Deciding to become a better ballroom dancer is a great idea. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be a difficult, time-consuming, or expensive proposition. In fact, these 5 extremely easy activities will help to raise your skill level quickly. When you do them, you’ll look and feel better on the dance floor. Equally important, your future dance partners will appreciate your efforts.
It’s the little things that mean a lot when you decide to become a better ballroom dancer. Like partnership skills.
1. Become a strong leader.
To be sure, this is not about physical strength, it’s about good technique. Accordingly, a leader guides a follower by transferring his weight from one foot to the other. Consequently, she knows where to go. When you’re dancing with body contact (Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, etc.) it’s easy for her to feel the directional movement.
On the other hand, without body contact, the leader must use his frame to communicate. In ballroom dancing, the frame consists of his arms and hands and how he holds his partner as they dance. If the leader wants to become a better ballroom dancer, he must learn to lock his frame into place – no noodle arms allowed. Then, all he has to do is move and his partner will move with him.
A painless method to get the proper feeling of a good frame would be to practice leading by dancing with a chair. “Huh? Dancing with a chair? How does that go?” Well, it’s one of those ridiculously simple things that’ll have you slapping your forehead saying, “Duh“.
To begin with, get a lightweight chair. Then, stand behind it and pick it up holding it a few inches away from your chest. Keeping the chair in front of you, dance a Box Step while you maintain the chair’s distance from your chest. Finally, feel how your arms become a nice, solid frame to guide your lovely partner. Doing this will keep your partners (and the chair) right where they belong, in front of you.
2. Followers, stop anticipating the next step.
A question for the follower, “Two people are dancing together. Obviously, one is the leader and the other is the follower. Who goes first, the leader or the follower?” Very good, he goes and she follows a split second after.
Do you know why this is? It’s because there are a variety of things that determine what he’s going to do next. To be specific, with other couples on the floor, he doesn’t always know where he’s going until the last second, so it would be impossible for you to go at the exact same time. If you try to guess, you’ll throw him off. That’s called anticipation. And guys don’t like it.
How can we fix this problem?
Improving your following is as simple as closing your eyes. That’s it. Now, you’re truly dependent on the leader and are more likely to follow his direction.
I learned this concept from an older couple who came in to take some lessons. She was an experienced dancer and had just begun dating the gentleman, who was a newbie. But, he gamely came in with her because he wanted to become a better ballroom dancer. Besides, he knew it would please her.
Right away, she began doing things that weren’t productive for the partnership. For example, she was back-leading, correcting him, and going wherever she wanted. After I finally convinced her that she wasn’t helping her new partner, she said, “I’ve got an idea”. And, she closed her eyes. It was like magic! She settled down and was following him, right or wrong. And, boy, were they happy.
Over the years, many of my students went about improving their following abilities using this technique. You can just squeeze those ‘baby-blues’ shut or you can use a bandana, a scarf or even a tie to cover them up. Of course, this is only for practice to get the feeling of waiting until the leader moves. This wouldn’t do in a social situation.
Give it a try. I know it’s ridiculously simple, but it’s fun and it works.
Movement matters if you want to become a better ballroom dancer.
3. Get those hips in gear.
You’ll never move naturally until you start improving the way you move your hips when you’re dancing. Admittedly, not every dance uses hip action, but many of them do. And, that goes for you, too, men. Becoming a better ballroom dancer means not being stiff and dancing like a robot.
Here’s a simple recipe to loosen your hips. It starts out like you’re doing a push-up against the wall. To begin with, stand with your hands in front of you at shoulder height and lean into the wall. Next, alternate bending and straightening one knee at a time, keeping your heels on the floor. As a result, you’ll notice how the hips shift from side to side.
Your hip flexibility may be very limited to start, but this is an uncomplicated way to work those babies free of their tight muscles.
Improving this dance means that at the next social, you’ll have more choices.
4. Master the Box Step.
To quickly increase your variety of steps and dances, learn a short and simple Rumba routine to perform at Showcase or a studio party. Rumba is one of the most versatile dances there is. As a matter of fact, you can dance a Rumba Box Step to any kind of music. That means you can use it with Latin, Pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Country, even Waltz. And, it’ll feel good ’cause you’re moving to the music. Keep in mind that, depending on the song, you may have to switch up your timing from slows and quicks to Waltz timing, which is 1-2-3, but the steps will fit perfectly.
Boom, you’re on your way to becoming a better ballroom dancer!
As always, practice makes perfect.
5. “Let’s Dance“
To be sure, David Bowie said it best, “Let’s dance“. A quick fix for improving is to dance whenever and wherever you can.
- Preparing meals.
- Brushing your teeth.
- Reading your emails.
- Waiting for the microwave to heat your food up.
- On the phone.
It doesn’t take a long time. Just grab a few minutes to practice and you’ll be on your way.
Somebody already did a great post about where to dance. Oh, wait, it was me! For some suggestions on places where you can go dancing, please read this Dance Safari post, “You Should Be Dancing – But Where?“.
If you want to become a better ballroom dancer, there is a simple formula:
MORE PRACTICE = BETTER BALLROOM DANCING
As you can see, by stealing a few minutes here and there you’ll be painlessly improving yourself. Looking and feeling better on the dance floor will boost your confidence and have you searching for more opportunities to shake that thing. As the French say, “Vive la danse!”