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Smooth vs Latin

by Rey & Sherry Garza

Advancement in dancing includes adding more dance rhythms, steps, and techniques. Understanding the similarities and differences among the rhythms is the beginning step. If you were asked, “What are the differences between Smooth and Latin rhythms?” you would be able to recite quite a list, but what about the similarities? Let's look briefly at various Smooth and Latin rhythms and consider some of the similarities and differences.

Smooth Rhythms --

Foxtrot Quickstep Tango Waltz

Time Signature: 4/ 4 4/ 4 2/ 4 3/4 Beats per bar

Tempo 30 50 33/34 30 Bars per minute

Accented Beats One and three for FT or Qs. Equal on each beat for TG. One for WZ.

Latin Rhythms --

Cha Cha Jive Paso Doble Rumba Samba

Time Signature: 4/ 4 4/ 4 2/ 4 4/4 2/4 Beats per bar

Tempo 30/32 42/44 60/62 27/29 52/54 Bars per min.

Accented Beats One for CH and PD. Two and four for JV. Four for RB. Two for SB.

Traveling (on dance floor) --

Smooth rhythms do travel, and many of the Latins are consider stationary (Rumba, Cha Cha, and Jive). Paso Doble and Samba do travel.

Foot placement --

Smooth: Heel leads

Latin: Ball flat for most figures except for a few figures in Paso Doble where there are ball and heel leads. For instance, “Chasse L or R” are danced on the balls of the feet. The Basic is danced on the balls of the feet as well, but it can also be danced on the toes or flat.

Partner Hold --

Smooth: Partners are bodies touching and both looking left.

Latin: Partners use hand holds and look at each other, but there are figures you can dance in close position with bodies six inches apart the look remains.

Poise --

Smooth: Man is standing up straight with knees slightly flexed; don’t lock your knees. Body is inclined slightly forward, but not the upper body. Lady is same as Man except she would be poised backwards from the waist up.

Latin: Stand with feet together in a relaxed and normal manner. The weighted foot will be straight; the other foot will be flexed.

Balance --

Smooth: Distribution of weight is between the feet. When taking forward or back steps there will be two points of balance, i.e. heel of the left foot and the ball of the right foot, but not when dancing tango.

Latin: Transfer full weight keeping weight towards the ball of the foot. There will be pelvic action during the transfer of weight which does not exist in the Smooth rhythms.

Contrary Body Movement (CBM) --

A body action used to initiate turn. It is the moving of the opposite side of the body towards the stepping foot, either forward or back. This action will be strongest on natural and reverse pivots. When stepping forward using CBM the toe will turn out slightly. When stepping back the toe will turn in. CBM (and CMBP) is mostly used in Smooth rhythms and in some figures in Paso Doble.

Contrary Body Movement Position (CBMP) --

The placing of the stepping foot whether forward or back, across the line of the other foot, giving the appearance of CBM having been used without turning the body. CBMP is used on all BJO steps except on step 2 of Fishtail, to ensure a good line and contact. CBMP can be used when in line with partner for example the following step after Change Of Direction in foxtrot and all normal left-foot-forward steps in tango. Forward and across in CBMP means that the moving foot travels more across the line of the other foot. This applies to steps in semi-closed position only.


From clinic notes prepared for the ROUNDALAB Convention, 2013, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, October 2015.



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