Ballroom Dancing Basics – Partnership, Dance Pos., Timing

It’s nice to be fluent in ballroom dancing and have lots of steps to sweep your partners off their feet.  However, steps do not a dancer make! Ballroom dancing basics are the key to enjoying each and every dance. 

Ballroom dancing basics - open facing dance position.

Fundamentals that will make a difference in your dancing include:

Ballroom Dancing Basics #1- Partnership

The first thing to remember is, since ballroom dancing involves two people, the way you present yourself to your partner is very important. To begin, hold yourself in one piece, taking care not to have the head, arms, and legs flailing around independent of the body. The appearance should be confident, but not stiff.

One very important fundamental to remember is that a leader lets his follower know where to go by changing his weight from one foot to the other. With this in mind, proper dance posture will make it easier to establish a good connection with your partner. As a result, you’ll be easier to dance with – and that’s good.

When dancing the Smooth dances (Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz) there is body contact. The leader simply moves in the direction that he wants his follower to go and she will happily follow.

Since there is no body contact in the Rhythm dances, the partners use their frame for connection. In ballroom dancing, the frame is how you hold your arms in relation to your partner. The leader’s weight change is conveyed to the follower through a slight resistance in the arms. This technique makes you a better partner.

Read this post to learn about being a good partner in everyday life.

#2 – Dance Position

The definition of the ballroom dancing technique called Dance Position is, “Where you stand in relation to your partner“. With this in mind, learn the fundamental signals that indicate which dance position you’ll be using. No discussion of ballroom dancing basics would be complete without an explanation of the most common Dance Positions.


Standing in a dance hold facing each other.

Open Facing

Positioned apart and facing each other with a one or two-hand hold.


The follower will turn her head to the right, open slightly from her partner, and travel forward with the leader.


Known as a backward Promenade, the follower is led into Promenade position and travels backward with the leader.

Outside Partner

With a slight rotation left or right while maintaining a strong frame, a leader indicates the Outside Partner dance position.


Popular in Cha Cha and Rumba, the Side-by-Side position is the result of both partners opening up and positioning themselves directly right or left of their partner.

#3 – Timing

Last, but not least, comes Timing. This very important fundamental of ballroom dancing involves moving in time to the music. The basics of dance posture assure good balance making it easy to stay with the rhythm. Increased confidence and a feeling of being one with the music will follow.

When it comes to dancing, things like expression and style are the icing on the cake. Two people moving as one is a big deal and pretty cool. But, when it’s done with a joyful abandon while expressing the feeling of a particular song, it’s heavenly.

For more thoughts on Timing and Rhythm, please refer to this Dance Safari post, “Rhythmically Challenged? It’s All in Your Head!“.

As a final point, the ballroom dancing basic techniques outlined above will make more sense to you after you achieve a good foundation in your dancing. Although you may be introduced to some of them early on, it’s probably not until you’re working at the Bronze level that you will practice them consistently. The beauty of it is that when you do, they will serve you all of your dancing days.

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