Modern Ballroom, sometimes just Ballroom, or Standard, is the term given to a set of five dances: Modern Waltz (often called Slow Waltz, or just Waltz), Quickstep, Slow Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz. While the five dances listed are universally recognised as the Modern Ballroom dances for competition, Long-Steps also teach two other dances: Slow Rhythm, and Rhythm Foxtrot. These dances are used as stepping-stones to help students learn, and can also be used for Medal Examinations, but are not recognised as competition level dances.

The Modern Ballroom dances as we know them today all stem from Europe and North America. However, their individual histories before standardisation and adoption as official international competition dances are intriguing and sometimes a little sordid. While these dances now conjure up images of men in suits and women in long gowns gliding around the floor with ease and grace, it was not always so.

The Modern Waltz, Quickstep, Slow Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz are all referred to as “Swing” dances, in reference to the action of the foot as it passes under the body from one step to another. The swing dances have many common traits, the most notable being that the feet remain in constant contact with the floor - with the exception of adding styling and flair. In contrast, the Tango is referred to as a “Placement” dance, a style in which the foot is picked up and placed on the floor with each step.

All Modern Ballroom dances are danced in what is called a “closed” hold. The leader’s right hand sits on the follower’s left shoulder blade while their left hand holds the follower’s right; the follower’s left hand rests lightly on the leaders upper right arm. In this position, leader and follower are connected at the hip. Such a close connection allows, with practice, a comfortable and responsive lead and follow action giving rise to the amazing shapes and figures synonymous with the style.