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 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 action, 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 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 weight.

Six steps, six changes of weight.  It’s extremely important that you change the weight from one foot to the other each time you take a step.  If you don’t, you’ll probably have the next problem.

Stepping on your partner isn’t good.

There are a few different things that cause this.  Sometimes it‘s the issue of not changing weight.  In other words, you step with the correct foot and your partner doesn’t. To be sure, it’s one of the most common mistakes.

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. This is accomplished by having a slightly offset relationship in the closed dance position.

(Listen to Nancy Sinatra here. She knows a little bit about stepping.)

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.  When there’s no body contact, the frame conveys directional movement.

Bad dance posture.

From time-to-time, you’ll forget to hold your dance posture.  However, when you do, it’s difficult 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 if you’re not moving to the music.  The first thing to do is 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, “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 a totally natural part of learning.  As a matter of fact, you’ll find that during each lesson you’re remembering more and more.  Above all, 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 sometimes happens.  Ladies can wear closed-toe shoes if it occurs too often.  
  • Overleading is 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 can be a problem, 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.  Go easy on yourself as you progress. If you’re a technical learner, it may be difficult at first, but eventually you’ll be able to relax and feel the music.

It’s a given that you’re gonna make some of these most common mistakes when you’re learning ballroom dancing. Support and encouragement from your instructors, partners, and fellow students will help.

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  1. What you have said may sound simple when people read it but when confronted by it first hand, you are bound to always do some of those mistakes. I do agree with you. Hopefully this post will give beginner dancers the heads up to help them out on their ballroom dancing goals and to not feel discouraged when making them because even professionals had that problem when they first started, I’m sure of it

    • You are 100% correct. We all learn from our mistakes. My reason for the post was to give new-ish dancers the heads-up.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and for supporting all creative arts.

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