The development of ballroom dancing

Having been part of the dance industry now for roughly 46 years I’ve seen many changes, some good and some bad. But the good has outweighed the bad numerous times.


Let’s start with international ballroom:
What we see from our ballroom competitors these days, compared to 20 years ago, is a completely different dynamic look with frame and shape, versus the smaller frame work and more vertical stance of yesteryear. Many more coaches have also started to better understand the physics of the body and movement, which has been a fantastic development. We will always get some couples that over-exaggerate the movement, but as a whole, it’s become much more visual and has enormous volume.


International Latin:-
The development in this style has improved leaps and bounds with greater understanding of the rhythm of the body. This has created a greater use of space and volume, whereas the past was all about clean lines but not much body rhythm. We owe gratitude to the American rhythm coaches for this technique. Here comes that saying, lol, “back in my day it was better.” Haha, unfortunately not. However, what has in fact changed for the worse, is communication between the partners. Dancers in the past seemed to be more aware of one another and actually looked at each other more. Today I find that because of the make up of the routines they hardly ever notice one another. Perhaps it’s due to too many side by side movements, and being more aware of promoting to the audience.(Just my British opinion haha) Speed has increased in today’s dancing, but remember, speed can kill. What is good is the change and variation of speed.


American Rhythm:-
This style has also been changed quite considerably over the years with the influx of the Europeans coming to America and bringing with them the technique of international dancing. We’ve started to see much more articulated leg and foot actions, which has caused a talking point with the oldies, but which has once again produced a more dynamic look for the audience appeal. It would be nice to see a little more authenticity with each dance though. We are starting to feel that this style is the red-headed stepchild of the industry because there are so many completely different ideas out there, not all good and not all bad.


American smooth:-
Now this style has moved leaps and bounds into the 21st century with amazing flexibility from both male and female dancers. The coverage of the floor is astronomical and has an abundance of space and volume, whereas in the past there was a lot more closed work and use of international ballroom fundamentals and steps. There has been a greater development of individuals in this style which is so interesting to watch but also hard to judge.(Thanks guys, haha). Also what is amazing in this style these days is that every couple is so different in regard to what their individual strengths are.


Theater Arts:-
Back in the day, this style seemed to be more of a classical style with man being athletically strong and lady being more balletic. Today, it is far more adventurous (sometimes even dangerous), and down right mesmerizing with the unusual lift work and intricate routines. I suppose we have our owners Bruno & Luann to thank for that.
All in all the development of our industry has been amazing with new ideas and better understanding of body, music and choreography. Can’t wait to see the next 46 years and where it goes, well probably not me but you young ones:)


Martin is an experienced Technique Specialist, Competitive Trainer and Mind Coach for Professionals, Amateurs and Students, in addition to being a Lecturer, Choreographer and world-class Adjudicator. Martin has competed and taught all over the world, at every level of dance. He has officiated in National and Open Championships of New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, South Africa, USA, Canada, United Kingdom, British Open, USA Open, Austrian Open, International, European and World Cups, Japan International and Icelandic Open. He has demonstrated in UK, USA, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, China, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Japan, Indonesia, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Canada, and Singapore.

Holder of 14 Regional Championships in the UK 1987
British Open Amateur Latin Champion
United Kingdom Amateur Latin Champion
International Amateur Latin Champion
World Cup Amateur Latin Champion
Champion in: France, Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Holland 1988
British Open Professional Rising Star Latin Champion
Japan International Professional Latin Champion
Asian Open Professional Latin Champion
Winner of the BDF Len Scrivener Award for Top Professional Dancer
Finalist European Professional 10 Dance Championships 1989
4th World & European Professional 10 Dance Championships 1990
3rd European Professional 10 Dance Championships
4th World Professional 10 Dance Championships 1991
World Latin Professional Representatives
2nd World & European Professional 10 Dance Championships 1992
United Kingdom Professional 10 Dance Champion
European Professional 10 Dance Champion
2nd World Professional 10 Dance Championships 1993
World Professional 10 Dance Champion

Martin Lamb is part of the prestigious Fred Astaire Dance Studios International Dance Council, which oversees Dance Instructor training and certification, judges (Professional, Amateur, Pro/Am) at Regional, National & International Fred Astaire Dance Studio Dance Competition events, actively coaches our Students & Instructors in dance studio locations across our network, and continuously reviews our proprietary dance curriculum to ensure only the finest, most up-to-date programs for our Students. For more information on the Fred Astaire International Dance Council or any of its members, please contact us.

1 Comment

  • Hi Martin. I like your outlook on each of the styles; particularly the red headed step child comment towards American rhythm. As a pro -am dancer, I’m fortunate to dance all styles with the exception of theatre arts ( the lifts scare the life out of me :)) I aim to respect the authenticity of the dances and fortunate to have had great instructors over the years and complimenting that with good coaching. An objective eye is always good.

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