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Ballroom Troubleshooting: Part One

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We all have it – that one (or more!) area(s) in your dancing that seems to give you trouble time and again. Often when we finally figure out what we need to improve in this area, our dancing takes a quantum leap forward. This article is the first in a series, meant to help you isolate where your issues might be coming from, and move towards removing them. Today, we’ll start with some very basic issues:

1. ‘I can’t stay balanced on my steps.’

The issue: Dancing your basic patterns often feels wobbly. You might feel ‘top heavy’, or like you’re rocking back on your heels, or over the tips of your toes.

What to do about it: This is most likely a weight transfer issue. Practice your basic combinations, pausing on each step to make sure your weight stops over the ball of each foot. Try and stand as tall as you can, and think about moving your chest over your stepping foot.

2. ‘My partner isn’t leading/following well.’

The issue: It seems like you’re enjoying two separate dances. She doesn’t respond to leads in time, and he never seems to be clear in where he wants you to go.

What to do about it: The partnership is suffering from a lack of body communication – improve it by checking your frame, maintaining 5 lbs. of pressure through your palms at all times, and keeping your core engaged towards your partner. Your core is a fist-sized imaginary centre, located just above your belly button.

3. ‘I keep falling out of my turns.’

The issue: You can never stay on single foot during a spin, always needing to step out of the turn early to avoid falling over.

What to do about it: Start by using the suggestions in #1, making sure you make a 100% weight change as you begin your turn. Make sure you are rotating by twisting your hips – not your shoulders or your feet. If you’re not sure what you’re using to turn, film yourself and watch: The first part of your body to start rotating is where the power of the turn is coming from.

4. ‘I keep stepping on my partner’s feet.’

The issue: It seems like your partner can never get their feet out of your way fast enough. You may find yourself stepping wide, just to avoid them.

What to do about it: Start with the suggestions in #3. Make sure your core moves forward slightly before you start to step forward. Your partner should reach her foot back out of your way as soon as she feels your core move. If you are dancing a Smooth/Standard dance, like waltz of quickstep, make sure your partner is slightly offset on your right side, so your feet will pass between theirs.

5. ‘I can’t stop back-leading my partner.’

The issue: It seems like once you start moving, your body goes on autopilot, completing the step regardless of his lead.

What to do about it: Often this happens with followers who aren’t used to connecting to their bodies. Check your frame and pressure as with the suggestions in #2. Then try dancing with your eyes closed so you can focus on the feeling of the lead. Try dancing to a very slow song, to give you more time to feel the lead at every point in the pattern. Remind yourself that no lead is a lead all it’s own: in other words, if he doesn’t move you, DON’T MOVE.

Hope that was helpful! I’ll talk about 5 more issues and how to get started correcting them next week!

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 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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