All the smooth dances travel around the dance floor in a counter-clockwise direction (altho Tango sometimes varies its direction). After you have learned some steps, the goal is to make them 'smoother' while traveling more.
Waltz - At ballroom dances, everyone gets up to do this graceful dance. The only music with 3 beats to a measure, you take a step on every beat - just like walking!
Fox Trot - A dance with many variations depending on the tempo of the music, it can sometimes be danced to swing music. Some of the steps are similar to Waltz.
Tango (American style) - Attitude is all-important in this dance - I suggest tackling this one after you have mastered Waltz and Fox Trot.
Quickstep - The steps are not hard (based on Fox Trot), but technique is very important; also a dance to hold off learning until you are more experienced.
Most Latin/Rhythm dances do not travel around the floor - called 'spot dances' (with the exception of Samba) which makes navigation easier! Technique is entirely different from the smooth dances, emphasizing motion in the hips.
Merengue - The easiest of the Latin dances because you step on every beat of the music; a good dance to start with because the steps are easy and you can learn fundamentals which carry over into other dances. Originated in the Dominican Republic.
Rumba - Rumba originated in Africa, migrated to Cuba, and was adopted by Americans. Sometimes called the dance of love!
Cha-Cha - Another dance from Cuba, Cha has syncopated timing which makes it more difficult than Rumba, but is more lively and exciting.
Salsa/Mambo - What's the difference? At beginner/intermediate levels, many of the steps are the same, also similar to Cha steps. Salsa is considered a Club dance with a more funky styling, while Mambo is slightly more formal. Once you've learned the basics, you can take this wherever you want!
Bolero - A beautiful, sensuous dance similar to Rumba but danced to a slower tempo with different technique.
Samba - The only Latin dance that does travel around the floor, timing is syncopated - I can show you a simple routine so you can have fun with this dance.
Bachata - Also from the Dominican Republic, the music has a distinctive sound which makes you (ME) want to dance! Merengue steps can be adapted, in fact Bachata is quite inventive. A lively rumba can also be done to this music.
America's claim to fame, Swing traces its roots to the Lindy Hop in the 1920's. From big-band music to rock, country, and blues, variations of Swing are extremely versatile and tons of fun.
Traditional (East Coast) - Includes Jitterbug, which I call single-step timing and is used for faster music, and triple-step timing (syncopated) for slower swing music. Can be 'bouncy.'
West Coast Swing - Danced generally to a slower type of music (blues, country, even hip-hop), WCS is danced in a 'slot' - there's no bouncing in this style.
Hustle - Popular in the 1970's, Hustle has evolved to a syncopated-timing dance although I also teach the original 4-count timing. I think everyone should know both timings!
Night-Club 2-Step - Appropriate for slower, romantic music, NC-2 includes some Fox Trot, Rumba and Swing steps. Not generally played in ballrooms. A lot of Country music is appropriate and there are some very nice songs that are suitable for wedding first-dances.