Ballroom Dance Steps


Ballroom dancing has been growing in popularity since the success of TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Anyone can learn how to dance, whether you simply want to get some exercise, prepare for a wedding dance, or do something new and different with your partner. Ballroom dance steps can get you out of the house and moving on the dance floor with that special someone.


The tango was created in South America in the mid 19th century. It's both a social and a competitive dance, and the tango should be ideally danced at 30 bars per minute. Although the tango has a reputation for being a difficult ballroom dance, the basic steps are pretty easy to learn when you take them step by step. No rises should be done in the tango; instead, it's a flat dance. Focus on mastering the characteristic walk of the tango as well as its rhythm when you're performing ballroom tango.


The foxtrot first became popular in the 1930's and it's known for its ultra-smooth traveling nature. It involves long walking movements with subtle variations in elevation. When a couple executes a turn the movements resemble a waltz but with gentler rising and falling, resulting in a smoother and more even looking presentation. While doing the foxtrot, the dancers move counterclockwise around the dance floor.


The rumba comes from Cuba, and this dance is done with both double-pulse and triple-pulse structures. It's also unique among ballroom dances because the upper body needs to be motionless for much of the time, and the foot needs to be flat on the floor for the rumba. As you learn the rumba steps, you will also need to learn the specific motions of rolling the hips that go with taking the steps.


The waltz is a very smooth dance that involves extensive traveling. As a historical dance with roots that go back to 18th century Germany, the waltz is unique for its "rise and fall" movements. Shoulders are an important focus in the waltz, and they move in rhythm to the stepping movements, parallel to the floor, rather than moving up and down which is sometimes seen in other variations of social dance. When you're learning how to waltz, it's essential to learn the dance in three-quarter time with a "one-two-three" rhythm.

Lindy Hop

As an American dance that originated in Harlem in the 1920's, the Lindy hop rose to popularity in the swing era and it still resonates in today's pop culture, favored by artists like Christina Aguilera. It's a fusion of a variety of dances, including the charleston, tap, and jazz. Possibly named after Charles Lindbergh, the first Lindy hop step that you should learn is the Lindy whip or Lindy turn, which is also called a swingout. The Lindy hop includes both six and nine count steps.

Paso Doble

Based on the tragedy and high drama of Spanish bullfights, the paso doble is a very intense ballroom dance. The sounds and movements of the dance also are reminiscent of those bullfights. The paso doble's origins go way back to the 16th century in Spain, and it's now often performed as part of ballroom dancing competitions. The paso doble is typically choreographed to break at specific points in songs. It is a fast-paced, dramatic dance.


Developed in 19th century Brazil with its roots in Africa, the samba is a passionate dance that also happens to be one of the easier ballroom dances to learn. Its rhythm is fast-paced and it's important to have high energy and a sense of fun when you're dancing the samba. The step-point must be mastered before you can perform the rest of the dance. Once you learn the basic samba steps, it's easy to add in others from its many styles.


Since Cuban Perez Prado developed the mambo in the 1940's, dancers have gotten a thrill from the complicated steps and freedom of performing this dance. It was adapted for American audiences and grew in popularity after its appearance at the Palladium Ballroom in 1947. It was further changed and adjusted by Eddie Torres in the 1980's. The mambo is known for its distinctive hip movements, and it also has a lot of backward and forward movements. Its basic combination is established as "quick-quick-slow," and it's danced using a 4/4 beat.

Cha Cha

The cha cha has its origins in Cuba and is said to be a fusion of American swing dancing and the Cuban mambo. Start by learning the basic steps to master this playful dance. The ballroom dance count for the cha cha should traditionally be "two, three, cha cha cha" which is followed by "four-and-one, two, three" or "one, two, three, cha cha."


The Jive that is known today is an uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug. Developed by African American communities in the United States in the 1920's, it became a national sensation when it was presented to the world by Cab Calloway in 1934. The Jive is now considered to be one of the five International Latin dances. When it's performed by competitive dancers, the Jive is usually danced at 176 beats per minute, while amateur dancers may enjoy other variations.

Learning Ballroom Dance

Ballroom dance steps are easily learned with a little gumption and proper training. Many opportunities abound for you to get involved in the world of ballroom dance, whether you take lessons locally or prefer learning through online classes. Learning these basic and fun steps is only the beginning of your dancing journey!

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Ballroom Dance Steps