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Ballroom Connections: Two-handed, One-handed, and Promenade

The upper body helps give each dance style much of it’s flavour, especially in American smooth and rhythm. Now that we understand the closed position, here’s three common alternative holds we use.


One thing we didn’t cover in the last article was that the leader and follower are slightly offset to the left, so each can step forward without bumping the other person. When we approach a corner of the dance floor or start into a twinkle step, the leader can rotate the frame slightly rightwards, so the leader’s left and follower’s right open slightly, their hips form a V-shape, and the follower is set-up slightly behind the leader (due to their offset feet). This is promenade position.

The hand connections remain essentially the same in promenade (read the article on closed position for more info). Entering promenade position begins with a slight rotation rightwards of the leader’s torso, stretching into a rightward extension of the right elbow (NOT back towards the body!). This should ‘roll’ the follower’s frame out, so both can walk sideways towards the more open side.

Closing tips:

  1. The follower’s left hip stays just behind the leader’s right hip, to avoid fighting to get their legs through.
  2. If you can’t see both elbows by looking straight, make sure you’re leading/following the change to promenade with your torso, not just your arms.
  3. Both partners look in the direction of movement (follower’s head turns right). The follower’s head rolls back to the left when switching back to closed position.


Used as a transition step in smooth and for longer periods in Latin, rhythm, or nightclub dances, the two-hand hold is great for pulling off moves that need more space, like the Viennese waltz’s hand-to-hand, or the contra boto fogos in silver samba.

To switch to a two-handed hold, the leader removes his right hand from the follower’s back and slides it down to her hand while lowering his left hand, finishing with both arms rounded towards each other at waist level. Hand position and height can change based on the step, but the most common connections are:

  1. The shopping cart hold (leaders point their fingers towards each other and followers fold their fingers over top).
  2. The clasp (leader’s hands in a pushing position with follower’s finger and thumb encircling them).
  3. The coffee cup (the leader’s left hand makes a loose circle with fingers on the outside, and the follower’s right hand in the centre, used for underarm turns).
  4. The palm-to-palm (a flat palm connection, often used with only one hand to prepare for an opening-out move, like crossover breaks).

Closing tips:

  1. Have you seen the Iron Man movies? Like that armoured billionaire, imagine you’ve got energy coursing from your ‘power pack’ in your chest, out through the palms of your hands. Let your partner feel that pressure!
  2. The frame requires more tension to maintain here, so be ever vigilant against the ‘chicken wing’ position.
  3. No matter what, your hands stay in the centre between you. If that changes, someone is pushing too much, or too little.


The trickiest hold to maintain a good frame for, the one-handed hold is nevertheless crucial for great picture moves like the crossover, or even the basic underarm turn. The most common connection is with the leader’s left and follower’s right, and to enter it, the leader simply releases his right hand from the follower’s back. Like the two-hand hold, the type of hold and height may change based on the pattern.

Closing tips:

  1. Put your arm on a shorter leash! If you want to keep frame without becoming stiff, think about increasing muscle tone around the joint muscles.
  2. During a turn, no squeezing your partner’s hand! And followers, keep your elbows in front of you, to avoid knocking out your partner as you complete the turn.

Ballroom Dancers

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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