What is ballroom dance?


Styles and Dances

There are 19 competitive ballroom dances and numerous social dances. The competitive dances are divided between the International styles and the American styles, which are further divided into International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, and American Rhythm.

The International styles are the ballroom standards that are recognized worldwide, while the American styles are danced almost exclusively in the United States.

There is one syllabus, or set of recognized figures, used worldwide in the International styles, while there are several different officially recognized syllabi in the American styles. While we do not offer classes in the American styles, many of our dancers compete in the American styles in addition to the International styles.

Click on each style or dance to find out more about it!

International Standard

  • International Waltz

  • International Tango

  • International Viennese Waltz

  • International Foxtrot

  • International Quickstep

International Latin

  • International Cha Cha

  • International Rumba

  • International Jive

  • International Paso Doble

  • International Samba

American Smooth

  • American Waltz

  • American Tango

  • American Foxtrot

  • American Viennese Waltz

  • (American Peabody)

American Rhythm

  • American Cha Cha

  • American Rumba

  • American Swing

  • American Bolero

  • American Mambo


Couples compete against other couples with the same level of experience. These are the levels available at collegiate competitions:

  • Newcomer / Pre-Bronze

  • Beginner / Bronze

  • Intermediate / Silver

  • Advanced / Gold

  • Novice

  • Pre-Championship

  • Championship / Open

Generally, only people who have competed for less than 6 months are considered Newcomers. Newcomer through Gold are “Syllabus” levels and must adhere to a syllabus of figures designated for each level. Novice, Pre-Championship, and Championship are “Open” levels, for which there is no set list of figures.

Beyond collegiate competitions are higher-level Amateur competitions, “Pro-Am” competitions in which an Amateur student dances with a Professional dancer, and Professional competitions such as the Blackpool Dance Festival, where the best dancers in the entire world compete.

Social Dancing

Experienced ballroom dancers should be able to lead—or follow—any other ballroom dancer. That is why our team believes that social dancing is a key component of our program. There are a variety of dances that fall outside the competitive sphere and are exclusively danced as social dances. These include (click on each dance to see a video):

Social dancing is usually available at competitions in the form of a team match or general dancing between events. Our club offers a social track that focuses on New York Salsa, as well as occasional outings to social dance events and workshops in other social styles. Social dancing is a large part of the social scene in CU Ballroom, and it’s a great bonding experience—learning to lead and follow without set choreography will only improve your dancing and trust in your partners!