Deciding to become a better ballroom dancer is a great idea. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. In fact, these 5 easy activities will help you look and feel good on the dance floor. It’s the little things that mean a lot when you decide to become a better ballroom dancer.
Improving partnership skills is a big deal.
1. Become a strong leader.
It’s important to understand, this is not about physical strength. On the contrary, it’s about good technique. In ballroom dancing, the leader guides the follower by transferring weight from one foot to the other. This is how she knows where to go. When you’re dancing with body contact (Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, etc.) it’s easy for her to feel the directional movement.
However, without body contact, the leader must use his frame to communicate.
In ballroom dancing, the way the leader uses his arms and hands to hold his partner is called the frame. If the leader wants to become a better ballroom dancer, he must learn to lock his frame into place – no noodle arms allowed. Then, all he has to do is move and his partner will move with him.
One way to get the feeling of a good frame is to practice leading by dancing with a chair. “Huh? Dancing with a chair? How does that go?” Well, it’s one of those ridiculously simple things that’ll have you slapping your forehead saying, “Duh.”
To begin with, get a lightweight chair. Then, stand behind it and pick it up holding it a few inches away from your chest. Keeping the chair in front of you, dance a Box Step while you maintain the chair’s distance from your chest. Finally, feel how your arms become a nice, solid frame to guide your lovely partner. Doing this will keep your partners (and the chair) right where they belong, in front of you.
2. Followers, stop anticipating the next step.
A question for the follower, “Two people are dancing together. Obviously, one is the leader and the other is the follower. Who goes first, the leader or the follower?” Very good, leader first then follower a split second later.
Do you know why this is? It’s because there are a variety of things that determine what he’s going to do next. To be specific, with other couples on the floor, he doesn’t always know where he’s going until the last second, so it would be impossible for you to go at the exact same time. If you try to guess, you’ll throw him off. That’s called anticipation. And guys don’t like it.
How can we fix this problem?
Improving your following is as simple as closing your eyes. That’s it. Now, you’re truly dependent on the leader and are more likely to follow his direction.
I learned this from an older couple who came in to take some lessons. She was an experienced dancer and had just begun dating the gentleman, who was a newbie. But, he agreed to come in with her because he wanted to become a better ballroom dancer. Besides, he knew it would make her happy.
Right away, she began doing things that weren’t helpful. For example, she was backleading, correcting him, and going wherever she wanted. After I convinced her that what she was doing wasn’t beneficial, she said, “I’ve got an idea.” And, she closed her eyes. It was like magic! She settled down and was following him, right or wrong. And, boy, were they happy.
Over the years, many of my students improved their following using this technique. You can just squeeze those ‘baby-blues’ shut or you can use a bandana, a scarf, or even a tie to cover them up. Of course, this is only for practice to get the feeling of waiting until the leader moves. This wouldn’t do in a social situation, now would it!
Movement matters if you want to become a better ballroom dancer.
3. Get those hips in gear.
True, not every dance uses hip action, but many of them do. And, that goes for you, too, men. Becoming a better ballroom dancer means not being stiff like a robot.
Here’s a simple exercise to loosen your hips. To begin, stand with your hands out in front of you at shoulder height and lean into the wall like you’re doing a wall push-up. Next, alternate bending and straightening one knee at a time, keeping your heels on the floor. As a result, you’ll notice how the hips shift from side to side.
Your hip flexibility may be very limited to start, but this is a quick way to work those babies free of their tight muscles.
Improving this step means you’ll get more dances.
4. Master the Box Step.
To quickly increase your variety of steps and dances, learn a short and simple Rumba routine to perform at Showcase or a studio party. Rumba is one of the most versatile dances. As a matter of fact, you can dance a Rumba Box Step to any kind of music. And, it’ll feel good ’cause you’re moving with the music. Boom, you’re on your way to becoming a better ballroom dancer!
As always, practice makes perfect.
5. “Let’s Dance“
To be sure, David Bowie said it best, “Let’s dance!”
When to practice…
- Preparing meals.
- Brushing your teeth.
- Reading your emails.
- Waiting for the microwave to heat your food up.
- On the phone.
It doesn’t take a long time. Just grab a few minutes when you can and you’ll be on your way.
Where to go dancing…
Somebody already did a great post about where to dance. Oh, wait, it was me! For some suggestions on places to go dancing, please read this Dance Safari post, “You Should Be Dancing – But Where?“.
If you want to become a better ballroom dancer, there is a simple formula:
practice + MORE PRACTICE = BETTER BALLROOM DANCING!
As you can see, by stealing a few minutes here and there you’ll be painlessly improving yourself. Looking and feeling better on the dance floor will boost your confidence and have you searching for more opportunities to shake that thing. As the French say, “Vive la danse!”