Ballroom Made Simple’s Top 4 Favorite Ballroom Dances for Beginners

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Back in 2007 when I committed to teaching ballroom dancing, my mentor and I discussed which dances I should work on. Ultimately we decided on Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, Waltz and Rumba. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

This core package of American Style Ballroom and Rhythm dances gives you, the newcomer, a solid foundation of figures so that you can comfortably dance at local events. It gives you two of each dance style (Smooth and Rhythm) and all four are very social dance friendly.

Circa 2012 ~ Pam & her partner demonstrate a Rumba

Circa 2012 – Pam demonstrates a Rumba at her 4th Anniversary Open House.

Rumba (Rhythm) – is a slow, romantic Latin/Rhythm dance. It can be danced to a Latin tempo or to contemporary songs from artists such as Michael Buble (Quando, Quando, Quando) or Sting (Fields of Gold). It’s a stationary dance, allowing you to dance in tight spaces on a small dance floor and it is very popular at social dances. The American Style Rumba, although slow, can have a slightly faster tempo than the competitive or International Style Rumba.

East Coast Swing (Rhythm) – is a moderate to upbeat (even lively) tempo. Many people new to dancing would recognize it as a “jitterbug” ~ and who doesn’t love a good swing dance number? It’s probably my favorite of all the social dances. Technically, it’s a spot dance which means it doesn’t travel, yet you can add a little flair and still rotate your movements allowing you to cover a moderate amount of space. Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” is a classic swing dance tune and fits well with a single time swing tempo.

Slow Waltz (Smooth) – has a slightly more formal look to it. You may see it danced at weddings or at ballroom social dances. It’s fluid and allows you to travel around the dance floor. Or, the leader can create a stationary pattern for tight spaces. Anne Murray’s “Could I Have This Dance” is a good practice song for beginners.

Foxtrot (Smooth) – can be slow or slightly peppy. A more upbeat Foxtrot tempo can easily be transitioned into a single time swing dance because they share the same timing. I like to associate the music of the “Rat Pack” era when describing this dance style. Songs by Frank Sinatra (Fly Me To the Moon) and Dean Martin (On The Street Where You Live) work well. Nat King Cole has some great dance tunes too (You Are My Sunshine). Elvis’ version of “Fever” can be a Foxtrot favorite too.

Cha Cha Cha (Rhythm) Bonus Dance #5 – This dance is also on the top of my list because it is a very popular social dance. It’s a good dance to know too 😉

Even though we are all out to enjoy ourselves on the dance floor, remember, Safety First. Avoid big arm movements for any of these dances when dancing in tight quarters. At one social dance my partner lead me a wee bit too close to other dancers and as I extended my arm (for styling purposes) I think I stuck my finger in another person’s ear – yikes!. And, no fancy acrobatic swing dance moves in a social dance setting unless 1) your leader knows for sure you can also do the move; 2) you both have of space to execute those moves without causing interference around other dancers.

Here’s my philosophy: “The more you dance the more you remember; the more you remember the more you dance”. Over time you will improve and become more comfortable on the dance floor. As your confidence builds, and you have a better understanding of leading, following and maneuvering on the dance floor, you can begin to think about learning some of the fun club dances such as Salsa, Night Club, Bachata and West Coast Swing.

What was your first ballroom lesson? #JustCurious

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