Dance Basics

What is Ballroom Dancing?

Ballroom Dancing is a couples dance where couples move to the music using step-patterns and rhythms that match the character of a given song. There are two main types of Ballroom Dance. The first, referred to as the Smooth/Ballroom style of dance, are flowing dances that move around the entire dance floor in a counter-clockwise fashion. The couple is constantly moving on the dance floor, smoothly transitioning from pattern to pattern. Examples are Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep.

The second type of Ballroom Dance is called the Latin/Rhythm style of dance. These dances pretty much stay in one spot on the dance floor. They are energetic dances that reflect the syncopated rhythm of the music being danced to. Examples are Swing, West Coast Swing, Rumba/Bolero, Cha Cha, Salsa/Mambo, Merengue, Disco/Hustle, Samba, Bachata and Pasodoble. Argentine Tango is also danced in a single location although it has more the style of the smooth dances.

Who does Ballroom Dancing?

Ballroom Dancing is a sport for people of all ages and backgrounds. It is for singles, couples and same-sex couples. It does not require any special skills or dance ability. By learning simple dance steps, and their associated timing, you can find yourself quickly out on the dance floor having fun while moving to the music. There are usually several Ballroom events in any given week in the Central Virginia area. The events are open to the public, so anyone can attend. Dance partners are not required. Mixing is encouraged at almost all events so single ladies and gentlemen still get plenty of time out on the dance floor.

Ballroom Dance is an activity you can enjoy at any age. As seen in the recent movie "Mad Hot Ballroom", grade school children enjoy learning and competing in Ballroom. Also, the low impact nature of Ballroom Dance makes it suitable for some people into their 80's or 90's. It is a skill that, once learned, can be used for your entire life. It is also a wonderful lifestyle addition to help keep you healthy and fit.

How is Ballroom Dance taught to a beginner?

Ballroom Dance can be taught to a person or couple individually in a private dance lesson or with the person or couple participating in a group class with 10 to 20 other people. Group classes are less expensive and don't require a dance partner. Private lessons are more expensive but you learn quicker and retain more. In a private lesson, the individual simply dances with the dance instructor while with a couple, the instructor observes the two of you dancing together.

Either way, the instructor explains the character of the dance and its music. Then the instructor teaches the appropriate dance frame (the body/arm position for each dance partner), the foot work and the timing (how to count the foot work) for one dance step. This is all practiced without music, first individually and then with a dance partner. Finally you and your dance partner practice the step to actual dance music. The instructor will slowly give you more and more steps, teaching the necessary lead/follow technique and monitoring your progress, until you are comfortable going out to Ballroom events and dancing without instructor supervision.

How do I start doing Ballroom Dance?

Unfortunately, Ballroom Dance is not something where you can simply jump out onto the dance floor and start dancing.

The first step is to take some classes and, in a surprisingly short time (2 or 3 lessons), you will find yourself enjoying the feeling of gracefully moving to the music. For people with no experience, The Dance Space offers Beginner group classes throughout the week. Check out the calendar on our HOME Page for details. These classes are a fun, inexpensive way to get started.

If you need to quickly learn to dance, like preparing for a wedding, we suggest private lessons, where you or you and your partner can benefit from the full focus of your instructor's attention. A list of the independent instructors, that teach at The Dance Space, can be found on our INSTRUCTORS page.

The second step in doing Ballroom Dance is to get out and "dance"! You need to take your classroom experience and practice it out on the dance floor at least a couple of hours every few weeks. The Dance Space has weekly public dances for your dancing pleasure (see our HOME Page calendar). Also, Richmond boasts a number of dance events each week so check out the links at the bottom of that page.

What happens at a Ballroom Dance event?

The same general format is used for most dances that are open to the public. Upon entering the facility you will be asked to pay for yourself or the couple. There will be seating or tables around the outside of the room which you can use as a home-base throughout the event, storing your dance bag under the chair. Refreshments may be served and, if so, be sure to keep the food and drink off the dance floor. Also, be sure to use appropriate foot gear, either actual dance shoes or street shoes that are in good condition and will NOT damage the dance floor. Sneakers and other shoes that "stick" or flip flops and other shoes that don't hold to your feet, should be avoided.

Dances will often start with a group class for one specific Ballroom dance. The instructor will call everyone out on the floor for the group class and will provide instructions on how the class is to be run (for example leaders in a line on one side, followers in a line on the other). Instructors typically break the material down into small segments that will be practiced without and with music. Usually partners will be rotated from one segment to the next. Group classes do NOT require partners although there may be people without a partner briefly during one segment of the class rotation. One should use that time to practice the step by yourself. If you come as a couple, you can always opt out of the class rotation.

When the dance starts, the band or DJ will play a variety of 2-4 minute songs throughout the event. If you don't know what type of Ballroom Dance that goes with the music, simply watch the couples taking the floor and see what what they dance. Many places will announce the type of dance or have a display board. If you are asked to dance you are free to decline, although it is considered bad manners to dance with anyone else for the remainder of that song. Both leaders and followers are free to ask someone to dance. When asking someone be polite and when the song is done, thank your partner for the dance.