Ballroom Dance Technique – Foot Position vs Footwork

From time to time, when I’m watching a video ballroom dance lesson, I notice there’s some confusion about Foot Position vs Footwork.  Although both techniques are important parts of ballroom dancing, they are indeed very different.

example of foot position
Foot position: Gentleman – left foot forward, Lady – right foot side.

Ballroom Dance Techniques

Here are the basic elements of partner dancing:

  • Foot Position
  • Timing
  • Dance Position
  • Partnership 
  • Leg Action
  • Footwork
  • Style

In this post, we’re addressing Foot Position vs Footwork.

Foot Position

To begin with, Foot Position refers to where one foot is in relation to the other foot. For example, forward and back are Foot Positions. In addition, diagonally forward and diagonally back are Foot Positions.

here’s the description of the foot positions for the Box step.


  1. Left foot forward
  2. Right foot side
  3. Left foot closes to the right foot
  4. Right foot back
  5. Left foot side
  6. Right foot closes to the left foot


  1. Right foot back
  2. Left foot side
  3. Right foot closes to the left foot
  4. Left foot forward
  5. Right foot side
  6. Left foot closes to the right foot
foot position of box step is pictured
Thank goodness we don’t use these anymore!


Literally, Footwork means how you work your foot. In other words, what part of your foot is in contact with the floor.  Furthermore, your foot action or footwork is determined by the characteristics of the dance you’re doing.  

American Smooth and International Ballroom dances use the same footwork.  That’s because they’re traveling dances that move counterclockwise around the room.  In order to maximize the movement, they all begin with a heel-lead for the leader. Additionally, the back steps will roll from the toe to the heel.

Accordingly, this is the description of the footwork for the Slow Waltz Box step.


  1. Heel-toe
  2. Toe
  3. Toe-heel
  4. Toe-heel
  5. Toe
  6. Toe-heel


  1. Toe-heel
  2. Toe
  3. Toe-heel
  4. Heel-toe
  5. Toe
  6. Toe-heel

Still on the subject of Footwork, next we’ll examine American Rhythm and International Latin dances.  In the first place, with the exception of Samba and Paso Doble, these dances are pretty much spot dances.

Moreover, the emphasis is on body movement and expression.  In fact, hip action is prevalent in these dances. For that to happen, the footwork is very different from the Smooth and Ballroom dances.

here’s the footwork for the American Rumba Box step.

This should be easy to remember because steps 1-6 are danced Ball-flat throughout. As a matter of fact, it’s the same for the leader and the follower.

To learn some of the other techniques, read the Dance Safari post, “Ballroom Dancing Basics – Partnership, Dance Position, and Timing“.

Remember that ballroom dancing can make your feet hurt. This is because you’re using your feet in a new way. With this in mind, read this post on, “What You Need to Know About Foot Pain“.

Hopefully, this explanation will help clarify the differences between these two key techniques. You’ve gotta know what direction to move in (Foot Position), and what part of the foot you need to use (Footwork).

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