Ballroom dancing itself developed from social dance gatherings in the Middle Ages as a part of social gatherings. Later, dances such as the waltz, polka and Tango brought ballroom dancing into the modern era.
Many rooms in the Middle Ages contained a central hearth that guests would dance around. When fireplaces began to move from the center of the room, space was freed for more inventive dancing.
Ballroom dancing truly began to separate from folk dancing during the Renaissance. Early forms of ballroom dancing include the minuet, quadrille and cotillion. These social gatherings were largely held as a way for couples to meet each other while still under supervision. In the beginning, the dancing was done as a group and not as couples.
The waltz is a ballroom dance that originated in Vienna, Austria in the late 1700's before spreading to nearby countries. The style of dance introduced with the waltz was revolutionary during the Victorian era. It was enabled by the development of smoother dance floors and the abandonment of clunky shoes. A major feature of the waltz was that is allowed couples to move more independently, which is a very important factor in modern ballroom dancing.
A solo dance from Spain and an Argentinean courtship dance merged and became the Tango. Originally, the courtship dance was considered inappropriate for polite Argentinean society. In the 19th century, the polka was adapted from a Bohemian folk dance and formalized by the French.