1. Just do it! Too many would-be dancers have convinced
themselves, or let others tell them, that they ‘just can’t
dance’, so they never even attempt to learn. If you can walk,
you can learn to dance. Ballroom dancing is composed of steps,
forward, back, to the side, and in place. It’s the combining of
these steps in different ways that creates the pattern of a
dance. The steps are learned one at a time, just like when you
were two and learning to walk! Don’t let anyone discourage you,
you CAN learn to dance!
2. Choose a studio carefully. All dance studios are not the
same. It has been my experience that the best value for the
money is with a locally owned, independent studio, rather than
one of the nationwide chains. This is not always the case, but
I’ve found it to be true more times than not. I would also
strongly suggest that you find a studio that caters specifically
to ballroom dancing, not one whose primary interest is ballet,
tap, jazz, with only a couple of ballroom classes added as an
3. Sign up first for a beginner group class. I recommend this
for several reasons. Group classes are usually quite reasonably
priced so there is no huge initial outlay of cash. Everyone in
the group is just like you, a beginner, so there’s less chance
of feeling silly if you miss a step or two. (And you will, but
so will everyone else. You’ll quickly learn to just laugh it off
and keep going.) Whether or not you have a partner will not
matter in a group class. Most instructors will rotate the
partners in a class, partially to take care of uneven numbers of
men and women, but also to improve each member’s ability to
lead, if you’re a man, or follow, if you’re a woman. There’s a
lot of joking and laughing during group classes as everyone
learns new skills and makes mistakes doing so. They’re always a
lot of fun, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin
looking forward to the next class. Classes generally meet once a
week, usually for an hour, for a period of 6 or 8 weeks, at
which time you can choose to continue with that class or choose
4. Don’t get discouraged! You’ll probably come away from that
first class feeling a bit overwhelmed and letting negative
thoughts invade your head, telling you that you’ll never get it
right. Simply not true! You fortunately can’t remember back when
you were two and first learning to walk. How many times do you
suppose you fell on your tushie before you actually made it all
the way across the room? What if you had told yourself to just
give up, this is too hard, I’ll never learn this? I guess we’d
all still be crawling! No, don’t give up. When you get home, try
to repeat at least some of the steps you learned during that
first class. Even if you can’t remember them by the time you get
to your car, the next class almost always starts with a review
of the last class. If you’ll stick to it for the duration of the
6 or 8 week session, you’ll come out on the under end with the
knowledge of some basic moves under your belt, I promise.
5. What should you wear to class? The attire worn to ballroom
dance classes is as varied as the people who attend them. Some
wear jeans or slacks, some women prefer to dance in skirts or
dresses. Wear clothes that are comfortable, perhaps a little
loose, to give you the freedom to move without constriction.
Another thing to consider when choosing your apparel is
temperature. Most studios are kept a little on the cool side, so
you may be tempted to wear a sweater or long-sleeved shirt. I
would advise against this. Believe it or not, your body
temperature will increase as you dance, to the point that some
people actually perspire. A short-sleeved, lightweight shirt
will serve you well. Be clean, casual and comfortable.
6. Your choice of shoes can make the difference between enjoying
ballroom dancing and not being able to even master the steps.
Please don’t make the mistake of wearing rubber-soled shoes.
They don’t offer the proper traction for sliding, spinning or
turning. A loafer-type is good, or any shoe with a smooth sole.
For women, a shoe with a heel makes for attractive movements,
but certainly isn’t a necessity when you’re first getting
started. Later on, you may want to consider purchasing a pair of
dance shoes. These are specifically designed to be worn on the
dance floor and nowhere else. The soles are suede, allowing them
to slide easily, which makes turns and spins almost effortless.
Some studios offer dance shoes for sale, or there are many sites
online from which you can order. I also don’t recommend wearing
open-toed shoes, such as sandals or flip-flops. Remember you’re
in a beginning class, and there is always the possibility of
someone accidentally stepping on those toes!
7. Arrive a few minutes before the time the class actually
begins. There is typically a sign-in sheet and many studios give
out name tags to help you learn your fellow dancers. If you have
dance shoes, you’ll need those extra minutes to change from your
street shoes. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to
mingle a bit with others who are there for the same class.
Nothing disrupts a class more than someone rushing in late while
the instructor is demonstrating a new step.
8. Commit to practice. You will never become proficient in
ballroom dancing, (or anything else, for that matter) without
practice. If you’re having a problem with a particular step or
pattern, it’s perfectly acceptable to hang around a few minutes
after class and go through it a time or two with your partner.
Practice the steps at home once or twice a day, you’ll be amazed
how much better you retain them throughout the week and it will
make the next class just that much easier. This is another
benefit of arriving early for class, it affords you the time to
practice those steps once more before the instructor begins.
Most studios also offer a ‘practice party’ or ‘studio dance’
weekly or monthly. These are excellent for praacticing what
you’ve learned as well as seeing the more accomplished dancers,
which is what you’re striving to become! I can’t emphasize
enough the importance of the studio dances and the role they
play in honing your dancing skills. Make plans to attend
whenever possible, even when you’re new and just starting out.
Maybe even ESPECIALLY when you’re new and just starting out! The
seasoned dancers are always happy to help a newcomer and the
dances provide a perfect complement to your classes.
9. Enjoy all the non-dancing benefits of ballroom dancing.
Through your dancing, you will find a boost in self-confidence,
an increase in balance and an improvement in posture. Through
your dancing, you will raise your heart rate, thus improving
your cardiovascular health. Through your dancing, you will meet
new people, make new friends, improve your social skills, and
possibly establish new business contacts. The dance floor is a
great equalizer. In a beginning class, everyone is a beginner,
whether they’re a doctor or lawyer, a construction worker,
waitress or school teacher. For that hour each week, the
stresses of daily life simply melt away as you immerse yourself
in learning the steps and listening to the music and connecting
with your partner. It’s great therapy and a lot cheaper than a
10. Most importantly of all, HAVE FUN! It’s not a race or a
competition, everyone arrives at the same place eventually,
dancing with their partner and having a wonderful time. You may
experience moments of frustration with yourself or your partner,
but don’t let that overshadow all the benefits of becoming a
ballroom dancer. If you find you’re not enjoying what you’re
doing, consider a different dance. Perhaps the foxtrot or waltz
is not your cup of tea, try the cha-cha, tango or the swing.
Given time, you’ll find your favorite and you can focus on that.
My guess is that you’ll wind up like most ballroom dancers,
loving them all and not wanting to stop until you’ve learned
Welcome to the magical world of ballroom dancing!