Arts Appeal

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Four Tips for Beginning Ballroom Dancers

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Ballroom dancing is a great hobby that’s social, active, and tons of fun! From the acrobatics of East Coast Swing to the stately Viennese Waltz, there’s something for everyone.

But if you’re feeling nervous about heading to that first lesson without a little background, no worries. Take a look at these basic tips to get you off on the right foot.

1. Gentlemen, lead with your left, because ladies are always right!

With very few exceptions, every ballroom dance step sequence begins with the lead dancer (the gentleman, typically) stepping with his left foot, either forward or backward, while the lady follows with her right. If you ever find yourself confused, just remember: lead with your left, and ladies are always right.

2. Work on the Closed Hold

The closed dance hold is your home base in ballroom dancing. In this stance, the partners are slightly offset, each standing slightly to the right of the other so that no one’s toes are stepped on. The gentleman’s left hand holds the lady’s right; don’t interlace your fingers, as that makes it difficult to quickly change to other positions.

ballroom dancers

Unlike awkward high school slow-dances, the gentleman’s right hand does not go on the lady’s hip. Rather, he keeps it against her left shoulder blade, maintaining contact all the way through his wrist. This allows him to easily lead her through the figures of the dance and doesn’t leave her wondering what he’s planning to do next.

3. The Importance of Strong Posture

Standing straight and tall is crucial to cutting a dashing figure out on the dance floor. It helps keep you and your partner aligned, allows you to keep your head up to watch for other couples, and in general looks more dramatic.

Though it’s important to stay flexible enough for smooth and graceful movements, keeping a firm stance allows you to more easily lead (or follow) your partner. This is especially true of keeping some tension in your arms. This allows the gentleman to direct turns, promenades, and other changes in direction.

When working on your posture, imagine yourself like a tree, strong enough to withstand a gale, but also flexible enough to bend with it.

4. Don’t Fight the Music

If you’ve ever played an instrument or sung in a chorus, you know that music is broken down into beats. Those beats are the pulse that drives music forward and dictates how dancers will move through their steps.

What can be tricky is that in order to keep in time with the music, each footstep should land on the beat, rather than starting on it, and some dances call for “offbeat” steps, or those that land between beats.

If you’re not accustomed to thinking of music in this way, the easiest thing to do is listen to ballroom dance music in your free time. That way, you can practice even sitting on the couch!

With these tips and tricks in mind, you’ll be cutting a rug in no time. Check out ballroom dance classes to take your new skills to the next level.