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Physical Education and Health 3
Ballroom Dancing as a Social Dance

Module 004 – Ballroom Dancing as a Social

What is Ballroom Dance?
The term “ballroom dance” refers to the traditional partnered dance forms that are done by
a couple, often in the embrace of closed position (ballroom dance position). This is the
overall umbrella term covering three forms which will be discussed below.
Ballroom dance is exclusively a couple dance. They’re mostly done with body contact,
especially with the man’s arms supporting the waist of his partner. However, they can be
danced without body contact since the man’s hands and arms should provide a frame
rigidly fixed to his body that moves precisely as his body moves.
In ballroom dancing, a skillful and technically correct execution of the dance is regarded as
more satisfying and enjoyable because it apparently feels more comfortable and
Forms of ballroom dance
There are three forms of ballroom dancing: the social ballroom, competitive
ballroom and exhibition ballroom. For this module, we will discuss its differences
and its examples.
The most essential difference between the three forms is its audience. Each form of
dance is performed before different types of audience for their enjoyment. Social
ballroom is performed mainly for the partner, competitive ballroom is mainly for
judges, exhibition ballroom is for a public audience.
The following are the audience’s expectations for each form of ballroom dancing:
1. In social ballroom, the partners would like to interact with the other
spontaneously, for fun, doing steps that are also enjoyable for them.
2. In competitive ballroom, judges expect to see the accurate, precise and correct
steps and styles from the dancers done with great flair.
3. In exhibition ballroom, the audiences expect to be entertained by beautiful and
impressive moves by the dancers.
Furthermore, the attitude of social ballroom dancers is commonly sociable, friendly
or kind, and flexibly adaptive to accommodate the styles that are different from your
own. In competitive ballroom dancing, the attitude of dancers must be correct and
expansive, recognizing the importance of sticking to the official syllabus of each style.
In exhibition ballroom, the performance attitude varies widely, depending on the
dance form.
In social ballroom dancing, mistakes are accepted as inevitable. When the move that
follows the lead is different from what is intended, it is understood as a valid
alternative interpretation of the lead. Most dancers of social ballroom obtain

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enjoyment from performing if things work out 80% of the time. The remaining 20%
is when most learning happens.
On the other hand, in competitive ballroom dancing, mistakes of the dancers count as
deductions from their points as it is aligned against making mistakes. If the follow is
different from what the lead has intended, it is called a mistake and may possibly
lead to elimination. Unlike in social ballroom dancing, competitive ballroom dancing
always aims for the 100%.
For exhibition ballroom dancing, there are two types of common performances: one
is the professional performance while the other is for amateur performances. For
professional performances, the audiences expect perfection so dance companies
rehearse extensively to avoid mistakes while performing onstage. For amateur
performances, audiences mostly watch for the enjoyment of the dancers so mistakes
are generally accepted and tolerated.
The reward for social ballroom dancing is the enjoyment of dancing, attainment of
self-confidence and the satisfaction of becoming more proficient in a dance form. In
competitive ballroom dancing, the reward is always winning the competition and
impressing the audience. For exhibition dancing, the reward is in the enthusiastic
applause of the entertained audience.
There is no standardization in social ballroom dancing because the partner differs in
each performance and with a different partner comes a different set of steps. In
competitive ballroom dancing, however, there is a rigorous standardization of steps
and techniques because the competitors need to know what technical details the
judges expect to see from their performances. For exhibition performances, there are
times when it is standardized but sometimes it is not. It wholly depends on the
audience’s preference.
Social ballroom dancing doesn’t have a standard style. In this form of dancing, the
pair is required to develop a personal style that differs from others. In competitive
ballroom, dancers are trained to imitate the style of the previous champions as the
standardized style. While individuality is welcome in this form of ballroom dancing,
it is important that it still stays within parameters. Performing ballroom dancing for
exhibitions use styles that are mostly unique to the choreographer.
Social ballroom dancing doesn’t have a fixed choreography. It is often spontaneous
and depends on how the Lead and Follow explores the possibilities. In competitions
and exhibitions, ballroom dancers rehearse and master choreographed routines.
In making decisions, social ballroom dancing gives the chance for both people in a
pair to engage in split second decision making. However, for competitions, most
decisions come from the organizers who provide syllabus of acceptable steps. One
thing that the dancers must focus on is the style and execution. Exhibition does not
often allow the dancer to make his/her own decision regarding their dance. Most of
the dance is made by choreographers, and like in competitive dancing, there is
always the focus on improving the style.

Social Ballroom Dancing

Social ballroom dancing originated in the first century of closed-couple dancing. It is said
that it was in the 19 th century when ballroom dance meant dancing in a “ballroom,” its
literal meaning.
Physical Education and Health 3
Ballroom Dancing as a Social Dance

One of the most prominent mindsets in ballroom dancing during this century, both in
Europe and America, is selfless generosity wherein the focus of the dance is the pleasure of
dancing with a partner and assembled company.
Some of the famous quotes from this era are the following:
"In general manners, both ladies and gentlemen should act as though the other person's
happiness was of as much importance as their own." Prof. Maas, American dance
master, 1871
"True, genuine politeness has its foundation deeper than in the mere conformation to
certain rules, for it is the spontaneous and natural effect of an intelligent mind and kindly
heart which overlooks annoyances in consideration for the happiness of others."
Edward Ferrero, American dance master, 1859
Another prominent ballroom attitude was the flexible mindset that allows the dancer to
adapt to his/her partner. The American dance master William DeGarmo wrote in 1875,
"Gentlemen who acquire a diversified style easily accommodate themselves to different
partners. No two persons dance alike. When their movements harmonize, this
individuality is not only natural and necessary, but it pleasingly diversifies the whole."
People derive enjoyment and satisfaction from social ballroom dancing. This encourages
people to socialize with others especially during social events. Social ballroom dancing
must also match the mood of the occasion. It is considered more fun to do social ballroom
dances but they are “less showy and spectacular than some other dances.” As this is not a
performing art, people tend to enjoy doing it more. Social ballroom dancing can also help
the participants to overcome their shyness. However, for the dance to work, it is better to
know at least the basics of ballroom dancing to participate.

Examples of Social Ballroom Dances

 Foxtrot
The foxtrot started in America in 1914 in an ill-defined form. Do not confuse
this with the competition foxtrot, or the slow foxtrot, because slow foxtrot is
not really suitable for social dancing. This is a dance that can be performed
with an almost any piece of music with 4 beats. The most basic steps are as


Before you begin, face your nearest wall. Then turn to your left slightly so
that you are on a diagonal. As all the ballroom dances move anti-clockwise in
a big circle around the room, you should get used to moving in this direction.
This circle is called the Line of Dance.

Start with your Left foot and take two Slow steps forward (on the diagonal).
Left foot then Right foot.

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On the “Quick, Quick” you take a side step onto your Left foot first, changing
your angle 90° so that you are now facing the corner to your right. And close
your Right foot to your Left on the second Quick.

Step back on your Left foot for the next set of two walks (Slow, Slow) and
side together Left, Right – changing the angle back to your original line
(Quick, Quick).

Repeat moving forward with your left foot again to continue.


For this basic movement, the lady exactly mirrors the man’s steps. You start
with your back to the closest wall and then turn slightly so that your Right
shoulder is closer to the centre of the circle.

Start with your Right foot and take two steps backwards on two “Slow”
counts. (Right then Left on “Slow, Slow”.)
Physical Education and Health 3
Ballroom Dancing as a Social Dance

Step side onto your Right foot and close your Left foot to your Right on the
“Quick Quick”. As you take these two steps you should change the angle of
your body 90° to be facing a new diagonal.

Step forward with your Right foot and then your left on the next two “Slow”
counts and then do another 90° turn back to where you started on the
“Quick, Quick” stepping side on your right foot and bringing your feet
together with your left.

Continue by stepping back again with your Right foot.

Notes for both the leader and follower:

- All forward and backwards steps should be “in line” – which means on the
same track as your partner’s feet. Do not attempt to step around or outside
your partner, merely place your foot into the space vacated by theirs.
- To turn corners, slightly change the degree of your turn on the side together
to facilitate moving around the corner. Make sure that the gent is always
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moving generally towards his left side and the lady to her right around the
- When stepping forward, step onto your heel – as you would when walking
- When stepping backwards, step onto your toe and roll through the foot – as
you would should you need to walk backwards generally.
- As this is a dance which ALWAYS changes feet – and is very much like
walking in that way – I would count the rhythm when practicing instead of
the feet. It is always “Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick-Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick-" etc
instead of "Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right..." etc.

 Waltz
Waltz is known for its rise and fall action, mostly including a step, slide and
step in ¾ time. According to Bedinghaus, “Dancers should move their
shoulders smoothly, parallel with the floor instead of up and down, and they
must strive to lengthen each step. On the first beat of the music, a step is
taken forward on the heel, then onto the ball of the foot with a gradual rise to
the toes, continuing on to the second and third beats of the music. At the end
of the third beat, the heel is lowered to the floor to the starting position.”

The rise and fall description of waltz came from the act of elevating and
lowering of the dancer as he or she moves using the toes then relaxes
through the knee and ankle, ending on a flat foot, giving the outward
appearance of the dancer moving up and down around the dance floor.


The basic movement of the Waltz is a three-step sequence consisting of a
step forward or backward, a step to the side, and a step closing the feet
together. The timing of the steps is known as "Quick, Quick, Quick" or "1,2,3."
The following steps are distinctive to the Waltz:
 Hover Corte
 Whisk
 Natural Spin Turn
 Hover Telemark
 Open Telemark Group
 Hairpin
 Oversway
 Swing

 Tango

Tango is danced to a repetitive style of music. The count of the music is either
16 or 32 beats. While dancing the tango, the lady is held in the crook of the
man’s arm. She holds her head back and rests her right hand on the man's
lower hip. The man must allow the lady to rest in this position while leading
her around the floor in a curving pattern.

Tango dancers must strive to make a strong connection with the music as
well as their audience.
Physical Education and Health 3
Ballroom Dancing as a Social Dance

 Slow Dancing
Slow dancing may either mean the slow end of the normal spectrum of
tempos (like 30 bars per minute) or it could mean distinctly slower than the
normal spectrum of tempos. But for social dance, it is mostly the latter.

The steps could be taken from onestep, twostep or waltz, depending on the
rhythm or the preferences of the dancers. The technique is different from the
normal spectrum of tempos. In the normal range of tempos onestep is the
only dance with heels kept off the floor. But in slow dancing it is best to keep
heels slightly off the floor in all three dances. The heels might barely touch
the floor, but no weight would be put on them. This is the easiest way to
achieve a floating feeling in the dance.

When the tempo is slow, but fast enough that large steps can be taken, then
normal toe/heel footwork should be used in twostep/foxtrot and in waltz so
that smooth motion can be achieved with large steps.

References and Supplementary Materials

Online Supplementary Reading Materials
The Three Worlds of Ballroom Dance;; July 15, 2017
Social Ballroom Dancing;; July 16, 2017
Online Instructional Videos
Beginner Social Foxtrot;; July 20,

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