Some Ballroom history...

There are 5 standard ballroom dances - the Viennese Waltz, the Waltz, the Tango, the Slow Foxtrot and the Quickstep.  In addition, we have another one officially called Social Rhythm that can be danced at a foxtrot speed or faster.

These dances are largely European and American in origin but not entirely so.  They are all progressive, that means they travel around the room anti-clockwise following the line of dance - a bit like going around a race track.

Viennese Waltz

A fabulous dance, not many steps to learn but quite tricky in the execution. It continuously rotates, first one way then the other. Plus it's rather fast and is danced with a beautiful gliding rise and fall.  Usually suited to more advanced dancers.

In the 1500s, there was a dance in Provence (France) called the Volta which was probably the root of the Viennese Waltz.  (Although Norway also claims it and "volta" means a turn in Italian.)  Louis XIII banned it from the French court in the 1600s because it was immoral (shockingly danced in a close embrace) and then in the 1700s the Waltzen appeared in Germany.  It became very popular in Vienna in the 1800s, and came to England as the German Waltz where the Prince Regent included it in a ball in 1816.  The Times not only said that it was "indecent" but also that "it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females."  Today the Germans and Austrians often call this one "the Waltz" and the other one "the English or Slow Waltz".

Viennese Waltz timing:  3 beats per bar - 60 bars per minute - count 123 etc


A beautiful and lyrical dance, full of slow gliding and turning steps with a lilting rise and fall.

The Waltz has a shared history with the Viennese Waltz.  A dance called the Landler became popular in Austria in the early 1800s - a variation of the German Waltzen danced to slower music.  A dance called the Boston developed in America a few decades later.  That all blends together and, early in the 1900s, the present Waltz style develops in England.  The Germans and Austrians often call this one "the English or Slow Waltz" because they call the Viennese Waltz just "the Waltz".

Waltz timing:  3 beats per bar - 30 bars per minute - count 123 etc


Although developed from the Argentine Tango, the Tango has quite a different character. Full of cat-like stalking movements and crisp staccato action, it has no rise and fall and is danced with slightly flexed knees, plus a closer hold than the usual ballroom hold.

The Argentine Tango developed amongst the urban poor in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in the 1800s, during mass immigration from Europe.  A flamenco dance from Spain called Tango and/or an African dance called Tangano may have mixed with other dances from the New World, like the Habanera from Cuba.  Picked up by the Argentine upper classes, it became popular in Paris after a performance by a famous music-hall star (Mistinguett), and then was toned down for European society by the famous dancers Vernon and Irene Castle.  And so we have the ballroom Tango.

Tango timing:   2 beats per bar - 33 bars per minute - count in slows & quicks

Slow Foxtrot

This is the "Fred & Ginger" of all the ballroom dances -  the classic big band dance!  All style and elegance with long smooth gliding steps, it's sometimes difficult to get right but so worth the effort.

This one starts in the Victorian era with a dance variously called the One Step or Two Step! Originally quite speedy and with trotting steps, it's popularised by a chap called Harry Fox c1914 in New York.  Then Vernon and Irene Castle introduce it into their show as the Castle Walk, and it becomes very popular in New York and London.  In the 1920s it's smoothed out and the first Slow Foxtrot competition is held at the Savoy Hotel in 1925.

Foxtrot timing:   4 beats per bar - 30 bars per minute - count in slows & quicks


This is a speedy dance requiring a spring in the feet.  It's bright and energetic with some lively footwork.

It started in the same place as the Foxtrot and got faster.  In the 1920s as ragtime music developed into swing, dances like the Charleston, the Shimmy and the Black Bottom gained popularity in America.  The Charleston, in particular, is of African-American origin and was brought to Europe in the 1920s by the famous performer Josephine Baker.  All of those dances were absorbed into a fast dance, eventually known as the Quickstep, brought to England by Paul Whiteman's band in 1923.  It was introduced into competitions in 1927 by two English dancers, Frank Ford and Molly Spain.

Quickstep timing:   4 beats per bar - 50 bars per minute - count in slows & quicks

Social Rhythm (Social Foxtrot)

This is always taught at the Beginners class and is probably the easiest Ballroom dance to pick up.  I teach it at Foxtrot tempo but you can dance it at Quickstep tempo or even to Tango music.  At Foxtrot speed it saunters along and is ideal for small or overcrowded dance floors, always useful for weddings or functions.

Social Rhythm timing:   4 beats per bar - 28 to 42 bars per minute - count in slows & quicks



STEVENTON   (nr Abingdon):

Village Hall

The Green, OX13 6RR

STOCKCROSS   (nr Newbury):

Sutton Hall

Church Road, RG20 8LN


BAYDON   (nr Aldbourne):

BYPA Village Hall

6 Manor Lane, SN8 2JE



The Beacon

Portway, OX12 9BX

Classes by Cathy 


Northbourne C of E Primary School

Cockcroft Road, OX11 8LJ


EAST CHALLOW   (nr Wantage):

Village Hall

Main Street, OX12 9ST


1st Sunday (until Aug 2024)

LAMBOURN   (nr Hungerford):

Walwyn Hall

Baydon Road, RG17 8NU

2nd Sunday (from Jan 2025)

[select months only]

STOCKCROSS   (nr Newbury):

Sutton Hall

Church Road, RG20 8LN

3rd Sunday

EAST CHALLOW   (nr Wantage):

Village Hall

Main Street, OX12 9ST


Click for Dances in the Area



Ballroom/Latin start dates :

Stockcross - Mon 9 Sep 2024

Wantage - Wed 25 Sep 2024

E.Challow - Thu 26 Sep 2024


Rock'n'Roll (Swing Jive) dates :


Mon 1 July - 29 July : 8.30-9.30pm


Tue 2 - 30 July : 6.30 - 7.30pm

Tue 1-29 October: 6.30-7.30pm




Sun 17 Nov 2024 : 2.15-6.15pm




Sun 2 June : 6.15-8.15pm


Sun 21 July : 6.15-8.15pm




Rock'n'Roll & Slow Jive

Sun 21 July : 4.15-6.15pm


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