We’ve all heard that song on the radio that makes us tap our feet and think, “I could dance to this.” And, generally, that’s true. However, competitive ballroom dancers are tied to the tempo of the music. Dance organizations such as the NDCA, USA Dance, WDSF, and others use music within particular tempo ranges for competition. Below is a list of the common dances and their general tempos. Note that tempos change from organization to organization as well as from year to year. As a dancer advances, it is common for tempos to slow to further showcase movement details.
*Tango may also be in 2/4 time
MPM stands for measures per minute and BPM for beats per minute.
Let’s revisit that song on the radio now. If you’re curious about the tempo of a song, a good resource for finding the BPM is all8.com’s BPM finder. However, just because a song has a certain tempo, does not mean that it is a suitable fit for a particular dance. For example, Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5 in C Minor Op. 67: Allegro con brio contains segments where the BPM is 162. However, that doesn’t make it a good jive. Good ballroom music also adheres to characteristics of the dance.
Check out our suggested songs and vetted playlists:
For more on music characteristics see the post Identifying Ballroom Music: Characteristics.