Dancemax Letter #5, July 6, 2000
American vs. International style
The battle goes on and on. There are so many misconceptions and so many people take it so far that it looks as if that these are 2 different animals (for the lack of a better word). It really all depends on you. I feel that it distorts the whole picture and presents an off-balance view of ballroom dancing.
What is American Style? In the early 1900s, America was taken over by a dance craze and everybody was doing fox-trot, waltzes and tango in their living rooms and open outdoors alike to His Masters Voice. Came Arthur Murray, Freddie Astaire and Ginger Rogers and presented the artistic side with beauty and grace that very few can match. Murray and Astaire became successful in franchising Dance studios all over America and standardized a Syllabus, which became the American Style.
What is International Style? During the same period the dances were being studied in England and were given an English form with a little more emphasis on Hold, feet positions and footwork. Interestingly enough, G.R. Anderson, an American and an English lady Josephine Bradley shook the world by showing SLOW FOXTROT that was never seen before. They won the most prestigious trophy "The Star Ball" in London in 30's? A faster version of Foxtrot became Quickstep and so developed an English style with Diagonal Lines in all other ballroom dances. Mr. Walter Laird is credited with the Latin development in England. The world took over and accepted this style and so came the term "the International Style".
Are the two Styles different? Well Well Well, Yes and NO! , The two styles are different in Figures and Patterns etc. but any good teacher or top-level dancer will tell you that technique is more or less the same. Let's consider some aspects in ballroom category.
(A). Hold, Posture and Balance, Lead and Follow:
Any difference in two styles? Hardly. Someone may say that in American style we hold the lady more apart, like when doing a magic step forward (Arthur Murray syllabus). Actually it is done as a matter of convenience for an absolute novice or two strangers dancing first time together. The general principles of Hold, Posture and balance, connection, tone and lead and follow provide the same basis in any style of dancing. The man is erect the lady is slightly offset to man's right, so they won't step on each other's toes. She is slightly (only slightly) poised back and to her left. Everyone should agree that hold, posture, balance and lead and follow will not be different.
(B.) Figures and Patterns:
This is where a lot of differences can be identified. However recently, I have noticed more and more borrowing from one another. I see many top level international couples using open work to introduce their showcase routine. They also end it with some exotic American style or Theatrical patterns which are very pleasing to audience. With the same token I know that American style competitors constantly take coaching from international teachers to work on their technique and produce a better quality of dance. In competitive dancing though there is usually a demarcation line and couples should adhere to strict rules.
So, shall I end this letter by saying' Let's just keep dancing happily and strive to achieve a higher level of dancing just as we do in tennis or golf or whatever. Let's leave a lot of room for personal freedom and choice but not loose sight of quality.
Happy dancing from Max and next time we will talk a little Latin and catch up on "a" and "&" in Samba
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.