“Ballroom dance” refers most often to the ten dances of International Ballroom (or Standard) and International Latin, though the term is also often used interchangeably with the five International Ballroom dances. Sequence dancing, which is danced predominantly in the United Kingdom, is also sometimes included as a type of Ballroom dancing.
In the United States and Canada, the American Style (American Smooth and American Rhythm) also exists. The dance technique used for both International and American styles is similar, but International Ballroom allows only closed dance positions, whereas American Smooth allows closed, open and separated dance movements. In addition, different sets of dance figures are usually taught for the two styles. International Latin and American Rhythm have different styling, and have different dance figures in their respective syllabi.
Others dances sometimes placed under the umbrella “ballroom dance” include Nightclub Dances such as Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Nightclub Two Step, Hustle, Salsa, and Merengue. The categorization of dances as “ballroom dances” has always been fluid, with new dances or folk dances being added to or removed from the ballroom repertoire from time to time, so no list of subcategories or dances is any more than a description of current practices. There are other dances historically accepted as ballroom dances, and are revived via the Vintage dance movement.
In Europe, Latin Swing dances include Argentine Tango, Mambo, Lindy Hop, Swing Boogie (sometimes also known as Nostalgic Boogie), and Disco Fox. One example of this is the subcategory of Cajun dances that originated in Acadiana, with branches reaching both coasts of the United States.
Ballroom/Smooth dances are normally danced to Western music (often from the mid-twentieth century), and couples dance counter-clockwise around a rectangular floor following the line of dance. In competitions, competitors are costumed as would be appropriate for a white tie affair, with full gowns for the ladies and bow tie and tail coats for the men; though in American Smooth it is now conventional for the men to abandon the tailsuit in favor of shorter tuxedos, vests, and other creative outfits.
Latin/Rhythm dances are commonly danced to contemporary Latin American music, and, with the exception of a few traveling dances (e.g., Samba and Paso Doble), couples do not follow the line of dance but perform their routines more or less in one spot. In competitions, the women are often dressed in short-skirted latin outfits while the men are outfitted in tight-fitting shirts and pants, the goal being to emphasize the dancers’ leg action and body movements.