What Kind of Ballroom Dancer Do You Want to Be?

What kind of ballroom dancer do you want to be, a get-by dancer or a great dancer? The truth is, you get to decide. There are lots of reasons to learn ballroom dancing. Whatever your reason is, once you make the decision to do it, you’ve got to ask yourself, “How good do I want to be?

It’s rare to have someone come into a dance studio or dance class and says, “I want to be a competitive ballroom dancer.”  Actually, we usually hear something more like, “I just want to get by on the dance floor.”  And, since you don’t have to be an expert before you can use your dancing, that’s a good thing.  In fact, simply getting around with a few steps will be fun.

man can't dance needs better ballroom dance technique

On the other hand, if you say you want to be a great dancer, the next question is, “To get there, will you put in the work to learn good ballroom dance technique?”

You see, good technique makes the difference between a get-by dancer and a great dancer.

To help you decide what kind of ballroom dancer you want to be, here’s an intro to ballroom dance technique.

Foot Position is the first technique ballroom dancers learn.

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


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 (3 equal beats).

Dance Position

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

Partnership (Lead & Follow)

Using good partnership skills, the leader invites the follower to move in a certain direction. And, she does.

Footwork & Leg Action

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


Matching your movements and facial expression to the music 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, foot position, timing, and dance position. You’ll also need a basic understanding of partnership skills.  

Which ballroom dance techniques are used to become a great ballroom dancer?

After a while, some students want 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 do not.  Hips, legs, and feet are used to show hip action (Latin motion) and create a more rhythmical feeling in the body.


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 rise and fall.  Consequently, Waltz has a lovely lilt that fits perfectly with the music.
  • Tango:  A powerful, passionate dance that has sharp, staccato movements.  

Expression in the Rhythm dances often includes arm styling.  

  • 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 music. Furthermore, this dance uses lots of hip action that comes from alternately bending and straightening the knees and 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.
ballroom dance technique in latin dancing

Once you’ve become a get-by dancer, I hope you decide to upgrade and polish your skills. The confidence you feel when you use good ballroom dance technique will pay you back many times. Dance on! If you want to be the best you can be, check out this Dance Safari post, “Ballroom Dancing Success is Within Your Reach” for some more tips.

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  1. I’d one were a novice dancer with some mobility limitations, what kind of dance would you recommend if one just wanted to have some fun on a cruise.

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