoes do not perform as well as ballroom shoes. Men also have a choice of shoes made for Ballroom, Latin and Swing dancing. For an overall shoe I recommend the Ballroom shoe which looks like a dress shoe but is more lightweight and has a very flexible sole which allows you to bend your arches and move your feet more like Fred Astaire than Frankenstein. You have an option of a suede sole or a special new sole that allows you to wear your shoes on the street as well. Mens Latin shoes come in nubuck or leather and have a Cuban heel which can be up to 1.5 inches high. This places your weight over the balls of your feet so you are in the correct position for Latin dancing. Swing shoes are usually black and white oxfords with a low heel and smooth sole for easy gliding. There is also a practice shoe available for men and women that resembles a running shoe with lots of cushioning for people who dance several hours a week. They are designed to allow you to pivot on the ball of your foot. They come in a variety of colours. Not recommended for people who wear orthotics as they have a split sole and no arch support. Our local supplier is Silhouette Theatre and Dance Shop on England Ave. < Back >

What are the differences between American and International styles of dance?
American Style dancing has always been more popular for social dancing in North America. The International or English Style is more popular in Europe. The American Style "Ballroom" or "Smooth" dances as they are referred to consist of the Fox Trot, Waltz, Tango and Viennese Waltz and allow for greater freedom and expression. They may be danced in closed or open position, allowing for additional innovative tricks and creative arm and hand styling. The step lists or Syllabus in American Style is traditionally longer than that of the International Style. The International "Standard" dances are Fox Trot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep and are danced only in closed position. The technique for both styles is similar. The American Style "Rhythm" dances which are Cha Cha, Rumba, Mambo, Samba, Bolero, Merengue and Swing, also have a greater variety of patterns, and are more suited for social dancing. The International Style "Latin" dances are Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Paso Doble and Jive are more disciplined and technical. Paso Doble would not be suited for social dancing, strictly for competition or for exhibition. The technique is slightly different between the two styles and changes throughout the years.< Back >
What is Studio Etiquette?
  • Please bring dance shoes or a change of shoes. Smooth-soled shoes are best.
  • Please be considerate of the class in session as you enter and leave the building, being as quiet as possible while waiting for your class to begin.
  • Please note that classes end 5 minutes before the hour. Clear the floor then so that the next class may begin on time.
  • Please give your full attention to the instructor when he/she is speaking and whenever you hear the music end.
  • Please pick up after yourself after Friday night dances or anytime you bring food or drink into the building. It's a good idea to bring a water bottle to class.
  • Please dance counterclockwise in the ballroom and allow space on the outside "fast lane" for more advanced dancers to maneuver. Rhythm dances (Swing and Latin) are danced anywhere on the floor.
  • Be sociable and ask everyone to dance.
  • Escort your partner off the dance floor.
  • Please exchange phone numbers with your dance partner. < Back >
Why is Ballroom & Latin dancing so popular these days?

The number of dance reality shows on TV and all the dance movies made in recent years reflect the public's interest in partner dancing. This media exposure has made it possible for more people to see inside the exciting world of Ballroom dancing and all that it has to offer.

Dancing awakens an inner joy that is pure fun. Try frowning while you're dancing. It's impossible. Smiling is automatic. It's even fun when you can laugh at those silly mistakes you'll make.

Dancing is a wonderful stress-reducer. Try worrying about something else while you're learning a new dance step! It's healthy and necessary to take a break from your problems and do something you enjoy. Dancing is the perfect feel-good medicine.

Dancing is great exercise. For beginners it is low impact aerobic, for more serious competitive dancers it can be a very high aerobic exercise. Dancing works every muscle in your body. Ever notice how easy it is to perspire? The best part about it is we don't realize we're exercising!

Dancing has always been the ideal social activity. It is an excellent way to meet people and make new friends. It is the perfect activity for busy couples to connect with each other. More than the human contact factor, dancing boosts your self-esteem. When you can dance you feel more confident in any social setting, whether it be a family wedding, office Christmas party or the disco on a cruise ship. That confidence has a way of spilling over into the rest of your life off the dance floor. < Back >

Can you recommend some dance music that is good to practice to?
To download the dance music list, click on your desired file format:
Music List - WORD
Music List - PDF
Music List - TXT

< Back >
What is Bolero?
Bolero is a slow, romantic dance influenced by Spanish and African styles. Side steps are smooth and gliding and are taken with an upward lift of the rib cage which is the Spanish interpretation. Forward and back steps are smaller with a relaxation of the rib cage causing more of an African feel. Arm styling can be dramatic. Bolero music is a slower Rumba rhythm usually arranged with Spanish vocals and soft percussion, expressing love or the loss of love. Bolero showcases the woman's femininity and sensuality. It is a very beautiful, graceful dance. < Back >
What is ChaCha?
Cha Cha sparked a dance craze in the U.S. in the early 1950's and is still very popular today. As music always dictates the dance, triple steps were inserted between the forward and back breaks when a slower version of Mambo was played. It is an exciting syncopated dance that emphasizes Cuban Motion and has a playful attitude. Much of today's popular music is infused with Cha Cha rhythm. It's a great nightclub dance to have in your repertoire. < Back >
What is East Coast Swing?
East Coast Swing or "Triple Swing" evolved from the Lindy Hop and is the base for all other swing dances. It is a circular dance that is danced with a gentle bounce that is very grounded and smooth. Partners keep their weight pitched forward and rock away from each other on the "rock steps." It is often confused with it's European version, Jive, which is very bouncy with lots of sharp kicks and flicks and unlike East Coast Swing is danced to a faster tempo music. In American style when the music is too fast to take triple steps we dance Single Time Swing (1,2, rock step). < Back >
What is Fox Trot?
The Fox Trot was born in 1913 when vaudevillian performer Harry Fox "trotted" across a New York stage. Fox Trot remains the most popular of all the social dances. It is one of the easiest ballroom dances to learn and the most commonly played by orchestras. It is a smooth "strolling" dance, designed for slow, medium and fast tempos. It teaches maneuverability on a crowded dance floor. Fox Trot is the foundation for many other dances. Of all the social dances, Fox Trot would be the most important and versatile one to know. It can be danced to any music except Waltz. < Back >
What is Mambo?
Mambo grew out of the Cuban dance, Danzon and was introduced in Havana nightclubs in 1943. By 1947 Mambo was the rage in New York. Mambo emphasizes strong Cuban Motion and compact, staccato footwork. It is excellent training for timing as the dancer holds on count 1 and moves on count 2. The timing may be challenging but that is what makes Mambo stand out from all other dances and gives the illusion of it being more difficult to do than it really is. Patterns are exciting and full of expression. Mambo is truly the king of the Latin dances. < Back >
What is Merengue?
Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic and dates back to the early 1800's. Legend has it that a celebration was given to a conquering war hero who returned from battle with a wounded leg. He had a prominent limp which was very noticeable when he danced. Out of respect, all the villagers started dancing with a limp and thus the Merengue was born. It is the easiest Latin dance to learn. It is characterized by its "dragged leg" feel on counts 1 and 5 and it's quick marching beat. Merengue music is fast and lively, full of energy, easy to identify and follow. The footwork is mostly marching so the leader can focus on his upper body, leading spins and wraps. < Back >
What is Rumba?
Rumba is known as the "dance of love." Latin and African rhythms blend to create the romantic feel of this sultry, slow dance. Dancers step with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened causes the hips to sway. This delayed weight change is called Cuban Motion and is the key element in giving Rumba it's sensual look. Cuban Motion is the styling that makes the Latin dances look and feel Latin. When mastered in the slow Rumba, Cuban Motion can easily be applied to the faster Latin dances. < Back >
What is Salsa?
Salsa means "sauce" in Spanish and denotes a "hot" flavour. Salsa music was developed by Puerto Rican musicians living in New York. The dance is loosely structured after the more stylized Mambo. Salsa is danced differently in every Latin American country. Most have very simple footwork and few patterns, the emphasis is on the "hot" Cuban motion. In Salsa you can break on the 1 or the 2 count. You can dance in closed dance position, open facing position with a double hand hold, single hand hold or you can dance solo style. Our style is fun to learn because it is simple yet flashy with lots of interesting turns and wraps. < Back >
What is Samba?
Samba is the national dance of Brazil. It is an upbeat, lively dance, characterized by its lilting bounce and rolling hip action. Samba consists of very interesting and unique patterns. The music is infectious, a blend of African and Latin rhythms and even smooth cool jazz. Samba came to the U.S. via films such as "Flying Down to Rio" with Fred Astaire and "That Night in Rio" with Carmen Miranda. By 1956 Samba evolved into a standardized ballroom dance however, in Brazil, Samba remains in its solo form, danced at street carnivals and other celebrations. < Back >
What is Swing Hustle?
Swing Hustle became popular during the 70's disco phenomenon. It revived partner dancing among club goers and gave rise to a huge boom in the nightclub industry, not to mention the dance industry. Discotheques sprang up overnight all over North America and dance studios were flooded with eager students. Swing Hustle is a fast, rotating slot dance with lots of spins and flashy moves. It can be danced to almost any upbeat music and is a stand-out on any dance floor. < Back >
What is Tango?
Tango is a "Smooth" Ballroom dance even though it originated in Argentina. Argentine Tango is entirely different. Ballroom Tango is danced with knees flexed, heels leading, in graceful stalking movements. The dramatic music compels the dancer to convey a strong, dynamic attitude. That is part of the fun and what makes Tango so alluring. Tango develops assertiveness and confidence in leading which is beneficial to all other dances. < Back >
What is Viennese Waltz?
Viennese Waltz is a fast Waltz which originated in Austria over 400 years ago. Couples whirl around the floor turning left, then right (which prevents them from getting dizzy). Although the music sounds fast and it "looks" difficult to do, with practice dancers can learn to feel relaxed and not rushed as they maneuver easily around the dance floor. It is exhilarating to dance the Viennese Waltz. < Back >
What is Waltz?
The romantic slow Waltz appeared in Europe in the 1700's as an off-shoot of the faster Viennese Waltz. Composers chose to write music in slower more comfortable tempos. Although the Waltz "seems" slow it is actually very aerobic. The dancer is using a large muscle group; his/her legs taking long strides while "rising and falling." Waltz requires and develops good balance, control, posture and poise. The very elegant Waltz is the dance of choice for weddings and formal celebrations. < Back >
What is West Coast Swing?
West Coast Swing originated in California in the 1940's. It was popularized by Arthur Murray Dance Studios in the 1950's. It is danced widely throughout North America to a broad range of music: Rhythm and Blues, Country Western, Funk, Disco, Rock, Pop and even Latin. West Coast Swing is a smooth, sophisticated slot dance consisting of 6, and 8 count patterns with the lady brushing past the man as he leads her in a great variety of turns. It is usually danced to medium tempo music, frequently slower than East Coast Swing but experienced dancers enjoy dancing it at faster tempos too. West Coast Swing is the ultimate swing dance because it can be enjoyed to such a wide variety of music and an accomplished leader can have endless fun creating new combinations. < Back >

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