Most Common Mistakes People Make in Ballroom Dancing

Growing pains.  That’s what we’re gonna call the most common mistakes in ballroom dancing.  Your instructors know about them and expect you to make these boo-boos.

Here are the missteps that new ballroom dancers make.

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

This is a big one.  We all agree that ballroom dancing is moving around the dance floor with a partner, right?  In order to get around, there’s gotta be a change of weight from one foot to the other. 

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

  1. Left foot steps forward.
  2. The right foot moves to the side of the left foot.
  3. The left foot closes to the right foot.  Change in weight.
  4. Right foot steps back.
  5. The left foot moves to the side of the right foot.
  6. Finally, the right foot closes to the left foot. Change in 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, you’ll probably have the next problem.

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

(Listen to what could happen here. Nancy Sinatra knows a little about this.)

There are a few different things that cause this very common mistake.  One is the issue of not changing weight.  In other words, you step with the correct foot and your partner doesn’t. 

Also, keep in mind that the traveling dances, Fox Trot, Waltz, Tango, and Viennese Waltz, have the man stepping forward into the lady.  Awkward, no?  Yes.

In order to avoid an accident when stepping forward, the leader must be brave and step outside the follower’s feet with the left foot and between the feet with the right.

Problems with the frame.

The frame is the name for how dancers hold their arms.  The arms are toned with a slight feeling of pressure between the partners.

In ballroom dancing, a leader communicates direction by transferring weight from one foot to the other.  When there’s body contact, it’s easy for the follower to feel.  The frame is used when there’s no body contact.

Bad dance posture.

From time-to-time, you’ll forget to hold your dance posture.  However, that’ll make it hard to move together as a team.

most common mistakes people make when learning dance

What is a good dance posture?  In order to achieve 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.  Not only does this look terrific, but it’ll also give you great balance.

Not paying attention to music can lead to missteps.

No matter how many steps you know, it’ll never feel good unless you’re moving to the music.  To begin with rhythm, first find the beat.  It may be drums, percussion, the bass, or guitar, but that’s what you’re listening for.  That’ll tell you when to move. 

Please read the Dance Safari post entitled “Rhythmically Challenged?  It’s All in Your Head” for more on this.

Forgetting things you’ve been introduced to.

It’s important for you to know that forgetting is totally natural, and it’s a part of learning.  As a matter of fact, you’ll find that during each lesson you’re remembering more and more.  Just give it time and enjoy the journey.

What are the challenges of partner dancing?


  • Stepping on your partner’s feet or getting your feet stepped on is always a possibility.  Ladies can wear closed-toe shoes if it happens too often.  
  • Overleading happens when a leader puts too much energy into things like underarm turns and spins. This will sometimes result in a sore shoulder for the follower.
  • If you’re dancing on a crowded floor, getting hit or kicked by another couple is a possibility.  Remember to keep things compact when you’re 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 leader is to attempt the move one more time.  If your partner misses it again, drop it and go 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.  On the other hand, ballroom dancing is meant to be done close.  Even so, some people are a bit reluctant to keep close contact, and that must be respected.  This is why a good frame and posture are so important.
  • Over-thinking and over-analyzing steps and techniques can take the joy out of learning.  Even though a technical learner will find it difficult at first, eventually he or she will relax and feel the music.

It’s a given that you’re gonna make some of these common mistakes when you’re 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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