Most Common Mistakes People Make When Learning Ballroom Dancing

Growing pains.  That’s what we’re going to call the most common mistakes people are likely to make when learning ballroom dancing.  All instructors know about and expect you to make these boo-boos.

Here are a few of the most prevalent missteps of beginning ballroom dancers.

Not changing weight properly is one of the most common mistakes.

This is a big one.  We all agree that ballroom dancing is moving with a partner around the dance floor, right?  In order to move around the floor, we must transfer our weight from one foot to the other.  This is called changing weight.

For example, the man’s part of a very basic step, the Box step, is as follows:

  1. Left foot steps forward.
  2. Right foot moves to the side of the left foot.
  3. Left foot closes to right foot.  Change weight.
  4. Right foot steps back.
  5. Left foot moves to the side of the right foot.
  6. Right foot closes to left foot. Change weight.

Six steps, six changes of weight.  It’s extremely important that you change the weight each time you take a step.  If you don’t there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have the next problem.

Stepping on your partner or getting stepped on by your partner.

There are a few different things that cause this.  One is the aforementioned issue of not changing weight properly.  If you step with the correct foot and your partner does not, someone’s getting stepped on. 

There is also the fact that the traveling dances, Fox Trot, Waltz, Tango, and Viennese Waltz, have the man stepping forward into the lady.  Awkward, no?  Yes.

If the leader tries very hard to avoid stepping on his partner, there’s a good chance he’ll get her.  He might try to step around her feet, sort of in a waddling fashion.  In order to avoid an accident as he’s stepping forward, he must be brave and step outside her feet and between her feet.

Problems with the frame.

The frame is how the dancers hold their arms.  They have tone and there is a slight feeling of pressure between the partners.

In ballroom dancing, a man leads a lady by transferring his weight from one foot to the next.  If there is body contact, it’s easy for her to feel his movement.  The frame is used to communicate when we don’t use body contact.

Bad dance posture.

Sometimes it’s not easy to remember to hold your dance posture.  There are a lot of things on your mind. However, failure to do so will result in an inability to move together as a team.

most common mistakes people make when learning danceWhat is a good dance posture?  Hold your head up with ears over your shoulder, shoulder over your hips, hips over knees, and knees over the center of your foot.  Looks terrific and will give you great balance.

Not paying attention to the music can lead to missteps.

No matter how many steps you know, it’ll never feel good unless you’re moving to the music.  The first thing to do is to find the beat.  It may be drums, percussion, the bass, or guitar, but that’s what you’re listening for.  This will tell you when to move.  Please read the Dance Safari post entitled “Rhythmically Challenged?  It’s All in Your Head” for more information.

Forgetting things you’ve been introduced to.

This is totally natural and actually, it’s a part of learning.  Each lesson you will find that you remember more and more.  Just give it time and enjoy the journey.

What are the challenges of partner dancing?


  • Stepping on or getting stepped on is always on the mind of new dancers.  You must accept that it’s going to happen.   Ladies may want to wear closed toe shoes if it’s occurring too often.  
  • Overleading happens when a man puts too much energy into leading things like underarm turns and spins.  There is a chance that the follower could sustain a slight shoulder injury.  This problem is alleviated by learning proper leading techniques.
  • If you’re dancing on a crowded floor, then getting hit or kicked by another couple will happen from time to time.  The solution is to be aware of your surroundings and remember to keep things compact when social dancing.


  • Communication errors in leading or following will always happen, especially for beginners.  If you mislead or don’t follow something, don’t feel bad.  My advice to the gentleman is to attempt to lead the move one more time.  If your partner misses it again, drop it and move on to something else.  That’s good manners and a part of ballroom dance etiquette.
  • The fear of being too close is a real thing.  Ballroom dancing is meant to be done close.  However, some people are a bit reluctant to keep close contact, and they must be respected.  This is where having a good frame and dance posture comes in handy.
  • Over-thinking and over-analyzing the steps and techniques we use in partner dancing can take the joy out of learning.  A technical learner will find it difficult, but he or she eventually will have to relax and feel the music.

It’s a given that you’re going to do some of the most common mistakes people make when learning ballroom dancing.  Support and encouragement from your instructors, partners, and fellow students will make the difference between giving in or giving up.

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