Dance Tips


Choose Your Timing Wisely

There’s a time and place for everything. It’s great that you have learned so much, and there is nothing wrong with showcasing your talents. However when there’s 50 people on a 30×30 floor that is not the time to do it, choose your timing wisely.1



Arm tension is especially important when executing turns. For simplicity’s sake, maintain firm wrist, elbow and shoulder tension for sideward, forward and backward movement. Up and down arm motion should be free from resistance. In other words, keep your arms relaxed when they go up or down, in order to easily lead into a turn. However, once the joined hands pass eyebrow level on a turn, the person performing the turn should begin to provide upward pressure and turn under his or her own bent wrist in order to prevent being clotheslined on their partner's arm. Getting knocked in the head is not the goal!2



While traditional etiquette stipulates that the man asks the woman for a dance, it is becoming increasingly common for women to ask men. People who ballroom dance are there to do one thing: ballroom dance. In other words, you don’t need to feel pressured into doing anything more than dancing. In ballroom dancing there’s only one one-liner, and it never gets old. The only pick-up line in ballroom dancing is “May I have this dance?”


When you get more than two people out on the dance floor, collisions can become a problem. So here's another rule of etiquette. Ladies, if you see an oncoming couple about to collide into you and your partner, simply tap your partner gently on the shoulder. This is known as the “international dance panic signal.”


Another point of etiquette comes at the conclusion of the dance. Men, it is polite to walk your partner back to her seat. Generally, it is the man who walks the woman back even if she asked him to dance.


The last and most important point of etiquette is this: No matter what happens, have fun! Ballroom dancing is meant to be enjoyed - like a fine wine or an afternoon walk in the park. Mingle. Get to know other dancers. Watch the way they move and improve upon your own dancing. Enjoy yourself!3



So you’re ready to brave it on a dance floor? Put away your combat boots and fatigues. You won’t be needing them in this jungle. There are some basic points to remember now that you’re going to be around other dancers.


Taking Cover in a Crowd

If you’re feeling a little nervous about being observed by others, here are some suggestions to maintain a little camouflage. If you are a beginning dancer and you want to avoid the fast lane, stay closer to the middle of the dance floor. This is an excellent place to take cover if you’re worried about being seen by others or just want to move along at a slower pace.


The Internationally Recognized Dance Panic Signal

IAnother element that will be new to you in a sea of other dancers will be the potential for collisions. Many times, the leader will not see an oncoming couple. In such cases, it is the follower’s responsibility to gently tap him on the shoulder. We know the temptation may be to scream “Watch out!” and clench onto your partner. However, a gentle tap to indicate a potential collision will be greatly appreciated and will result in a more graceful style and friendly relationship with your dance partner.


In a Jam? March!

Have you ever found yourself in a sticky situation on a dance floor? You know the kind. You’re dancing with someone who doesn’t have a clue as to how a Cha-Cha differs from a Waltz? Or perhaps, you’re the clueless one. In either case, here’s a bit of advice. Remember the “quick” rhythm? A quick equals one count. Remember, “quick, quick, quick, quick,” or “march, 2, 3, 4.” Well, you can apply these “quicks” in such awkward dancing situations. Simply march to the music. It will allow you to get through a lot of sticky situations with confidence. 4




Proper footwork is essential for good form and style. Some general principles to develop good footwork include5:

  1. Carry your weight more on the ball of your foot than on your heel.
  2. Align your feet so they are parallel to your partner’s feet. Your right foot should be pointed in between your partner’s feet. Take straight steps with your toes pointed straight ahead, either forward or backward.
  3. When stepping, the motion should originate from the hip, allowing the leg to swing freely from the joint.
  4. Don’t drag your feet. Take definite steps.
  5. If it’s a fast song, take shorter steps. If it’s a slow song, take longer steps.
  6. When you change directions, you will maintain your balance better if your feet are closer together.



Remember the days when you first learned how to drive a manual transmission automobile? If you were like me, it probably took you a long time to be able to start the car smoothly. But eventually we all learned how to ease in to gear by letting out the clutch gradually.


The beginning of a dance poses a similar problem. Many men don't give their partner any clues that they are about to begin, and by the time they actually start moving their partner feels a sudden jerk. Dancers call this "popping the clutch".


To prevent such bad starts, become familiar with the principle of leaning. A lean prevents you from "popping the clutch" and getting off to a rough start. By preceding all movement with a lean, you decrease the potential for false anticipation by your partner and build her confidence in your ability to lead. Ladies, by tapping into the man’s lean, you will be able to correctly anticipate the direction he wishes to go. The amount of lean directly corresponds to how large or how small the step will be. If the man leans a lot, get ready to take a big step. If it’s a small amount of lean, take a shorter step. Pretty simple! 6



L earning the direction of movement on a ballroom dance floor is crucial. Otherwise you might end up bumping into other couples on the dance floor. Dancing in a crowd should always move counterclockwise around the floor following an imaginary line of dance for both the Waltz and the Fox Trot. These dances are known as progressive dances because they move around the dance floor. The Swing, on the other hand, is more of a confined dance and is great for dancing on crowded dance floors. It is known as a non-progressive dance. The line of dance follows the same principles as a skating rink. The people that are moving fast are on the outside of the floor while those who are moving slower or in more confined areas are in the dead space in the middle. In other words, the progressive dances like the Waltz and Fox Trot are typically done on the outside of the dance floor while the non-progressive dances like the Swing are frequently located in the center. If you're feeling a little nervous about being observed by others, here are some suggestions to maintain a little camouflage. 7



Plateaus aren’t just in Arizona. Everyone experiences an even plane in their progress at some point but don’t panic and don’t get discouraged. At first all learning is progress, and then you have a period of what may be called 'structure". This is where your progressive learning slows to what feels like a crawl. It is important to use this time to solidify previously learned techniques. Use this time wisely because your progress will resume shortly, be patient. 8



Social is as social does. Ballroom dancing originated as a way for people to get together and socialize so do just that. Don’t just stick to one place, get out there, go to different events, and meet new people. 9



Mind your T’s and H’s. Toes and Heels are more important than “just because my teacher said so.” Proper foot placement is the first step to putting the body where it is supposed to be for better leading and following. 10



Keep the variety in your dancing consistent. Everybody leads differently and everybody follows differently. Variety is the spice of life and learning in ballroom dancing. 11



Be aware; always know your surroundings on the dance floor. Take note of the long and short side of the floor and whether you have enough space for the next move. Pay attention to those advanced dancers that move quickly as well as the newcomers that may present a challenge with navigation. Most importantly, be aware of the one in your arms. 12



Be kind at all times. Have patience for not only your mistakes but others as well. We all make mistakes when learning to ballroom and Latin dance, just be able to smile and laugh at yourself. 13



Floor craft is a lot like being aware of others but the next level up. In your smooth dances always dance to where someone is, chances are by time you get there they will have moved on. In your Latin dances remember arms up not out. 14



Never be too good to go back to your grass roots technique and practice. Even those that have been dancing for many years as well as professional teachers still take time out to practice even those most basic of techniques. And remember never say "I know that", whether it be to your teacher who is correcting something or to your partner who is offering you some friendly advice. Open ears means an open mind. 15



Iprove your retention of dance patterns with the following tips 16:

  1. Find five minutes when you can think about a particular dance by yourself. Visualize yourself in dance position and imagine that you are dancing.
  2. For leaders, try to see yourself dancing the patterns of a particular dance (i.e., the Tango). First, focus on the footwork. Next, recall the lead for each of the various steps. Is it a lead signaled by the frame? The raising of your hand?
  3. For followers, focus on your foot patterns and link the lead for each step with the sensation in your body whether it be a raised hand or a turn into promenade or a stop that signals a rocking movement.
  4. Try playing the appropriate dance music to the dance you are visualizing and count the basic rhythm to the music as you imagine yourself dancing the various steps.
  5. Write a cheat sheet with a list of dance steps to take with you to class or a dance you are attending. The creation of the sheet will help you to connect the step patterns to their names in your mind. This will make it easier to recall the necessary footwork and lead and follow the movements.



L earn to roll through your feet. There is not a ballroom dance that is stepped all flat foot although there are a lot of dancers that do or can only roll through thier feet going forward. There are many parts to your foot and you should know which parts are best to dance on or through. The main difference in learning to "social" vs. "competetive" dance is usually in the amount of energy exerted and styling, not in the technique of the dance. You need good technique in both social and competitive dance styles. It is a shame if you learn a dance wrong in the name of "social"or "fun". All dancing should be fun... but it may not be easy. 17



Keep your head up and your eyes facing in the direction that you are moving (nose over toes). While it is natural to look down at your feet to see if you are stepping on your partner or about to be stepped on, by the time your brain gets the message to your feet, it is too late and you will be off the beat of the music. Holding your head erect contributes to a better dance frame, making it easier for both dancers to either lead or follow! 18 - Tips - Choose Your Timing Wisely - Tips - Arm Tension - Tips - Ballroom Etiquette - Tips - Becoming a Survival Dancer - Tips - Fancy Footwork in Social Dance - Tips - Popping the Clutch - Tips - Direction 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Plateaus 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Social 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Toes and Heals 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Variety 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Be Aware 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Be Kind 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Floor Craft 10 Tips to Improve Your Social Dancing - Back to Basics Dance Tips - Improving your retention of dance patterns Dance Tips - Rolling through your feet Dance Tips - Keep your head up


To contact DonnaMarie, call her at (631)398-8054 or send her email at