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The term "ballroom dancing" is derived from the word ball , which in turn originates from the Latin word ballare which means "to dance". In times past, ballroom dancing was " social dancing " for the privileged, leaving " folk dancing " for the lower classes. These boundaries have since become blurred, and it should be noted even in times long gone, many "ballroom" dances were really elevated folk dances.
The definition of ballroom dance also depends on the era. Balls have featured Minuet , Quadrille , Polonaise , Pas de Gras , Mazurka , and other popular dances of the day, which are considered to be historical dances .
Today, the term applies to any one of the several dances in which two individuals, a "leader" and a "follower," dance with physical contact through their upper or lower bodies, or simply their arms depending on the particular variety of dance. Since most social dancing is unchoreographed, this contact is necessary for the leader to communicate the next dance move to the follower, and for the follower to respond to this insinuation.
This stands in stark contrast with the style(s) of dance seen in clubs and other social gatherings where physical contact tends to be optional and the individuals in question can move freely without any such restraints imposed by firm physical contact or by the necessity to follow the rhythmic pattern present in the music. Some knowledge of known step patterns is essential for both the leader as well as the follower for ballroom dancing.
As most ballroom style dances require some knowledge and practice, they have lessened in popularity among the public in the recent decades. Dance historians usually mark the appearance of the twist in the mid 1960s as the end of social partner dancing.