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The Daily Dish Dancing Queens

What Are All the Types of Ballroom Dance? Can You Switch? Ballroom Dancing Questions, Explained

Dancing Queens' Pooja Mehta pivoted from American Rhythm to Latin on the competitive circuit, ruffling the feathers of at least one other castmate, but just what is the difference between the two?

By Jill Sederstrom

Pooja Mehta already conquered the world of Pro-Am American Rhythm when she made the leap in Dancing Queens to Latin ballroom.

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“I decided to switch from Rhythm to Latin because I love a challenge,” Pooja explained in the new Bravo series.

But just what exactly is the difference between the two, and just how many styles of competitive ballroom dance are there?

What Are the 4 Types of Ballroom Dance?

Screengrab of Donie and her partner at a dance competition

There are four styles of competitive ballroom dance: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard, and International Latin.

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The ladies in Dancing Queens go head-to-head in International Latin, which requires mastery of five different dances: the Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble, and Jive.

“You do all five dances in a row,” Dancing QueensDonie Burch explained.

The category’s roots are in Europe, but it is now embraced all over the world. 

“What distinguishes Latin is the sensual connection of a couple,” Latin expert Vlad Kvartin told DanceSpirit

What Makes American Rhythm and Latin Different?

American Rhythm — where Pooja first competed — has some overlap with the Latin category and also includes Cha Cha and Rumba. But the category adds in Swing, Bolero, and Mambo too.

It is often difficult to differentiate between American Rhythm, often abbreviated ‘Rhythm,’ and International Latin. This difficulty originates, in part, in its inherent difference in technique,” Aria Ballroom explained on its website. “While Latin stresses the importance of straightening the knee as soon as possible, long before weight is place on the foot, Rhythm utilizes the ‘pressed walk’ technique, meaning weight is placed on the ball of the foot with a bent knee, the knee straightening only as the heel comes in contact with the ground.”

couples feet while ballroom dancing

Pooja hinted that, at least in competition, there could be another difference too. 

“Mom and Meera always like to say Latin dancing is a lot more competitive than Rhythm but what I hear is ‘Pooja, you can be better,’” she said of her mother and sister.  “OK, well, you’re on. That’s the Scorpio in me.”

What Makes American Smooth and International Standard Different?

Much like Rhythm and Latin, American Smooth and International Standard share some similarities too.

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Both include the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, and some form of the Foxtrot (it’s called the Slow Foxtrot in Standard). Standard — which is the oldest ballroom style dating back hundreds of years — also adds the Quickstep into the mix, which is a fast-paced upbeat dance.

The biggest difference between the two is that in Standard, the two dancers form a hold and maintain it throughout the dance (also called closed position), while Smooth allows the pair to break their hold during the dance.

Dance style has inadvertently played a big role in the first season of Dancing Queens because Pooja’s decision to move from Rhythm to Latin created an epic problem for castmate Colette Marotto

The two women once shared the same professional partner, Kristijan Burazer, but Pooja’s waltz into the new category left Kristijan feeling he needed to choose between them now that they were often competing against each other. 

Kristijan ultimately chose Pooja, devastating Colette in the process. She tearfully recounted being “partner dumped” to a friend, describing it almost as devastating as a breakup. 

“I cried for like two weeks,” she said. 

In the months since the bitter breakup, Colette dusted herself off and found new partner Oleksiy “Alex” Pigotskyy, but the pair failed to make the finals at the Tri-State DanceSport Championships and rival Sabrina Strasser was quick to note they looked “rusty” on the dance floor. 

As for Pooja, it’s still unclear whether the Arizona resident, who once swept up in the Rhythm category, will receive the same high honors in Latin, only adding to the dance floor drama.

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