Ballroom & Latin: Which Style of Dance is Right for You?

Don’t know your Tango from your Foxtrot? The team at Karen Hardy Dance Studios in Chelsea fills us in on the core Ballroom and Latin dance styles…

Lead image: Latinist / iStock / Getty Images Plus


The most elegant of all the ballroom dances in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic pattern of step-step-close. A gentle rotation will then progress into beautiful lines and more intricate moves as you master the art of swing and sway. Not to be confused with the faster Viennese Waltz.

The traditional tango is the most dramatic and sensual of the ballroom dances. With a slightly different hold, it’s famous for its staccato beats and contrast of fast and slow rhythms. This dance is characterised by long pauses and stylised body positions.

Often termed the king of ballroom dances, the Foxtrot has a magical quality. Known for its long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor, it’s similar in look to the Waltz, although the rhythm is in a 4/4 time signature instead of ¾. Traditionally considered one of the more tricky ballroom dances, it’s a heady mix of subtle timing, musical accents and gorgeous body lines.

Take yourself to Broadway and the magic of the musicals with the ballroom dance that’s full of energy and tricky chasses, runs and flicks. Beginners, don’t be put off – the basic moves are not too far removed from a gentle slow, quick, quick, slow rhythm that’s not too difficult to master.


Cha Cha Cha
Take yourself off to Cuba with this lively, fun, cheeky and playful dance. It emphasises Cuban motion, distinguished by the chasses (cha-cha-cha) typically danced during the 4&1 counts of the music. Like all the Latin dances, it is danced in a mix of in and out of hold sequences.

Derived from Brazil, the modern Samba has become know as the party dance. In addition to distinct rhythms, samba has a signature bounce that stands it apart from the other Latin dances. It travels progressively round the floor, and to begin with you’ll learn simple forward and backward steps and rhythmic hip movements.

Commonly called the dance of love, Rumba is the slow, sensual member of the Latin family. Characterised by a delayed transfer of weight and rhythmic hip movements it is both beautifully simplistic and yet deceptively intricate at the same time.

The fastest of the Latin dances, jive incorporates lots of kicks and flicks and is danced at 176 beats per minute. It caught on in the USA in the 1940s and was influenced by the Boogie, Rock & Roll, African/American Swing, and Lindyhop. Expect lots of spins and changes of places with your partner!