What Kind of Ballroom Dancer Do You Want to Be?

What kind of ballroom dancer do you want to be? ‘Get by’ or ‘Great’? You get to decide. There are many reasons to learn ballroom dancing.  Whatever your reason, once you make the decision to learn, the question becomes, “What do you want to achieve?” And, “Do you want to put in the work to learn good ballroom dance technique?”  You probably haven’t a clue.  

No one walks into a dance studio or dance class and says, “I want to be a competitive ballroom dancer.”  On the contrary, we usually hear something more like, “I just want to get by on the dance floor.”  

man can't dance needs better ballroom dance technique

As a matter of fact, that’s a good thing.  The reason is, you don’t have to be an expert before you can use your dancing.  Indeed, simply getting around with a few steps will be fun.

To help you figure out what kind of ballroom dancer you want to be, here’s an introduction to ballroom dance technique.

Foot Position is the #1 technique for a ballroom dancer.

It’s described as ‘where one foot is in relation to the other foot’ – forward, back, side, etc. Foot position is how we create patterns or figures.

Timing

Timing refers to how long you stay on one foot before you go to the other and is counted in slows (2 beats) and quicks (1 beat) or 1-2-3.

Dance Position

Dance position is where you stand in relation to your partner throughout the course of a pattern.

Partnership (Lead & Follow)

Communication by the leader and acknowledgment by the follower as to the direction the couple will move is known as partnership.

Footwork & Leg Action

What kind of ballroom dancer would you be without the good use of the feet and legs to express the music?

Style

The style that you demonstrate when you dance is the icing on the cake!

What ballroom dance technique does a ‘get by’ dancer need to know?

If you’re leaning towards being a ‘get by’ dancer, you’ll need some knowledge of the first three techniques and a basic understanding of partnership skills.  

What this means is you first must know what direction you’re moving in and how long to hold each step. Next comes dance position which is key when it comes to partnership skills. Also,  how to initiate (leader) or respond (follower) so that the two of you can get around safely. Now you’re dancing!  

Which ballroom dance techniques should be used to become a ‘great’ ballroom dancer?

Often students develop a desire to go above and beyond ‘get by’ in their dancing.  They want to be great social dancers.  These are the people that you not only want to dance with, but they’re also the ones you enjoy watching.  This is where footwork, leg action, and style come into play.  In other words, they use a higher level of ballroom dance technique.

Footwork and Leg Action

There are two types of dances in our American Style – Smooth and Rhythm.  Smooth dances are traveling dances.  You use your legs and feet in a specific way to move around the floor.

While Smooth dances travel around the room, Rhythm dances are basically ‘spot dances’.  Hips, legs, and feet are used to show hip action (Latin motion) and create a more rhythmical feeling in the body.

Style

The ballroom dance technique of style is how we express the music.  For instance, some examples in the Smooth dances are:

  • Foxtrot:  An easy-going, carefree dance.  It may have a slight bounce as if you’re walking around feeling pretty good about yourself.
  • Waltz:  A beautiful dance that travels while using what we call ‘rise and fall’.  Consequently, Waltz has a lovely lilt to the dance that fits perfectly with the music.
  • Tango:  A powerful, passionate dance that has sharp, staccato movements as it moves around the floor.  

Expression in the Rhythm dances often includes arm styling.  

ballroom dance technique in latin dancing
  • Rumba:  Sexy and intimate, this dance uses strong hip action along with soft arm and hand styling.
  • Cha Cha:  Playful, flirty, and lively, the Cha Cha uses syncopations (or split beats) to emphasize the ‘cha-cha-cha’ in Latin music.  Furthermore, this dance uses lots of hip action that comes from alternately bending and straightening the knees. In addition, there is a rolling ball-flat foot action.
  • Swing:  Sometimes called Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, or Shag, this versatile dance can be done to music from the Big Band era, 50’s Rock ‘n Roll, Country, Hip-Hop, or Pop music.  Swing is a spirited and fun dance that uses lots of turns and spins. Here’s a video with recommendations on what to wear when you go Swing dancing.

Once you’ve become a ‘get by’ dancer, I hope you decide to upgrade and polish your skills.  The confidence you’ll feel when you use good ballroom dance technique will pay you back many times.  Dance on! By the way, if you want to be the best you can be, read this Dance Safari post, “Ballroom Dancing Success is Within Your Reach“.

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