Chapter 5: Collecting Dance Music

[Note: book sections not presented on this website are titled and summarized in italics.]

The Essence of Good Dance Music

Since ballroom dancing is much more fun with good music, it's helpful to understand the appropriate rhythms and tempi for the various ballroom dances. Includes a typical, easy-to-find song and a comfortable tempo range for each dance.

Finding Music

With few exceptions, you can not walk into a mainstream music store to purchase a CD of good ballroom dance music. There are some American and Canadian CDs of "strict tempo" dance music sold in regular music stores, but they are typically junk made by someone with a synthesizer and a metronome. You have several alternatives.

The best source for music varies by dance, as listed below. "U.S. pop" refers to U.S. popular music, including rock, rhythm & blues, jazz vocalists, big band, Top 40, film soundtracks, etc. "Latin pop" refers to Latin American popular music, which usually has its own section in mainstream U.S. record stores.

Recommended Sources of Music


Music Sources


ballroom dance CDs; U.S. pop; Irish music


U.S. pop, esp. jazz vocalists (e.g., Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Connick Jr., Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine)


ballroom dance CDs; Tango orchestras

Viennese Waltz

ballroom dance CDs; classical music (e.g., Strauss, Tchaikovsky)


ballroom dance CDs; film soundtracks; U.S. pop

Cha Cha

U.S. pop; Latin pop


U.S. pop; Latin pop


Latin pop

Paso Doble

ballroom dance CDs

East Coast Swing/Jive

U.S. pop


Latin pop


Latin pop; film soundtracks


Latin pop

West Coast Swing

U.S. pop, esp. rhythm & blues


U.S. pop, esp. Top 40

Nightclub Two Step

U.S. pop

Argentine Tango

Tango show soundtracks (e.g., Forever Tango, The Tango Lesson)

Lindy Hop

U.S. pop, esp. jump blues, big band, jazz vocalists

Ballroom Dance Orchestras

I suggest that you avoid Foxtrots from ballroom dance orchestras--American jazz vocalists produce much better Foxtrots. Likewise, avoid most Latin music from the ballroom dance orchestras. They play a few acceptable Rumbas and Sambas, but their Latin numbers are generally poor.


Good dance music can often be found on film and show soundtracks. The soundtracks listed below each have at least one good dance song; those starred each have several useful songs.

  • A League Of Their Own*
  • A River Runs Through It*
  • Corrina, Corrina*
  • For The Boys*
  • Forever Tango*
  • I Like It Like That
  • In The Mood
  • More Dirty Dancing
  • Strictly Ballroom*
  • Swing Kids
  • The Blues Brothers*
  • The Mambo Kings*
  • The Mask
  • Wild At Heart

Popular Music

Certain pop artists appear frequently in my collection. The artists listed below each have at least two good dance songs. Those single-starred have at least three, while those double-starred have at least five.

  • Aaron Neville*
  • Alfred Hause**
  • Andy Williams*
  • Azucar Moreno*
  • Barry Manilow
  • Billy Eckstine
  • Blues Brothers
  • Bonnie Raitt*
  • Brian Setzer Orchestra*
  • Buster Poindexter*
  • Celine Dion
  • Chocolate
  • Chris Isaak
  • Dark Latin Groove
  • Della Reese*
  • Ella Fitzgerald &
    Louis Armstrong
  • Frank Sinatra*
  • George Michael*
  • Gloria Estefan**
  • Grupo Niche
  • Hansel Martinez*
  • Harry Connick, Jr.*
  • Janet Jackson*
  • Jerry Rivera*
  • Jim Croce
  • Linda Ronstadt**
  • Lou Rawls*
  • Louis Jordan*
  • Luis Miguel
  • Madonna**
  • Manhattan Transfer**
  • Michael Feinstein*
  • Mijares
  • Nat King Cole*
  • Natalie Cole
  • Pat Benatar*
  • Paula Abdul
  • Ricky Martin
  • Rumba Tres
  • Santana**
  • Secret Garden*
  • Sinead O'Connor*
  • Steve Ray Vaughan
  • Sting
  • Tito Puente
  • Wham!


My Dance Music Database

Discusses my on-line database of the 400+ ballroom dance songs that I have collected to date, with suggestions on how to use it.

Other Lists Of Dance Music

Many other people have published lists of ballroom dance music--this section tells you where to find them.