‘Ballroom’ is a category of dancing which includes roughly a dozen types dance within it. In general, what unites these dance forms under the ballroom umbrella is that they are performed in a large hall, by several couples who follow similar routines and steps. This genre is defined by its classical overtones, with Waltz arguably being the most famous type of ballroom dance.
Ballroom dancing became popular among the social elites in the sixteenth century, but got its contemporary form in the early twentieth century. Two factors made it popular also among the wider population. Firstly, the music that accompanied ballroom dancing had changed: while in its early days the accompanying tunes were primarily classical, in the twentieth century more popular and accessible music, including jazz, entered the ballroom. Secondly, high-profile Hollywood actors such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers frequently included ballroom dance sequences in their films, thus popularizing this form of dance.
These days, ballroom dancing is divided into two separate categories: international ballroom and international Latin, which includes more Latin-based music and dress. However, the genre as a whole is anything but unified and undiversified. Ballroom includes many different dances, ranging from the classical Waltz to the fast-paced Latin Cha-Cha and the intense Tango.
Despite its current accessibility to anyone who would like to take part, ballroom dancing also has a professional branch which includes competitions and tournaments. Although yet to be performed in the Olympic Games, professional ballroom competitions are numerous and require a high-level of skill and practice.
Dance as Community and Individual Therapy
The design of ballroom dancing is possibly what makes it so popular among people in so many different parts of the world. From the outset, it was more than simply a dance activity: although it is seemingly performed by separate couples, the dancing happens simultaneously by several different couples who move around each other, adhering to the same music and dance rules. This synchronicity transforms ballroom dancing into an effective social experience, which brings people and communities closer together with through the force of music and movement. It is a shared experience, which incorporates both intimacy between a single couple and the feeling of a vibrant community.
The merits of this activity have not gone unnoticed by medical practitioners. Nowadays, ballroom dancing is also very popular as a therapeutic tool for people suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease — because of its social appeal, together with its low physical impact and the need to practice control over one’s body. It may be learned quite easily by anybody, and does not have any limitations in terms of age, weight, or strength. However, despite its seemingly low entry requirements, ballroom dancing grants the dancer a lot of strength and cognitive development. That’s why nowadays more and more Parkinson’s patients around the world complement their conventional treatment with regular ballroom sessions at medical dance institutions, which allow them to benefit from the practice of controlled physical movements while having fun.