Ballroom Dance Steps- Part 2

The Tango

The Tango is a flirting dance that was originally performed as a solo by women. It had its roots in Morocco and Spain and later evolved into a couples dance in the night clubs of Argentina. When gauchos wearing sweat hardened chaps would go to the night clubs and ask women to dance, the lady would dance in the bend of the man’s right arm while holding her head back from the stench of the unshowered cowboy. In anticipation of payment for the dance, she would keep her right hand low and the man’s hip. It is a dramatic dance involving walking movements that are sneaking or stalking in nature. Some movements are slow, others are sharp and is marked by quick flicks of the foot and sharp head snaps. It is danced in a counter-clockwise movement around the dance floor.

The Cha Cha

The Cha Cha is danced to Cuban or Latin music and originated in the early 1950’s. It involves a 10 step dance that is a combination of alternating rock steps and chasses (a dance movement that is across, or to the right and left). It is danced to a rhythm of 2, 3, 4 & 1 – and the rock steps are danced on the 2 & 3 counts, and the chasse’s are danced on the 4 & 1 counts. Most of the turns are taken between the two rock steps and the first step of the chasse, and the basic movement of the Cha Cha can be taken with or without a turn.

The Jitterbug

The Jitterbug became popular in the 1930’s in the United States and by World War II, and was carried overseas in the 1940’s by U.S. troops. Jazz legend, Cab Calloway, once observed that the dancers moving across the floor to the gyrations of the music resembled hyperactive “bugs”. It is danced to a syncopated 4/4 rhythm and is known for acrobatic swings and lifts. Dance patterns are largely performed with dance partners holding one or both hands. The dance is closely related to the Swing dance and Lindy Hop.

The Rumba

Today’s Rumba has slowed considerably from the original versions which originated in Cuba by African slaves. The “Americanized” version became popular in New York in the 1930’s as it was taught in dance studios and gained further fame as it was featured by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in “Flying Down to Rio” The Rumba is marked by slow deliberate steps that are close to the floor, and hips that move from side to side. It is danced to a slow Latin rhythm, in smooth movements, and feet that are almost gliding or sliding across the floor – and with very little rise and fall. It is generally danced to a “slow, quick, quick” rhythm pattern.

Ballroom Dance Steps

Ballroom dance steps for the beginner may seem complicated initially, but when broken down by style of dance and music they become easier to understand.

The key is to look at each style of dance as a separate entity, and furthermore, within each style of dance, distinguish between the steps taken by the man (typically the “lead”), and the steps taken by the woman (typically the “follow”).

In the following examples we will break down some basic ballroom dance steps by discussing the movement of each foot as it relates to the number of beats that particular step should take.

Select the ballroom dance steps you are interested in learning:

  • Waltz Dance Steps
  • Tango Dance Steps
  • Mambo Dance Steps
  • Cha Cha Dance Steps
  • Foxtrot Dance Steps
  • Ballroom Dance Steps Described

The Waltz

With origins in the seventeenth century, the waltz has withstood the test of time. Derived from the German word Walzen, which means to glide, roll or turn – the waltz has it’s roots in the Viennese ballrooms of the Alpine region of Vienna. The waltz is danced in 3/4 time with the strongest accent on the first beat. It is marked by a pronounced rise and fall, and moves or “glides” is a basic “step, step, close” pattern

The Foxtrot

The Foxtrot was originated by Harry Fox, a Vaudeville performer at the New York Theatre in the summer of 1914. He developed a series of trotting steps to ragtime music that later became known as “Fox’s Trot”. The Foxtrot is similar to a Waltz but the rise and fall is much more subtle. It travels closely around the line of dance in long, smooth walking movements. It is typically danced to a 4/4 time signature with the accents on the first and third beats. The dance steps of the Foxtrot are comprised of a combination of “slow steps” and “quick steps”. The “slow steps” equal two beats of a measure, and the “quick steps” equal one beat of a measure. You can count the beats of a “slow, slow, quick, quick” dance pattern in terms of one and a half measures of music – or six beats. In comparison, a “slow, quick, quick” pattern would equal one measure of music – or four beats.