Top 7 Tips – Things to Know Before Starting Ballroom Dancing

Andie Rowe
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History of Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom is the style of dance that is most often performed in social settings. There are four dances that make up the syllabus for the modern ballroom dance that may be performed in competitions: American Waltz, International Waltz, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz.

These dances are a fusion of Spanish, French, and English styles of dance. Because these dances are often performed without a partner, people interested in ballroom dancing are required to have a certain level of skill as individuals, as well as with anyone else that they may be partnered with during competitions.

When ballroom dancing is taught, the classes usually start out as a partnered dance by learning what will be performed following the first few classes. Once the students have learned the new steps, the dances are performed individually for a few different performances, and then the students will eventually put together the entire dance. The instructor will pick up on any differences in the way the dancers put together the dance, and offer suggestions for improvement.

In the ballroom dance world, there is a tendency for people to form cliques and many of the students of one instructor will end up dancing together in competitions. To make sure your students are up to speed with all the other classes, try to find a specialty ballroom dance studio that has instructors that can help your students to progress.

What to Wear Ballroom Dancing?

One of the biggest fears that people have when they are starting ballroom dancing is what to wear. It’s important to wear clothes that work well with the dancing.

Whether you’re in heels or sneakers, there are a few general guidelines to follow. Wear clothes that don’t have a strong chemical odor and that aren’t too difficult to move around in.

Keep in mind that everything you wear will be on display, so wear something flattering that makes you feel good. Choose clothing that is made of soft and stretchy materials. That way, you’ll be more comfortable and be able to move around with ease.

If you’re going to purchase ballroom dance shoes, try them on and walk around the store in them. If you’re placed in a shoe that is too tight, you’ll be uncomfortable and this is the last thing you want! Make sure that you try on at least two pairs of ballroom dance shoes before you buy.

Remember that you’ll probably be taking off your jacket and vest for different aspects of the dance. Keep in mind what you have on underneath when you’re choosing what to wear.

What to Brings to Your First Ballroom Dance Class?

It might sound daunting, but there are a few things you need to do before your first ballroom dance class. It’s not all that different than going to any other kind of class. You want to be prepared and know what to expect.
More Than Just Shoes

It’s not like they are going to ask you to bring your ballroom shoes to your first class, but you can’t just bring yourself. There are a few things you need to bring with you. Depending on the ballroom dance class you are taking, you may want to have the following items:

  • Ballroom shoes appropriate for the style of dance
  • A partner. Some classes allow you to go alone; others require a partner.
  • A bottle of water.
  • A comfortable outfit. It’s not required, but having something loose and a bit easy to move around in will help you feel more comfortable.
  • A positive attitude. Look around the room and see what everyone else is doing. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you have to be stiff and uncomfortable. Look around and be flexible.

Change of Shoes

When it comes to dancing, the most important thing you can invest in is your shoes. Shoes are the first thing that will set you apart from the next dancer, and you will want to be sure that you are comfortable and confident that what you are wearing is the best fit for the activity.

You will want to invest in leather or patent leather shoes that fit well. Although they are more expensive, these shoes will provide you with the best and most comfortable wear. Most shoe companies make their pointe shoes in the same size across the board. They are sized in the same way as a women’s shoe, so they may run larger than you are used to. In between your arch and toes, you should have about a half inch to an inch of space.

You will more than likely not need a shoe stretcher. If you do need a stretcher, it will come with your pointe shoes assuming that you bought them new. A few companies specialize in wide shoes, which is useful for dancers with feet outside of the normal range of size.

A drink

If you are a non-alcoholic, then don’t have any before your class. A non-alcoholic drink can relax you, but don’t have too much or you’ll just want to go home and fall asleep. It’s easier to focus on the class after a good night’s sleep.

Towel

When it’s time to dance, you’ll need a partner, so it’s great to bring one along to class. If you don’t have a partner, that’s not a problem, but you may find that it’s harder to follow the instructor's instructions.

If you do bring a partner and need to wipe off the sweat, you might send them away to the towel station for a fresh towel. It’s a little awkward, just like asking a stranger to go get you a towel at a gym.

Instead, offer to go get your partner a towel. It’s safe and courteous, and it shows your willingness to go above and beyond. Even if they insist that they don’t need one, it’s still polite, so don’t turn down an offer for a nice, fresh towel.

A Notebook

Here’s a list of some of the most important things to remember in ballroom dancing. They will come in handy once you start dancing.

The Golden Rule – Always Follow the Teacher’s Instructions

Your dance instructor is the most important person in the whole room while you are learning a new dance. You should do whatever she/he says because they are the one person who knows more than you do about the dance itself.

New beginnings might take some time, but why rush if you want to learn the new move fast?

In any case, remember that you are not here to be somebody that you are not. You’re entering a room with people who want to share in something beautiful, and you should be mindful of that.

Leave any Preconceived Ideas about Dancing out of the Room

Don’t think that you can pull off an intricate dance in your first week of lessons. It’s not going to happen, so why even try?

Learn all that you can in a controlled, comfortable environment, and practice as much as possible. This will be how those difficult moves come to fruition.

Be Patient with Yourself

What Steps Will I be Learning?

There are literally hundreds of different ballroom dances that exist. Some are danced a certain way in the West, but different cultures do them their own way. The amazing thing is that they are all dance styles. When you learn to dance ballroom then you’ll be able to dance anything!

Below are the 7 most popular ballroom dances you can learn to dance individually, or to read more about the 7 most beautiful ballroom dances you can learn in a short amount of time.

{1}. Waltz: The Waltz was invented in the 1700’s as a faster and more flowing dance then the Minuet. From a history standpoint, the Waltz was a controversial dance because even back then, there was a lot of pressure to please others. Today, Waltzing is a very elegant and beautiful style of ballroom dance.
{2}. Tango: The Tango originated in Argentina and is a dance of passion and romance. Despite being developed over 100 years ago, the Tango still has its original grace and style but is also a very exciting dance to dance.
{3}. Quick Step: The Quickstep is a very lively dance that mixes elements of the Waltz and Foxtrot together.

The Foxtrot

There’s no lack of fox trots in the world these days with musicians using the tempo in songs and new types of dances being named as “fox trots.” But the origin of fox trot itself is what we call foxtrot. The dance emerged after the Great War in the early 1920s and was made popular by the big band era of jazz. It’s popularity continues on today being performed in competitions and it’s stepping movements is used in other music genres.

The interesting thing about the fox trot is that everyone makes that same mistake when learning this dance. It’s the two-step and the grapevine that most ballroom dancers mess up when first starting the foxtrot. Most dance schools advise you to start with a swing version and then gradually add the steps of the foxtrot once you get the hang of the swing.

What’s amazing about the fox trot is that it’s a dance made for the ballroom but it can be used for so many other things. You can use it in a wedding, in a jazz club or at the prom, it looks great and it’s always enjoyable.

The Waltz

The waltz is a graceful ballroom dance that is easily recognizable by its 3/4 time tempo. It is usually counted as 1-2-3, 1-2-3. This is a comfortable way to dance for anyone.

The waltz has been around since before the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that it was introduced to many Western countries, like the United States. It was accepted and enjoyed in the United States very quickly. Today, hundreds of variations of the waltz are available. One of the most popular waltz variations is the Viennese Waltz.

The Viennese waltz was born in Vienna, Austria. It has been slightly altered over the decades, but it still has the same smooth feeling and elegant gracefulness with which it was first introduced. The best part about the Viennese waltz is that it’s even simpler than the original waltz, making it make an excellent choice for the beginner dancer looking to add a new flavor to their dance repertoire.

Here are some other very useful tips to help you learn to dance the waltz:

Cha-Cha-Cha

The cha-cha is probably one of the easiest dances that many wedding DJs and bands will offer. It’s not a complicated dance by any means, and the steps are easy enough that a 4-year-old could probably do it. The cha-cha is sometimes referred to as the fast 2-step.

However, the pace can be increased, which may make it a little more challenging. It’s really upbeat and fun, and it’s a dance that people of all ages can do. You can find the cha-cha steps in a vast majority of wedding songbooks, so it’s a popular tune to dance to.

Do You Need to be a Naturally Good Dancer, to Start Ballroom Dancing?

Anyone can learn how to dance. Of course if you’re a naturally talented dancer, have a natural sense of rhythm and have the ability to make quick decision on the spot while moving, you could progress faster. If not, you’ll still be able to learn how to dance. The thing is, in ballroom dancing, you need no special skills to start.

In fact you probably have some basic skills already. Have you ever tried to dance like you do when you use to make wedding toasts? Or walked in time to the music at a party? Or at least shown off some of your moves at the wedding? Chances are, you already know most of what you need to start ballroom dancing.

The basics of ballroom dancing like waltzing, tango, foxtrot and slow foxtrot are simple and easy to learn in a couple of lessons. If you find yourself enjoying ballroom dance and want to continue learning at a more advanced level, then you could progress to the intermediate level with the help of a good dance teacher and once you get there you can decide if you want to go much further and progress to the expert level. Many people who start ballroom dancing are able to successfully progress to the intermediate level or beyond.

Be Social, Not Shy!

Dancing is a great way to meet new people. In fact, you’ll be meeting potential new friends and partners on every level you take. In addition to the other dancers who will be on your level, you will also meet the dance instructors who’ll be learning alongside you. So if you’re shy, a little dancing will help you get over that and make you more sociable.

Should I go to a Private Class to Start?

If you’ve ever thought of taking ballroom dancing lessons, the most common question on your mind might be whether you should do it alone or with a partner. While both methods have their advantages, here are some things to think about when deciding if you should start out by taking private lessons instead of joining a dance class to learn how to dance.

Private Lessons Are less Intimidating

Some people are just nervous about taking a class to learn how to dance. They may feel a little embarrassed about being the only person who doesn’t know how to dance very well. Alternatively, you may be the embarrassing person who’s just learning how to dance, and you’re worried about trying to move around a room full of people who are all more experienced than you are.

With a private class, you can avoid all of this. You’ll have your own private instructor, and you won’t have to worry about what anybody else thinks about your dancing skills (or lack thereof). This can be enough to make you feel more confident, and it can even boost your progress, because you won’t be wasting time being nervous that other people are watching and judging you.