Beginner Guide to Ballroom Dancing

  • Many people who seek out ballroom dancing will remain social dancers for their entire lives. Dancing socially expands your social life, builds health and confidence, reduces stress, enhances a positive attitude, and is just plain fun! The question for many beginner ballroom dancers is – how do I start?

    First, you need to determine what dance facilities exist in your area. Asking around can give you personal recommendations, but an internet search will net the most results. Try both. Be sure to sign up for studio newsletters that will alert you to special events, discounts, class changes, new instructors, dance tips, and more. Check your local YMCA, country club, or college.  Look for community centers or dance halls that hold weekly or monthly dances. These usually offer a one-hour dance lesson beforehand. If you can’t find a dance, consider a group glass. Almost all studios offer a group class for beginner ballroom dancers.

    Call a studio and tell them you’re a beginner and ask what they suggest. Make sure you call multiple places and compare your results.

    Do I Need a Dance Partner?

    Although you must dance with a partner, you don’t need to bring one to class! Plenty of singles enjoy ballroom dancing and it can be a fun and relaxed environment in which to make friends and meet people of the opposite sex. However, learning ballroom dancing together can open a whole new facet in your relationship. It’s a fun, healthy, social activity that the two of you can enjoy together. Plus, when you’re at a social activity you won’t have to leave your significant other on the sidelines when you step onto the dance floor!

    Private Lessons Versus Group Classes

    This decision may depend entirely on your budget.  Private dance lessons run $60 - $100 or more per hour. Then again, they can help you master dance skills more easily.

    Pro’s of Private Lessons

    • Individual attention. Your instructor can point out even the smallest errors and give you detailed feedback on where you personally can improve.
    • Quicker learning pace. The increased instructor attention allows you to reduce the amount of things you would have otherwise eventually figured out for yourself.
    • Privacy. If you’re shy about dancing in front of others, private lessons might be the way to start off. You can boost your confidence and increase your abilities without feeling self-conscious.

    Pro’s of Beginner Group Classes

    • Everyone is starting from scratch, so there’s no need to feel self-conscious.
    • Classes offer a positive environment with lots of mutual encouragement.
    • You learn the basics of several different dance styles at once and can decide which dance style you need to work on, or which you enjoy most and want to pursue in the future.
    • Group classes rotate partners, which enhances your learning experience and generally boosts confidence. Rotating partners is a great way to learn. You can struggle with someone that you just can’t coordinate with or become over-dependent on someone who dances like a pro. Group classes let you really see what your competence is so you can be encouraged by your strengths and attend to your weaknesses!

    Do I Need Dance Shoes?

    If you’re going to be dancing consistently, yes. While you may get by for a few classes in a dress shoe, if you want to continue dancing you will need to invest in a good pair of dancing shoes. They are lighter, more flexible, and designed to support the foot and body during specific styles of dance. They also have thin soles made of suede, which allow the dancer to glide across the floor, but provide enough traction that he or she won’t slip! Purchase your first pair in person at a dance specialty store if you have one in your area. Trying them on is very important! Also, no matter how perfect the dance shoes felt in the store, wear them around the house on carpeted surfaces before bringing them to class for the first time. Never wear your dance shoes outside.

    Studio Contracts

    Beware of studios that don’t allow you to purchase individual classes, especially as a beginning dancer. Some studios and private instructors require students to sign contracts for package deals, including some elements they may not be interested in including private and group instruction, special workshops, and dance weekends. The Federal Trade Commission released a warning against unethical dance studios back in 1992. Make sure you’re aware of what you’re signing and don’t be afraid to walk out if you feel pressured by a studio.


    Your abilities as a ballroom dancer are dependent upon two main factors – the quality of your instruction and your ability to practice and utilize what you’ve learned. Take at least fifteen minutes per day to execute the movements you’ve been learning in class. Additionally, you should attend one social dance per week. Immerse yourself in dance and it will, over time, become second nature to you!