History of Modern Ballroom

The Modern Ballroom Faculty, as it is known today, was the earliest of the current dancesport faculties. Then called the Ballroom Branch, it was formed in 1924, 20 years after the Society was founded. In the years leading up to the First World War and even during it, ballroom dancing was very popular indeed - forming part of the lifestyle of fashionable London society. The tango had been introduced from Argentina and the foxtrot from America to join the already popular waltz, and then, in the Roaring Twenties, came the Charleston. There was, however, a lack of uniformity in the teaching of these dances and so the first priority of the Society’s newly formed Ballroom Branch Committee was to establish a firm technical structure for the waltz, foxtrot, tango and quickstep.

Under the chairmanship of Josephine Bradley, MBE (1893–1985) this was achieved and the resulting analysis formed the basis of the technique to which we still adhere. Miss Bradley served as Chairman of the Ballroom Branch until 1947 and in 1966 she received the Society’s Imperial Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the English style of Ballroom Dancing. In her memory, the Josephine Bradley Award still forms part of the Faculty’s medal test system.

The new technique was welcomed and quickly accepted in the UK and overseas. Membership of the Society grew apace and the Ballroom Branch flourished. Children’s examinations were soon introduced and became extremely popular. Today they include Under-6 and Under-8 Tests, which enable very young children to take part and to ‘get their feet on the ladder’. Children’s work continues to form a major part of current medal test sessions and competitions. 

 With the approach of the Second World War the activities of the Society were necessarily curtailed but where possible, teachers and examiners continued to develop the knowledge and understanding of ballroom dancing at home and overseas. One early ambassador was Phyllis Haylor (1904–1981), who travelled widely to train and examine the English style. A member of the Ballroom Branch Committee, she became a revered teacher, competitive coach, lecturer and a prolific writer of articles on ballroom dancing for the Dancing Times. In 1974 Miss Haylor received the Society’s Imperial Award for outstanding services to the profession. In her memory the Phyllis Haylor Scholarship, which supports further professional training, is awarded annually.

 The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Ballroom Branch continued to lead the world in the development and spread of knowledge of the fundamentals of ballroom dancing. In 1935 the sought after standardisation took another leap forward with the recording by Victor Silvester OBE (1900–1978) of the first Strict Tempo records, enabling keen dancers all over the world to use music created especially for them. With his music, books and long running radio and television programmes Mr Silvester, a member of the first Ballroom Branch Committee, made a huge contribution to the world of ballroom dancing. He went on to serve as Chairman then President of the Society.

In 1947 a section of the Ballroom Branch was detached to specialise in the increasingly popular Latin American dances, and a Victorian and Sequence Branch was formed. Also in 1947, Alex Moore MBE (1901–1991) was appointed as Chairman of the Ballroom Branch Committee. His textbook

Ballroom Dancing (1936) became required reading for students of ballroom dancing all over the world. In 1948 a technical update by the Ballroom Branch Committee resulted in the Revised Technique of Ballroom Dancing. This acclaimed book won instant recognition and, in new editions and updated, is still in constant use worldwide. A devoted ambassador for ballroom dancing, Alex Moore travelled extensively, teaching, lecturing and examining and through his renowned Monthly Letter Service, helping teachers from all parts of the world to keep up-to-date. An internationally loved and respected figure, he served as Chairman of the Ballroom Branch until 1976, becoming Chairman of the Society and then President until his death.

Following the retirement of Alex Moore as Chairman of the Ballroom Branch, Bill Irvine, MBE was appointed to this position and led the Committee until 1992. A dancer of renown, he and his wife and partner Bobbie had won no less than 13 world titles during their competitive career. Bill Irvine went on to become Vice President and then President of the Society. 

Throughout the 1980s and beyond, the development of overseas connections continued with teachers and examiners such as Marion Brown and Anne Lingard who both travelled widely, introducing teacher training and ISTD examinations in many parts of the world, particularly in the Far East.

Bill Irvine’s successor as Chairman of the Ballroom Branch was Anthony Hurley, a former professional world champion and a renowned teacher and lecturer who served in this role from 1992–1994. The update of the technique, which had been ongoing was completed during this time and The Ballroom Technique was published. Following Anthony Hurley’s resignation, Robert Grover was elected to the Chairmanship and soon afterwards the name of the branch was changed to the Modern Ballroom Faculty. Also a former world champion with his wife and partner Barbara, Robert led the Faculty until his resignation in 2013. He received the ISTD’s Imperial Award in 1994 and served as Chairman of the ISTD from 2000–2006. Robert Grover’s successor as Ballroom Faculty Chairman was Richard Hunt who has travelled extensively throughout the world, developing the overseas work of the Society. 


The Modern Ballroom Faculty Committee continues to develop and expand the range of work that we offer to our teachers. For example, in 2010 the Viennese waltz was fully accepted as the Faculty’s ‘fifth dance’. The technique had been revised by the British Dance Council in 2001 and it is now a welcome addition to medal tests and competitions. Another recent addition is the American Smooth, which became popular after being featured in the highly successful television series, Strictly Come Dancing, discussed below. Following several lectures at congresses by American experts in this field, a syllabus was created, and this attractive dance form is now acceptable in our medal test system and has become a popular wedding dance.