How do you know which music goes with which ballroom dance?

For the most part, we all know a basic waltz and maybe even a basic Foxtrot. But it can get really complicated when it comes to different styles of different dances.

For example, a Foxtrot can be an international style, which is a much slower speed compared to an American style Foxtrot, so the music would be different for each – even though they are both Foxtrots.

Obviously, all dances need to be danced to the beat but oftentimes the melody can come into play. For example, you are dancing to ChaCha music but maybe the words and melody lend itself to a Rumba because of different accents in the timing.

It’s always a question when music comes on: How do I know which dance this is? The better you know the dances (the count, the style, the speed), after some time you will be able to recognize which music goes with which dance.

Many people make the mistake in the beginning of knowing the dance but then choosing the wrong music. Sometimes they figure it out when the dance just doesn’t seem to be flowing with the music. The rhythm might have been underlying, but the melody did not fit the dance style.

When people compete in ballroom dance, they don’t know which song will come on next but if they are dancing, say, a Rumba, they know the beat and melody will be appropriate for the dance.

In social dancing when songs come on, dancers will need to recognize the music before they can actually begin dancing. Eventually this gets easier and easier with the more experience someone has with ballroom dances.

Years ago, it was easier because big bands made Swing and Foxtrot and Waltz easy to distinguish because their sound was so big and so deliberate.

Currently pop music is danceable, but complicated timing and rhythm can make it difficult for ballroom dance. To make it easy though, some pop music has been orchestrated with specific ballroom rhythms. For instance, Bruno Mars has a song that has been redone in a Bachata style.

As much as I love all the modern music, there’s nothing like traditional songs played by a live orchestra for ballroom dance to be able to know which music goes with which dance.

Sandro Virag is a partner and instructor at Hilton Head Ballroom Dance Studio of Hilton Head, located in Bluffton at Seaquins Ballroom.