Maybe you’re trying to get ready for your first dance on your wedding day. Or maybe you’re feeling inspired after watching Dancing with the Stars and seeing the celebrities learn to ballroom dance from scratch. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance, but have never had the time, opportunity, or courage to learn. No matter what has drawn your interests to ballroom dancing, it can be a bit intimidating if you feel like you have two left feet! The tips outlined below will get you performing ballroom dance steps in no time.
Select a Style of Dance
Ballroom dancing is comprised of many different styles of dance. In international dance competitions, the recognized styles of standard and Latin ballroom dance are waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, samba, cha cha cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive. However, there are many other popular forms of ballroom dancing, including the Argentine tango, mambo, and swing.
While it’s certainly possible to learn more than one (or even all!) of these styles, you should stick to one at first. Each style has its own character, style, posture, and ballroom dance steps that you will need to focus on and master. If you are learning to ballroom dance for your wedding or a particular event, obviously that will dictate the style of ballroom dancing you should practice. But if you are just learning for fun, take time to learn about each of these styles and pick the one that appeals to you the most.
Familiarize Yourself with the Music
Once you have selected which ballroom dance you want to learn, start listening to music that is commonly used for that style of dance. Try to notice similarities between these songs, such as the tempo (how fast or slow the song is) and rhythmic patterns (a repetitive beat pattern). Internalizing the sound and feel of the music is a great way to prepare yourself to dance to it!
Learn How to Hear and Count the Beat
Every song has a steady beat. It may be slow, fast, or somewhere in between, but this constant beat is what drives the song and will also be what you dance to. Before you move your feet, you must first learn how to count to the beat. Most songs will use either a count of six or eight. If you are having trouble, try clapping to the beat. Using a physical action can help you learn to recognize the beat.
Dance Like No One’s Watching
Now that you’re familiar with the music and the beat, it’s time to start dancing! It isn’t important what steps you take at first — just start moving your feet and body to the beat in whatever way the music speaks to you. Don’t worry about feeling silly, since this is just a warm-up exercise to help you get used to moving to the music. Have fun with it!
Learn the Steps
Now is the time to start learning the proper ballroom dance steps. There are many methods you can use to learn ballroom dance steps, including group classes, private dance lessons, and online videos. Don’t rush and try to learn all of the ballroom dance steps at once. Instead, take your time to ensure that you are properly executing each move with good technique. Take each move individually and practice it over and over again to the music. While this may seem boring at times, repetitive practice helps to ingrain the move into your muscle memory so that you can perform it without much conscious thought. It’s also smart to practice in front of a full-length mirror so you can watch the positioning of your body.
If you are having trouble learning a move, turn off the music and do the move as slowly as possible. Keep practicing slowly until you are very comfortable with the move, then slowly increase the speed until you have mastered it at full speed. If you just can’t seem to get it, don’t get frustrated! Take a break and come back to the move at another time.
Adding Flair to Your Dance
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you may want to add some flair and pizzazz to your dancing! You can add a lot of personality to your dance simply through a simple glance with your eyes or by changing your facial expressions. Try to really feel all of the emotions behind the music and use your full range of movement to convey these feelings. These subtle nuances make all the difference between a technically good dance and a spectacular dance that dazzles your audience (even if it’s only your cat watching)!
Study the Art
Just like a football player watches videos of old plays to prepare himself for a game, you should take time to watch other ballroom dancers. Thanks to websites like YouTube, this is easier to do than ever before in the comfort of your own home. Whenever you have the opportunity, go watch live ballroom dancing performances and competitions, also. While you watch others dance, study how they move and express themselves.
Perfect Your Dancing
While you can learn some steps at home, if you really want to excel at ballroom dancing, it’s best to sign up for private dance lessons. The one-on-one guidance that you will receive from your instructor will help you improve your dancing tremendously. Don’t worry about having two left feet — your teacher will be excited that you want to learn and will help you achieve your goals!
Photo by Jeff