“Ballroom dancing” conjures images of extravagant gowns and jewel encrusted tiaras reminiscent of 15th century Europe.  While this was a sport for Europe’s elite aristocrats, it’s since become a favorite American pastime.  

Don’t believe me?  Just turn on the television.  By now you’ve probably seen an episode or two of ABC’s enormously successful, "Dancing with the Stars" – a televised dancing competition and proof of ballroom dancing’s popularity. 

The great thing about taking up this exercise is that it also serves as a creative outlet, and it doesn’t feel like work.  Plus, you’ll constantly meet new people along the way. 

Beginner classes typically include the Waltz, Tango, Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Foxtrot and Merengue.  Some of these classes will require you to bring a partner so make sure you look into it before you show up.  In any case, you want to find someone to practice with outside of the classroom.  

Keep in mind that the most important part of these dances are the steps.  Make things easy on yourself and begin with dances that use a simple box step.  Individual dances will use different counts and parts of the body to complete the box step, but they all follow the same foot placement.  

The Lead moves forward left, side right, close the feet, back right, side left, close the feet. The Follow moves back right, side left, close the feet, forward left, side right, close the feet.  Try to focus on nailing these down and then you can move on to body position and improving your technique.  “Ballroom dancing” conjures images of extravagant gowns and jewel encrusted tiaras reminiscent of 15th century Europe.  While this was a sport for Europe’s elite aristocrats, it’s since become a favorite American pastime.  

Don’t believe me?  Just turn on the television.  By now you’ve probably seen an episode or two of ABC’s enormously successful, "Dancing with the Stars" – a televised dancing competition and proof of ballroom dancing’s popularity. 

The great thing about taking up this exercise is that it also serves as a creative outlet, and it doesn’t feel like work.  Plus, you’ll constantly meet new people along the way. 

Beginner classes typically include the Waltz, Tango, Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Foxtrot and Merengue.  Some of these classes will require you to bring a partner so make sure you look into it before you show up.  In any case, you want to find someone to practice with outside of the classroom.  

Keep in mind that the most important part of these dances are the steps.  Make things easy on yourself and begin with dances that use a simple box step.  Individual dances will use different counts and parts of the body to complete the box step, but they all follow the same foot placement.  

The Lead moves forward left, side right, close the feet, back right, side left, close the feet. The Follow moves back right, side left, close the feet, forward left, side right, close the feet.  Try to focus on nailing these down and then you can move on to body position and improving your technique.  

Here are some beginner box steps for the classic Waltz, Foxtrot and Rumba:

Waltz

To do the Waltz you and your partner will need to create a box on the dance floor in two 3-counts – 1-2-3, 1-2-3.  To make things easier, place the following box steps on the floor with printouts or chalk beforehand: 

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Foxtrot

The Foxtrot is a basic tango rhythm from the 1910s.  For this dance, you will use 8 beats, brushing or tapping on 2 and 6 – step, brush, side, together, step, brush, side, together.  As you can see, the Rumba steps are pretty simple, so this is a great dance for beginners. 

Rumba

The Rumba is a Cuban and Latin-style dance that employs the same box step seen in the Waltz and Foxtrot.  But in the Rumba, there is a hip action on the 2 and 6, rather than the brushing or tapping of the feet seen in the Foxtrot.  And the first step takes 2 beats while the last two steps take one beat each – slow…quick quick…slow…quick quick.

Once you’ve mastered these simple box step moves, you might want to try slightly harder dances like the Tango or Salsa:

Tango

More challenging than the 1-2-3 pace of the Waltz, Tango steps move slow…slow…quick-quick-slow… The lead will start forward using the left foot while the follow steps back with the right foot.  Once you master the following steps, you can work your way up to more challenging versions of this dramatic dance. 

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Salsa

A blend of Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, the Salsa has some of the easiest steps for beginners – 6 steps over 8 counts of music.    

Practicing at home will certainly improve your dancing skills, but if you're more of a visual or hands-on learner you should seek out a class in your community.  Not sure where to find one? A simple way of finding ballroom dance groups is searching the web.  Sites like Meetup.com, Google and local forums are a great place to start.  You can even download an app to easily discover local groups on your phone.  

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Another thing you can do is search Youtube.com for free tutorials or to see how a dance move should be carried out.  Dancing is a joyous activity that lets you have fun and improve your health at the same time – so get moving!  

 

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