Ballroom Dance Etiquette

Ballroom dance etiquette ten common sense tips.

Ballroom dance etiquette

Carolina and Hugo dancing in Brooklyn at Dance Fever Studios..

1) Dance in the line of dance.  Ballroom dancers move around the floor in a counter-clockwise direction.  You should be moving in this direction most of the time.  This is ballroom dance etiquette 101.

2) When things go wong, apologize.  If you bump into someone, or step on someone’s foot, tell them you’re sorry.  Don’t just ignore them.

3)Slow dancers should move to the center of the room.  So if you are a beginner to ballroom dance, just learning new moves, don’t clog up the main lines of dance.  Stay towards the center.

4)Conversation should be off the dance floor.  If you’d like to talk, do it off the dance floor.

5)Cross the dance floor around the perimeter.  Don’t cut through.  I’ve seen people walk across the middle of the ballroom dance floor holding drinks.  Not good.

6)Clean up your mess.  So, if you are carrying some drinks and you do spill something, clean it up before some dancer slips and gets hurt.

7)Personal hygiene.  Make sure you don’t have bad body odor or bad breath.  Very important ballroom dance etiquette.

8)Dance at your partner’s ability.  If you are an experienced ballroom dance leader dancing with a beginner follower, don’t expect her to do advanced moves.  Build the dance.  Start with easy stuff.  Once you see that she’s with the timing and following easy patters, try advancing to more difficult ones.  If she has difficulty doing one turn, don’t lead her in to a double turn.

9)Sneezing and coughing while dancing.  This does happen. Always sneeze or cough into the underside of your elbow.  Do not sneeze into your hand and then ask her to take that hand for dancing.

10)Don’t chew gum while dancing.  This is annoying to your partner.  He or she doesn’t want to dance with a cow chewing grass, which is what it feels like.  It also doesn’t look elegant.  Have you ever seen Fred Astaire chew gum while he dances?

NYC Salsa Must Know Patterns.

NYC Salsa must know patterns. If you are dancing NYC style salsa there are tons of patterns you will see as a follower.  No one can list all of them, since every leader has his own, but here are some patterns that you really must know if you’d like to dance at the intermediate or advanced level with a NYC salsa leader.   These are patterns that almost ever leader knows and will expect you to follow.  You will see these patterns, and variations of them, almost %100 of your time dancing with any NYC salsa leader.  All these patterns have tons of variations,  but if you know the basic of each pattern, all the variations will be easy.

NYC Salsa Lessons at Dance Fever Studios

NYC Style Salsa classes in Brooklyn at Dance Fever Studios.

1) Cross Body Lead with an inside turn and a half.  This is the intermediate version.  The advanced version is two and a half turns.  When you do this make sure that you stay on your track.

2)Copa and Copa with a turn and a half.  The turn and a half is the same turn as the cross body lead.

3)Pencil Turn or Check Turn.

4)Half Moon with a turn and a half to basic.  Some salsa dancers call this The Titanic.

5)Reverse Cross Body Lead.

6)Reverse Cross Body Lead with two turns for the intermediate follower, and three turns for the advanced follower.

7)Double Turn in place.

8) Simultaneous Back Spot Turns in place.

9)Leaders Half Chase to Hand Drop.

10)Hand Drapes.

Salsa Dancing and The Three Types of Followers

Salsa dancing Brooklyn.

Dance classes in Brooklyn. Ray and Stephanie salsa dancing.

Salsa followers can be broken down into three types: 1)passive 2)active and 3)mischievous.

A passive salsa follower does what the leader wants.  Only that, and nothing else.  Take her into a cross body lead and she will follow, but with no styling at all.  She follows all your salsa steps, but doesn’t add anything additional to the dance.  Most beginner salsa dancers are passive followers.

An active salsa follower will add some flair.  She will comb and whip her hair, do arm and hand styling, and shoulder shimmies.  She is taking an active part in the salsa dancing.  She is following just like the passive follower, but is adding her own flair.  When you see a salsa dance class labeled as a women’s styling class, they are trying to turn passive followers into active followers.

A mischievous follower knows the step that you are leading her into, can do it if she wants to, but chooses not to.  She does something else that works, but not exactly what you wanted.  For example, if you lead a peek-a-boo step, instead of stopping when you want her to, she’d duck under and turn out.  If you lead a copa with a turn and a half, she might keep spinning more than you expected.  If she knows there is a break in the music, she will hit it even if you weren’t going to.  In order to be a mischievous follower, you have to be very good at following and know the music very well.

When salsa dancing, a leader should be accommodating to all  three types of salsa followers.  If a woman has just started salsa dancing, she will most likely be a passive  follower.  If she has taken some salsa dance lessons for a few months she may have developed into an active follower. You find active followers at most salsa dance schools socials.  If she has put her time in, practiced, taken lots of private salsa lessons, gone salsa dancing all over and really gotten good, she may be a mischievous follower.


Salsa Dancing NYC

Here are a few tips to consider when at a salsa social or salsa dancing NYC .  1)Standing on the dance floor:  Please do not stand in the middle of the dance floor if you’re not dancing.  This is inconsiderate.   You wouldn’t stand in the middle of a basket ball court or baseball diamond while a game is going on, so why do dancers do this on a dance floor? If you’d like to talk  or rest, do it off the floor.

Salsa dancing NYC

Latin couple dancing salsa in NYC club.

2)Making your way onto the dance floor:  Do it without disturbing the current salsa dancers.   If you are the one making your way onto the floor, it’s your job to avoid bumping into dancers and not the other way around.  Try to find the space that is least crowded.  Elbowing your way into a packed area is inconsiderate.  If the floor is too crowded, consider sitting one out.

3)Ladies attire: Ladies, of course wear a great outfit that turns heads, but make sure you can dance in it.  You don’t want to spend the night pulling down a skirt that keeps riding up, or not be able to spin because your dress comes up too high.  Wear something that allows you to move, but compliments your beautiful dance curves.

4)Getting asked to dance: A smile goes a long way.  With a smile,  you will definitely attract gentlemen.  Stay by the edge of the dance floor.  Alone is better than with a group of friends.  Sitting away from the dance floor chatting with your girls,  you most likely will not be asked to dance.

5)Asking a woman to dance: Be respectful gentlemen.  Offer your hand and ask; “Would you like to dance?”  The way you ask a woman does matter.  Don’t ask like she’s the last resort, and perhaps you don’t really want to dance with her.

6)Leading: Please be smooth.  Good followers don’t like rough leaders. We don’t want our hands crushed or our arms pulled out of the socket.  Build the dance.  Start with easy salsa patterns.  Once you see the woman can follow these easy salsa patterns, you may move onto more difficult ones.

Best Bachatas For Beginner Bachata Classes

Bachata classes in NYC

Bachata Class in Brooklyn, NY

Most bachata songs have a pretty clear beat that beginner dance students are able to pick up.  It’s not like salsa or Argentine tango,  where beginner dancers struggle with the tempo.  But many bachata songs have long introductions.  Some may be too fast for the beginner bachata student;  and some may have too many breaks and pauses where the base totally drops out.

Take a song like Te Extrano by Xtreme.  A great bachata, but I usually don’t play for a beginner bachata lesson because of the long intro.  It’s more effective for teaching  to play a song like Mi Receta De Amore by Los Toros Band.  This may be one of the slowest bachatas out there.  But,  it’s great for beginners who almost always rush the timing.  This song will slow them down.  They will learn how to move the right way for bachata,  and not worry about keeping up with a fast paced song.

Here’s a list of bachata music best for the beginner bachata student and beginner bachata classes.  They are all slow to moderate tempo, with a steady base.  These are some of the songs that I play when giving a private bachata lesson or during my beginner group bachata classes.  Once the students are more comfortable dancing bachata, I will play songs with lots of accents, breaks and long introductions.

Slow to Moderate Bachta’s With a Steady Tempo: Pasion Monchy and Alexandra, Dos Locos Monchy and Alexandra, Cuando Volveras  Aventura, Voy a Dejarte  de Amar Frank Reyes, Tu Eres Ajena Frank Reyes, Me Voy Hector Acosta, Corazon Sin Cara Prince Royce, El Amore que Perdimos Prince Royce,  Rechazame Prince Royce, Sin Ti Grupo Extra, Su Hombre Soy Yo Prince Royce

Bachatas With Long Intros: Te Extrano  Xtreme, Casi Casi Toby Love, Llorar lloviendo  Toby Love, Pomise Romeo Santos, Obsesion Aventura,  Su Veneno Aventura, Incondecional by Prince Royce.

Difference Between Argentine Tango And Ballroom Tango.

Difference between Argentine tango and Ballroom tango.

Argentine tango classes in NYC

Argentine tango and ballroom tango.  What’s the difference?  The way the dances look and the music they are danced to are the two major differences.  Ballroom tango has a very pronounce, prominent and steady tempo.  Almost like a ticking clock.  It sounds a bit like paso doble.  Argentine tango music is very varied.  Some of it, like music from Biagi or Canero has a strong, easy to hear base.  Some music may have a strong melody and a very weak base.  Milonga Triste by Hugo Diaz  is an example.  There’s Argentine tango music that has both: alternating powerful beat,  and then the base will totally drop out, and you have only melody.  Osvaldo Pugliese music is often like this.

Argentine tango has no basic step.  It is a totally improvisational dance.  Ballroom tango has an 8 count basic which is slow, slow, quick, quick, slow.  Most patterns are done using this 8 count basic.  Ballroom tango really moves around the room.  You are not in one spot for very long.  In Argentine tango, you may stay in the same spot for quite a long time doing gauchos,  boleos and embellishments.  Argentine tango is often danced in close embrace, or salon style.  Ballroom tango isn’t.  It has a very formal, ballroom look to it.  In ballroom tango there are more broad movements with the upper body: sways and dips.  There are also more staccato movements like head snaps.  You won’t see these types of movements in Argentine tango.  Most of the movements are below the waist.

At the advanced level, the patterns and steps in Argentine tango are way more complicated and difficult to do.  Ballroom tango does not have volcadas, calesitas, planeos, and barridas or the cross.  These are steps that any advanced Argentine tango dancer and many intermediate dancers will know.  Ballroom tango is almost always danced in parallel foot system.  While Argentine tango is both parallel system and cross foot system.

The dances also have a different feel to them.  When dancing ballroom tango the movements are strong, staccato and floor sweeping.  You are more with the base.  When dancing Argentine tango, you are more with the melody.  Listing to any accents in the music and trying to hit them with your movements.

What Is Latin Dancing?

Latin dancing in Brooklyn

Latin Dance Classes in Brooklyn. Ray and Stephanie dancing salsa.

Do you offer Latin dance lessons?  I’m asked this question all the time. When I answer yes.  Many students then  ask what it is Latin dancing? They know they like it and want to learn it, but aren’t sure what is.  Why is jive one of the five dances in Latin dance competitions,  while Argentine tango isn’t?  That’s another question I often hear.  So, here’s a break down.

There are generally two different meanings.  There is social Latin dancing, and there’s formal ballroom/Latin dancing.  Formal Latin dancing has five dances: cha-cha, jive, paso doble, rumba and samba.  When you see an international Latin or American Latin dance competition, these are the dances they are doing.

Then there’s social Latin dancing.  This is what most people are doing in a dance clubs, what you hear on Spanish radio stations, and what most students want to learn.  These are dances that originated in Latin American  and Caribbean countries.  Salsa, bachata, merengue, cha-cha, rumba, and samba are the most popular.  There are many many others.  Popularity depends on where you are.   In the Dominic Republic, bachata and merengue are more popular than salsa.  In Cuba, salsa is way more popular than bachata.  But over all, salsa is the most popular and bachata comes in 2nd.  This is right now.  Ten years ago, bachata was not as popular.  And ten years from now, something else might become popular. In certain parts of Mexico, cumbia is very popular.

It might seem weird, but Argentine tango is not classified as a” Latin dance.”  Here are some reasons why.  It’s not danced in place and it doesn’t have hip motion like the other above mentioned dances.  Argentine tango moves around the room like a ballroom dance and has no hip motion.  It’s more like a ballroom dance, but isn’t.  It has its own classification.   So why is Jive, which is American, one or the five Latin dances in formal competitions?  Well, It’s danced in place,  has lots of hip motion, and kind of looks more like the other Latin dances, and less like a ballroom dance.  The people who organize these competitions wanted to have five dances make up the competition, and wanted an American dance to be one of them, so they choose jive.

Dance Teacher Training Programs.

Dance Teacher training programs.

Group salsa class in Park Slope Brooklyn

You want to become a dance teacher.  You see lots of different dance teacher training  programs, but aren’t sure how to choose a good one.  Here are some tips.  If you want to work consistently and make a living as a full-time dance teacher,  the more dances you know, the better.   If all you know is salsa on2 or Argentine tango it will be difficult to keep yourself employed.   Owning two Brooklyn dance studios,  I get resumes and calls everyday from professional salsa dancers, professional Argentine tango dancers, belly dancers,  international Latin and ballroom dancers looking for work.   The first thing I ask them is,  do they know any other dances or styles?  If the answer is no,  I will have a hard time employing them.

Dance schools want dancers who are well-rounded. It’s great to be an expert in one dance, but know some others.  I just got a resumes from a dancer who’s  been dancing for 15 years and all she knows is salsa on2.  In 15 years she couldn’t pick up some other dances?

Here’s a typical day for me and any of my dance teachers.  Yesterday at 9am I taught a private at our Flatbush dance school.  The student is doing hustle, salsa on1, and bachata.  At 10 I taught an Argentine tango private.  At 3 I went to our Park Slope studio and taught a private bachata lesson.  This student also wants to learn cumbia.  At 7 I teach a couple who is doing social ballroom.  At 8 we have a two-hour intermediate salsa class.  Where would I be if I only knew how to dance one dance or style?  A dance student frequently starts leaning one dance,  then become interested in a different dance.  If all you know is that one dance, you will lose them as a student when they want to move on to a different dance.

Also, a school would rather have one teacher doing two hours than two separate teachers each doing an hour each.  It’s just easier.  So, make sure the teacher training program is making you into a  well-rounded dancer.  This way no matter what a student wants to learn, you will be the go to dance teacher for that studio.

Is there any kind of placement program?   It’s great that they are training you in salsa on1, salsa on2, Argentine tango, Latin and ballroom, hustle and wedding choreography;  making you into a well-rounded dancer.  But what happens when you’re done with your training?  Do they have work for you?  Consider this.  The dance training program that has work for you is the one you should choose.

Do they teach you how to teach or just how to dance?  Many great dancers don’t know how to teach.  The teachers who last and make a good living, are the ones who know how to teach and not just dance.  You will be getting lots of different types of students.  You don’t want to teach each one the same.  Some are very serious about dance and dancing well.  Most  are not interested in become professional dancers, and are just doing if for fun.  Teach the right way and you will keep your student and get more.

Do they teach you about the business end?  What good is it if you know all the dances and how to teach,  but can’t get any business.  Even if you’re not interested in opening up your own dance studio, knowing sales and how to get students is important.  I see some of the best dancers starving for work.  Not having any idea how to generate business and keep themselves employed.

Consider all these things when choosing a dancer teacher training program.

Private Dance Lessons vs. Group Dance Lessons

Private dance lessons Brooklyn

Kristina and Michael during private salsa lesson in Brooklyn.

Private lessons are the quickest and  most effective way to learn the art and skill of dancing.  Many people will tell you that one private is the equivalent of 4 group classes. That’s partly true, but just partly.  There is  really no equation that matches private dance lessons to group classes.  When you take a private lesson from a good dance instructor, you are learning something the correct way right off the bat.  With group classes, you learn the same thing, but with 20 dance students in the class, how can the teacher make sure that you are dancing the correct way?  He can’t.  Being slightly off, is off.  It’s like saying  you’re almost on timing. You’re either on or off.  The same thing with technique.

In a group dance class, you mainly practice with other people at your level.  Maybe the teacher will dance with you for a few minutes, but for the most part, you are dancing with someone at your level.  That’s not a good thing if you want to get better.  The way to improve at anything is to do it with someone who is better than you.  Speaking French with a beginner won’t help much.  Put you in a room with a native speaker for a month and you will be speaking French.

Many people think, I can’t afford to take private dance lessons.  If you can afford to take group classes, you can afford to take privates.  Here’s why.  You will learn more in a private than in a group class for the same amount of money.  You won’t just learn more, and here’s the important part, you will learn right. Because of the tactile nature of partner dancing, certain techniques can not be learned properly in a group setting.  You need to be with someone who knows how to do it the correct way.  Feel how their body moves.   This is next to impossible in a group setting.   You also need to have this proper technique drilled into your muscle memory.  Once bad technique is in your muscle memory, it will be very hard to lose. Group classes are good for practicing what you learn in your privates.

In my two Brooklyn dance studios, I have seen many students who have spent lots of money over the years taking group lessons: salsa, tango, Latin, ballroom and more.  The things they were doing only partly right a year ago, many are still doing only partly right today.   Bad habits are hard to break.  Even harder if you are dancing with someone who also has the same bad habits.   I have many students who started with privates, learned things the 100% correct way, and have actually spent less money to get to the level they are at than the student who is taking the group class.



Salsa Dancing. Keys to Following

Salsa dancing in Brooklyn at Dance Fever Studios Park Slope location.

Beginner salsa class in Brooklyn.

Salsa Dancing.  Becoming a Better Follower:

I’m a proud, strong, independent Hispanic woman.  My leader on the dance floor could care less.  All he wants to do is lead me on the dance floor without a fight.  Ladies, I know that this can be difficult  being who we are, but it really is just a matter of letting go,  and putting our trust in our leader.

To be a great follower we must remember that we have the easy job.   We don’t have to think or worry about anything except the music and styling.  We just get to enjoy the ride.  Let him think about the steps.  Most of the time followers think way too much.  We try to guess what the leader wants us to do.  Most of the time we are wrong.  We try to read his mind and anticipate his moves.  We need to relax and not think.  We need to feel and see what our leader wants from us.  When he is relaxed you should be relaxed.  When he give you tension you give it back.

A follower needs to pay attention and look at the leader.  Don’t look at his feet, your feet or the floor.  Keep your head up and pay attention to his torso and lead signals. A follower shouldn’t try to help.  Hopefully he knows what he wants and how to lead you there.  If you’re not sure what to do,  the default step is your basic in place.

A follower needs to relax.  Don’t get tense or grab for dear life.  Don’t grab his hands. Keep your palms facing down, elbows in front and away from your body in a good salsa dance posture.  When you are tense and grabbing the dance becomes more like a shoving match and less like salsa dancing.

Finally.  Have the right attitude.  Don’t be a miss know it all.  If you get a leader at a lower level than you are, let him lead his steps.  Don’t start doing whatever you want.  That’s bad following.  Like Penny told Baby in “Dirty Dancing,”  “Let him lead You”  So don’t be the Baby at the beginning of the movie, be the Baby at the end.  She had the time of her life.

Please view some of our salsa dancing and salsa lessons on our Youtube channel.