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Origins of Your Favorite Ballroom Dances

The world of dance is much more than the waltz, rumba, samba and jive. In fact, each of these ballroom dances have deep cultural roots. Here are the stories of some of the typical dances you’ll find in the ballroom and their origins.

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The Waltz

The waltz is known as a graceful, slow, and sweeping two-person dance. First introduced in the mid-19th century and popularized by composer Johann Strauss, the waltz wasn’t always as elegant as it is today. Before Strauss, the waltz was known as a folk dance in Austria and the Bavarian region of Germany.

The Argentine Tango

Popularized in Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, this dance was famous among the working class of Argentina. Part of its popularity could be due to the rise of immigrants from Uruguay to Argentina at the turn of the century, and it is known as a sensual dance as both dancers never break hold and barely lift their feet from the floor.

The Viennese Waltz

While many people think the Viennese Waltz originated in Vienna, Austria, it actually was developed in Provence, France in the mid-1500s. Known as the oldest of all the ballroom dances, the Viennese Waltz was brought to England in the 1800s and while similar to its sister, the waltz, it is quite fast and a bit more elaborate.

The Samba

Known as the national dance of Brazil, the Samba has ties to West African slaves who were brought to the country during the 1700s and 1800s. Typically referred to as a peasant dance, the samba only gained recognition in the United States in the 1950s through actor Carmen Miranda.


Originally named the Lindy Hop during the Flapper Era of the 1920s, the swing is viewed as a quintessential American dance. Formally known as the East Coast Swing, this dance was established by famed dancer Arthur Murray after World War II.

While all these ballroom dances have long, rich pasts, they most certainly have found a place in today’s culture. What better way to have fun than to dance?? Join Arthur Murray for a free dance lesson and find out what you’ve been missing.

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