Direction on the Dance Floor

Which Way Do I Go?

Learning 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.

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. But as you get the hang of it, then venture out into the fast lane.

How to Keep from “Popping the Clutch”

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!

Women Are Always Right… on the Dance Floor!

Ballroom dancing has scored new points with modern feminists because women are always right…on the dance floor.

The first foot that a woman always steps with will be her right. Keep this in mind when you are facing your dance partner. Women, you will always start back with your right foot, while men, you will lead forward with your left.

Fancy Footwork in Social Dance

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

  • Carry your weight more on the ball of your foot than on your heel.
  • 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.
  • When stepping, the motion should originate from the hip, allowing the leg to swing freely from the joint.
  • Don’t drag your feet. Take definite steps.
  • If it’s a fast song, take shorter steps. If it’s a slow song, take longer steps.
  • When you change directions, you will maintain your balance better if your feet are closer together.

Becoming a Survival Dancer

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

Another 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 we discussed? 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.

How To’s and How Do’s of Ballroom Dance

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. Tired of those silly one-liners? Well, 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?” And ladies, you can ask the men to dance with this same one-liner. Pretty easy, isn’t it?

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.” Remain calm! Do not grab on for life. If you do, you will probably end up startling your partner and colliding into the oncoming dance team. 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!

Ballroom is Back!

It is no surprise that ballroom dancing is making such a tremendous comeback. Ballroom dancing carries with it a timeless quality. Remember those romantic scenes when Fred Astaire would sweep Ginger Rogers in his arms and whisk her around the dance floor. Face it, women still love to be romanced, and men, believe it or not, enjoy the chivalry involved in romancing. Ballroom dancing also seems to convey a richness and luxurious quality. In the past, it was a leisure activity which could only be afforded by the well-to-do. Today, while ballroom is being enjoyed by millions of people from all economic brackets and ages, it has not lost its sense of elegance and grace. People enjoy feeling like princes and princesses. Ballroom is bringing all of these qualities back into people’s lives.

Rise and Fall in the Waltz

It is important when dancing the Waltz to feel the music through its lilting rise-and-fall, moving as one unit with your partner. However, before you can move as one unit with your partner, you must master the rise-and-fall by yourself. Let’s try a practice exercise. If at any point you don’t understand a term, don’t forget to use our glossary.

Rise and Fall Practice Exercise

Begin standing upright with your feet together, toes pointing forward. Imagine that you are standing in front of a clothesline. The goal is to go underneath it without ducking or bending at the waist. As you step forward with your left foot “one,” you must bend at the knees to clear the clothesline. You are now beyond it, so you can straighten your knees and step with your right foot to the side “two” and draw your feet together “3.” [See the Waltz Lesson 4: Rise & Fall on the Ballroom for Beginners Video] Repeat this in a succession “1-2-3, down-up-up” to grow more comfortable with the “rise and fall” of the Waltz.

Arm Tension Principles

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!

Put Some Snap to Your Spin

On right and left turns, especially in the Swing, you should twist from the base of your rib cage and snap your hips around to increase the momentum of your spin. This will create a sharper and more lively turn as opposed to merely turning with the feet.

Getting out of corners

Have you found yourself with your back to a wall? The Left Turn is an ideal maneuver for getting out of just such difficult situations. Keep in mind the pendulum principle. Your leg is just like a pendulum. If you halt it, your momentum will swing back the other way. If you let it keep swinging, it will carry you forward. Men, when you execute a Left Turn, don’t let your leg keep swinging. Rather, let your right foot gently kiss the back of your left foot. This will halt your forward motion and automatically change you and your partner’s momentum in the backward direction.

Golden Rule of Swing: When in doubt…turn

One thing that is very important for men when dancing the Swing is to keep going when you mess up. This will not only build your confidence on the dance floor, but your partner will also think you’re a great dancer! Ricardo Salazar, dance instructor for the Ballroom Dance Kit, suggests that his Golden Rule of Swing be implemented in awkward dance situations. Simply stated, the Golden Rule is “When in doubt, turn!” For example, men, if you find your partner doing a step that you don’t know, simply turn! It looks great and she’ll think you’re a fantastic dancer. Ladies, it is important that you remain facing your partner while dancing. If he begins turning, just continue stepping to the beat until he turns back to face you.