The Eighteen Hundreds
When the Ballet made it to the Stage of theaters, its technique became considerably more enriched. However, the ballroom dances followed the instruction of the dancing masters who also ruled the Ballet. The coming of a new technique was already foreshadowed. However, it was not until nearly two hundred and fifty years later that this new technique actually came into being.
We saw the first beginnings of modern dancing when in 1812 when the modern hold made its appearance in our ballrooms in the Waltz. This was very controversial at the time, and a storm of protests arose at the time.
There has been a difference in opinion about the origin of Waltz. The French trace it back to Volta, a turning dance in triple time that came into Provence from Italy.
A more common opinion today is to trace the Waltz back to the Landler of Southern Germany. It first came into notice about the year 1780.
In those days, the Waltz was danced to tunes generally in three-eight time. The couples stood in a circle around the room. Partners held one another, usually by the hands only, and the dance consisted of several different figures.
It was about 1812 that the Waltz, with its modern hold, took root in England, and it was about this time that the famous "Invitation A la Valse" was composed. The dance was met with tremendous opposition. Mothers forbade it, the ballrooms became a scene of feud and contention. Sarcastic remarks were made, and young ladies were deterred from such recreation.
This didn't last long, and finally, the Waltz was accepted along with other dances like the Polka and Mazurka. At that time, there was a strong tendency to drop most of the decorative steps taken from Ballet.
The Nineteen Hundreds
Ballroom Dancing was inclined to stagnate at the close of the Victorian Era, possibly owing to the absence of any new development. The coming of the Boston, which was a new way of dancing to Waltz music and the Rag, put fresh life into the stagnating art. These innovations appealed to the young generations who had wearied the fast Waltz played by the orchestras, and the ballroom dancing took a fresh lease of life.
A pivotal point in the history of ballroom dancing perhaps was the rebellion of young generations against the artificial technique of the old-time teachers with its five positions and "petty" movements. The newly introduced style by the dancers themselves was a free and easy go as you please style based more or less on the natural movements used in Walking. The coming of the Foxtrot in 1914 fanned this rebellion and killed the sway of the old-time technique.
The Dancing Times in 1920 was an informal conference that was widely attended by dancers and at which some attempt was made to standardize dance steps of the Foxtrot and One-Step. A new hierarchy of dance teachers arose. Those teachers were the first to recognize the break with the old tradition and to evolve and codify a modern ballroom dancing technique based on natural movement with feet in alignment.
They formed the first Committee of the Ballroom Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. The style which they codified and which has since been so highly developed is what we call today "International Style," previously known as "English Style."
- Victor Silvester- “Modern Ballroom Dancing”
Stay tuned for more articles from the series “History of Ballroom Dancing.”