How To Learn Ballroom Dancing and Ballroom Dance Steps

Ballroom Dancing consists of several different partner dances and is divided into two categories.  The first category is called the standard group and includes the foxtrot, waltz, tango, quickstep and Viennese waltz.  This category is what most people think of when they hear "ballroom dancing."  The second category is called the Latin group and includes the rumba, cha cha, mambo, samba, and various types of swing.  Each of these dances has many different patterns with several variations to each pattern.  In order to dance these patterns comfortably, several elements of Ballroom Dancing need to be learned.  These elements include correct technique to develop the style of the dance, correct timing, clean footwork, and correct lead and follow created by a good dance position.  

Technique and Style

In order to develop the correct technique and have clean footwork in ballroom dancing, it is important to understand the difference between the moving foot and the standing foot.  The moving foot is the foot that you are transferring your weight onto, regardless of how big or small the step is, and the standing foot is the foot that is supporting your weight while you are in the process of taking a step.  When taking any step in Ballroom Dancing, you want to use the supporting foot to push your self onto the moving foot.  This should happen for all the patterns that you dance.  

Footwork

The footwork for many patterns are the same for several dances, however, the timing and style of the pattern changes to give the pattern the characteristics of the dance.  One such step is the box step.  It is a basic dance step which can be danced in the Foxtrot, Waltz, Rumba and Samba.  I will give a description for the box step in the Foxtrot and Waltz since these are two of the most popular ballroom dances.

Box step - Foxtrot   Man's part  

  1. Step forward with the left foot (count 1)
  2. Brush right foot to the left foot (count 2)
  3. Step to the side with the right foot (count 3)
  4. Close the left foot to the right foot (count 4)
  5. Step back with the right foot (count 1)
  6. Brush the left foot to the right foot (count 2)
  7. Step to the side with the left foot (count 3)
  8. Close the right foot to the left foot (count 4)    

Lady's part  

  1. Step back with the right foot (count 1)
  2. Brush the left foot to the right foot (count 2)
  3. Step to the side with the left foot (count 3)
  4. Close the right foot to the left foot (count 4)
  5. Step forward with the left foot (count 1)
  6. Brush right foot to the left foot (count 2)
  7. Step to the side with the right foot (count 3)
  8. Close the left foot to the right foot (count 4)    

Box step -Waltz   Man's part  

  1. Step forward with the left foot (count 1)
  2. Step to the side with the right foot (count 2)
  3. Close the left foot to the right foot (count 3)
  4. Step back with the right foot (count 1)
  5. Step to the side with the left foot (count 2)
  6. Close the right foot to the left foot (count 3)    

Lady's part  

  1. Step back with the right foot (count 1)
  2. Step to the side with the left foot (count 2)
  3. Close the right foot to the left foot (count 3)
  4. Step forward with the left foot (count 1)
  5. Step to the side with the right foot (count 2)
  6. Close the left foot to the right foot (count 3) 

The main difference between the box step in the Foxtrot and Waltz is the timing, which changes the styling of the step a little bit.  The Foxtrot is a four count step and as a result, there is a brushing action that occurs as the feet pass one another.  For every step in the foxtrot, the moving foot should always brush past the supporting foot before it moves to its next position, regardless if it is moving forward, backwards or sideways.  The brushing will take an additional count in the timing of the pattern.  This helps to keep your feet under your body and as a result, the footwork will be neater and your balance will be better.  The Waltz is a three count step and because of this, the moving foot will move directly to its next position without brushing.  However, the footwork should still be neat and the feet should stay under the body to help balance.   

Dance Position

Ballroom dances are mostly danced in a closed dance position.  The correct dance position is very important to help both partners dance more comfortably together.  A good dance position helps the man to lead his partner and helps the lady feel the lead.  It will help the couple dance together and the dance will begin to flow.  To get a good dance position, the man should place his right hand against the lower part of the woman's left shoulder blade.  The man should put some pressure with his right hand against her shoulder blade and the woman should rest her shoulder blade into the man's hand.  This will create a good connection. 

The lady should rest her left arm on the man's right arm with her left hand on the man's right upper arm.  The lady's left arm and the man's right arm should remain connected and in contact throughout the dance.  Sometimes the man drops his elbow or the lady will raise her elbow and this will break the connection and make it hard to lead and follow.  The palm of the man's left hand and the palm of the woman's right hand will connect with slight pressure towards each other and be held approximately at eye level.  The woman will stand slightly to the man's right side and should remain there throughout the dance.  The man can help this by making sure his right hand, even though its on the lady's back, stays directly in front of the right side of his chest.    

 

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