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How to Ballroom Dance Efficiently

Pop quiz: who dances the most challenging steps? Answer: the beginners! The more advanced dancers have learned how to dance in the easiest way possible, with minimal effort. Of course, they had to spend a great deal of time honing their craft to get their bodies to cooperate. Let’s take a peek at what they learned, shall we?

Less is more… In the right places

One of my first ballroom teachers told me something that stuck with me (eventually): ‘If something goes wrong in a pattern, the problem lies not with what you did in that moment, but what you did in the moment BEFORE.’ Starting an action earlier requires less work, and avoids about 90% of all dance issues.

  • Leaders: Plan ahead and always give your partner fair warning, whether it’s raising the hand for a turn in place, using body-rotation before a reverse turn, or creating directional pressure before you actually step in that direction.
  • Followers: Increasing pressure on your partner’s frame gives you a faster heads-up for any surprises he might throw your way.

Be lazy on the dance floor

The body has an annoying habit of over-exaggerating what the eyes see. When we watch a pro Latin dancer, for instance, we inevitably think that we need MORE hip action, FASTER footwork, QUICKER turns. It’s exhausting to push ourselves this hard, especially since we end up falling out of sync with our partner.

  • Followers: Moving before you are moved is like trying to drive your partner’s car – while his hands are still on the wheel. Nothing good can come of this.
  • Leaders: Lead from the core, never the arms. What’s easier, carrying a backpack with your whole body, or just the right bicep?

Add to your natural movement

Ballroom dancing is a lot less forced then most realize. For example, if you relax your arms and swing your body side to side, your arms will fly out in the same direction, slightly after the body. Add a little muscle tone and splay the fingers, and you are now arm-styling! Your body already knows how to move efficiently, but we think we need to unlearn all that, because ballroom dancing is seen as going against your natural movement. Done, right, it should accentuate that movement.

  • When dancing smooth/standard, just walk as you normally would, with feet swinging in front with a heel lead, but embellish by lowering slightly into the movement (more if it’s a waltz). Don’t force the lowering – let gravity do the work for you. Dancing Latin/rhythm? Climb a flight of stairs, flair the hips slightly, and you’ve basically got the Latin movement, complete with hip action.
  • We move from our centre of gravity, a fist-sized area in our stomach referred to as the ‘core’. Moving first with the core and letting the rest of the body ‘catch up’ softens the movement and conserves energy.

Did you miss the other articles on preventing dance fatigue? Check below:

The Key to Dancing Better, for Longer

Building a Dancer’s Diet: What and When to Eat

Why Even Dancers Need Rest

5 Exercises that Build a Dancer’s Endurance


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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 ballroom at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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