Ballroom DancingBy Jerilyn WatsonAmericans have danced to rock and roll for years. But today,
many people are doing the kind of dancing their grandparents
enjoyed earlier in this century. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt. Ballroom dancing is our story today on
the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.
((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are visiting the United States. A friend asks you to go to a
dance. What do you expect to see? Perhaps you expect young
bodies wildly moving to the loud sounds of a rock and roll band.
But today, thousands of American young people are doing a quieter
kind of dancing. It was popular when their grandparents were
young. Their grandparents are doing the steps again, too.
This kind of dancing is called ballroom dancing.
It calls for someone to dance with -- a partner. And both
partners need to know the moves. Ballroom dances require a large
room -- a ballroom -- so the dancers can take many steps.
Ballroom dancers usually stand close together. One person guides
their steps. The other follows this lead as they dance across
the room.Dancers of rock and roll and other modern dances usually do not
dance close together. They can invent their own dance steps.
But ballroom dancing has rules. Its special steps must be
learned. So, many people study the steps at centers called dance
The fox trot, the waltz, and the tango are very popular ballroom
dances. Dancers need a lot of space to perform them. Other
kinds of dances first popular years ago such as the rumba, the
cha-cha, the samba and swing are increasingly popular today.
They can be danced in smaller spaces.
Some people say they cannot keep their feet from moving when they
hear this dance music. Listen to this Samba. Does it make you
feel like dancing?
((TAPE CUT ONE: - "POR QUE CHORAS", CDP-15268))People of every age seem to like ballroom dancing. Children as
young as seven years old attend ballroom dancing classes
at the Lincoln Center Plaza in New York City. Several
members of a recent ballroom-dance class in the state of Maryland
had served in World War Two.
Some people think of ballroom dancing as a pleasant way to
exercise and enjoy music at the same time. Others perform it as
professional dancers to earn money. For some people, it is a
sport. Competition in ballroom dancing was included for the
first time in the recent Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.Ballroom dancing also is becoming an industry. For example, more
than sixty clubs in and near the southern city of Atlanta,
Georgia, offer ballroom-dance music. And, a recent Washington,
D. C. , orchestra performance of swing music of the
Nineteen-Forties was so crowded that hundreds of people could not
Professional dancers often take part in national and
international competitions. Both men and women wear very bright,
colorful clothes that float around them as they dance under the
bright lights of the ballroom.Members of the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association
also take part in competitions. These people are not
professional dancers. They dance just for fun.
Association members may be just learning. Or they may be expert
at a number of steps. Dancers include children from school age
through retired people.
Association officials say American university students from coast
to coast are becoming active ballroom dancers. Crowds at these
dance competitions make as much noise as people at football and
The Amateur Ballroom Dancing Association is offering dance
classes to train teachers in methods used in colleges in England.
Its leaders say these methods permit students to learn faster
than the usual ways of teaching dance.A woman in the eastern town of Oakmont, Pennsylvania dances with
a group each week. She claims that anyone can do most of the
steps -- whatever the teaching method.
For example, she says dancing the fox trot is easy with music
like "I've Heard That Song Before" played by Harry James and his
Orchestra. She says all you need to do is count
one-two-three-four. . . . one-two-three-four. . . . . . (( Voice over
beginning of music))
((TAPE CUT TWO - "I'VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE", CDP-16726))Many American dance experts consider swing as a kind of ballroom
dancing. It too is enjoying increased popularity. Swing is a
word that describes different kinds of fast dancing. This
dancing probably started in New York City in the
Nineteen-Twenties. Then, it was called jazz dancing.
The present popularity of swing may have started with the
Nineteen-Ninety-Six movie, "Swingers." Groups like Royal Crown
Revue and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy became famous after appearing in
this movie. Television increased the fame of swing dancing even
Terry Chasteen is a dance teacher at the Chevy Chase Ballroom and
Dance Sport Center in Washington, D. C. He says many people
already were learning swing when a clothing company advertisement
appeared on television. The young people in the ad were swing
The effect was immediate. The dance-studio telephone never
stopped ringing. A class that earlier had sixty students grew
to one-hundred-eighty students.Mr. Chasteen says swing has developed and changed in
interesting ways since World War Two.
American soldiers made swing popular in England during the war.
Later, British dancers created new and much more difficult swing
steps. Heads of American dancing schools then went to England to
study the new dances. The Americans brought back their own
versions of the steps. These dances were easier than the British
Today, people are dancing to the newer swing dances. They are
played by bands with names like Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Here is
Cherry Poppin' Daddies playing "Ding Dong Daddy of the D-Car
((TAPE CUT THREE - "DING DONG DADDY OF THE D-CAR LINE",
CDJ-5500))People also are dancing to the older kind of swing music. This
music was made famous by bands popular forty and fifty years ago.
Bands like those of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey,
Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller.
Fifty-five years ago, Maryland artist Nancy Belmont Dayhoff was a
university student who wanted to be an artist. She married Tom
Belmont, a soldier fighting in World War Two. When he was home,
they liked to do a very fast dance called the jitterbug. They
also liked to dance to the smooth music of Glenn Miller such as
this song, "In the Mood."
((TAPE CUT FOUR - "IN THE MOOD", CDP4823// voice over music))
A lot has changed in the past fifty-five years, but one thing
remains the same. Mizz Dayhoff still dances. She says, "For me,
ballroom dancing brings wonderful memories."
((MUSIC UP AND CONTINUE INSTEAD OF THEME))This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Rich Kleinfeldt.And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for
another report about life in the United States on the VOA
Special English program, This Is America.