Ballroom Dancing - FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions)

What's the difference between Ballroom Dance, Modern, Standard, International and Dancesport?

Ballroom is the most general and the oldest term that has been used sometimes to describe Waltz, Tango, Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz and sometimes it was also used for Latin American dances, namely Cha cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. Sometimes it was also used to refer to Old Time and Sequence dances. So the term "Modern Ballroom" (in short "Modern") was introduced in Britain later to indicate clearly that the speaker was not referring to Old Time, Sequence or Latin-American dances. But in Europe the term "Modern" was already frequently used to describe a totally different type of dancing (eg. jazz or other form of solo dancing), so the Europeans called it "Standard" instead. But "Standard" had an unclear meaning in America, where there is an American version of it (called American Smooth). Therefore Americans introduced the term "International Standard" to make the difference clear.

Dancesport describes the competitive side of dancing Standard and Latin-American styles, where couples dancing is judges by judges and purpose of it is to achieve the highest possible placing. Dancesport is made of 3 branches: Standard, Latin-American and 10-dance. 10-dance is a combination of Standard and Latin, to take part in 10-dance competition you have to dance 5 Standard and 5 Latin dances.

On the other side of the scale we have Social dancing, where you dance for you own pleasure and to meet people. Here the divisions between style are not that important, so we still quite often say that we "Go Ballroom dancing".

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What is meant by European, American and International style?

American Style = American Smooth + American Rhythm
International Style = International Standard + International Latin

American Smooth = Waltz + Tango + Foxtrot + Viennese Waltz
American Rhythm = Cha cha + Rumba + Mambo + Samba + East Coast Swing + West Coast Swing + Bolero + Merengue

International Standard = Waltz + Tango + Foxtrot + Viennese Waltz + Quickstep
International Latin = Cha cha + Samba + Rumba + Paso doble + Jive

American styles are only danced in America. International styles are in fact European styles. The term "International styles" are practically only used by Americans where the speaker makes it clear that he/she is not talking about American styles.

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What is the main organisation for Ballroom dancers?

This question seems easy, but is actually a very complex one. In England alone there are over 100 registered dance teacher organisations! In my opinion the most important ones are: International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA) and Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance (ISTD). These organisations have created the official dance technique books, (sadly these two official versions differ in some places and it gave many people a headache trying to satisfy them both).

In the department of Amateur dancers organisations English Amateur Dancers Association (EADA) is the main one in UK. Looking at the subject from a worldwide perspective I have to mention International DanceSport Federation (IDSF) which is an umbrella organisation uniting all country Amateur Dancers associations. (EADA is a member of IDSF, as you can guess). IDSF is a top governing body when it comes to Amateur Dancesport competitions, but when it comes to Professional competitions, then World Dance and Dancesport Council (WDDSC)). is the top governing body. There is also British Dance Council and many more organisation I have no room to mention here, each promoting dancing in a different way.

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What are the age groups in competitive dancing?

In England, in the Amateur ranks the groups are:
  1. Juveniles (up to 12)
  2. Juniors (up to 16)
  3. Youth (up to 21)
  4. Adult Amateurs (age 16+)
  5. Seniors (age 35+)
  6. Over 45's (age 45+)
But the above groups are not exclusive, for example Adult Amateurs includes Youth as well as Seniors. That means any couple qualifying for Youth or Senior can also dance Amateur competitions. Not all competitions are the same either. For example in one competiton a couple may be allowed to dance both Youth and Adult Amateur, while in another competition if you dance Youth, you can't dance Adult Amateur as well.

In the Professional ranks there is no division into age groups. Your age does not matter and all Professional competitors dance in one category.

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What are the levels in competitive dancing?

In the world of Open competitions in UK any of the above amateur age groups is divided by experience levels into the following classes: In Europe however the corresponding classes are called (starting from the lowest) E, D, C, B, A with S reserved for Internaional Amateurs

Please note: Pre-Am should not be confused with Pro-Am. Pro-Am stands for Professional-Amateur division, where one of the dancers in the couple is Professional and one Amateur. In England such competitions do not exist, but in USA they are very popular.

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What's the relation between medals and open competitive grades?

Medals are usually the beginning of an open competitive careers, but they do not have to be. There are the following medals you can achieve The requirements for each medal (steps you need to master in each of 10 dances) are described in ISTD and IDTA literature (sadly there are some differences between them). When you complete your Gold medal you are ready to progress to Open competitions. You may chose whether you want to begin at Novice, Intermediate or even Pre-champ level.

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Ok, so I want to start dancing. Where can I learn it?

If you are in UK consult a list of dance schools available at, find a school in your area and make an enquiry. If you are from another country consult a list of the schools worldwide

If there is no good teacher in your area you may be better off learning from a video or DVD. For good titles check Dancesport UK video department

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We will be in England for a few days shortly. Where can we go dancing socially?

A comprehensive list of places and dates is shown on Mr Wonderful website Check also Philip Wylie section Philip is a well known organiser of social dance evenings, weekends and holidays. That's of course not a list of all places, but you should be able to find something there.

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I heard there is a competition at... How can I register my entry to it?

Sadly there is no one central place listing all forthcoming competitions neither on the internet nor anywhere else. There are just too many of them. You will find certain events advertised here and there, but sometimes it can be hard to find what you are looking for. However, as a rule contact the event organiser and ask him/her how to register your entry. In most cases you will be sent a paper entry form to fill in and send back. Some of the biggest events publish entry forms in the Dance News weekly newspaper and/or on the internet. At We have put together links to all events listings we know of.

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What are the dress regulations for juniors and amateur competitors?

The rules about dress codes for amateur competitions are setup by IDSF which is a worldwide umbrella organisation for all country level organisations. The rules for Juveniles, Juniors, Adults are outlined at

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What other rules do the competitors have to follow?

The rules to do with almost any aspect of amateur competition are outlined at IDSF site

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What do the dance classes A B C D E stand for?

In Europe these letters are used to mark the level of accomplishness of amateur competitive dancers. As a beginner competitor you start with class E (the lowest), as you get better you progress to class D, then class C etc. Class A is the highest, but in some countries there is even higher, international class S. Up to class C dancers are only allowed to dance steps from the technique book, from class B upwards they can dance any steps.

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This page is part of and should be seen in the frame context of Dancesport UK