1. History of Ballroom Dancing
The term ‘ballroom’ comes from the Latin word ‘Ballare’ – to dance. Ballroom dancing was recorded way back in 1588, originally being used only by royalty and the privileged. In the early 20th century ballroom dancing became a popular pastime for not only royalty, due to the media attention surrounding famous dancers such as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
The most important dance in the history of ballroom, and one that is still popular today is the Waltz.
2. What to Wear Ballroom Dancing?
There are a few important factors when choosing what to wear to a ballroom dance class. The first important factor is being comfortable! Now this is important for both your clothing and your shoes.
For shoes it’s recommended to keep the heel low (especially if you’re a beginner) you don’t want to twist an ankle and be out of the dancing game for a while.
Always avoid backless shoes; they’re impossible to dance in, as they’ll slip off your feet constantly.
If you’re a beginner you also may want to avoid wearing open toed sandals. For Latin dances especially strappy shoes are popular, but you may get trodden on so it’s recommended to stick to closed toe to start, and move up as your confidence grows.
In terms of clothing, being comfortable is so important, loose fitting clothes that don’t restrict your movements are recommended. Such as loose dresses or skirts for women and cotton T-shirts/ Polo shirts with light pants for men.
Don’t feel as if you have to look the part for every lesson and dress like you’ve just finished Dancing With the Stars! It gets expensive to buy lots of these outfits and they’re not always the most comfortable.
The second important factor when choosing Ballroom dance clothes is breathability. Dancing for an hour or more can make you seriously hot and sweaty and nothing makes this worse then a hot, stiff material that doesn’t allow your skin to breath.
Keep the material light, a good way to check if it’s breathable is to hold it up to the light – the density of the material will reveal how breathable it’s going to be.
Here is a great article giving more detail on what to wear to your first ballroom dancing lesson.
3. What to Brings to Your First Ballroom Dance Class?
Change of Shoes
For ballroom dancing it’s usually recommended to wear shoes that have a soft sole, meaning you can glide along the wooden floors. These (usually suede) soles shouldn’t be worn outside, as they’ll ruin.
So, pack a pair of flip-flops or sliders to pop on as you’re jumping in the car – to avoid having to replace your (expensive) shoes every other week!
Ballroom dancing is tiring cardiovascular exercise and you’ll need to keep hydrated. Whether you’re doing a slower style dance or quick, you’re sure to be sweating so keep a big bottle of cold water on the side-lines and sip regularly.
If you’re someone that gets hot and sticky a little bit quicker than others, best to bring a small face towel to pat yourself down if you’re getting hot.
I’ve always found it really useful to bring a small notebook to a dance class, so if we learn a new series of movements I can jot them down – YouTube it later and practice at home.
4. What Steps Will I be Learning?
This is obviously dependant on the dance style that you’re going for and it will vary massively from class to class.
If you want to be ahead of the game when you’ve signed up for a class, check out YouTube to find some basic ballroom steps. Here are a few great examples
This particular video splits the basic movements into both male and female steps so you can learn the part you need – and if you have a partner at home, practice the steps together.
This video takes you through the basic ‘box step’, which will be extremely useful to learn before heading off to a class as it’s the most popular base step.
Latin dances are also available on YouTube, this video also shows the basic counting method as well as some steps. This shows both the male and female steps so you can learn and practice together.
These are just a few of the 100’s of videos available, but don’t feel as if you MUST practice before turning up. Classes are available for all different dance levels and it’s perfectly acceptable to know nothing before turning up.
5. Do You Need to be a Naturally Good Dancer, to Start Ballroom Dancing?
No, there are loads of people out there who will refuse to learn a dance style, because they’ve been told they have ‘2 left feet’. But dancing is for everyone, it’s sociable, great exercise and most importantly, fun!
Of course it will help if you have naturally great rhythm and can move to the beat well, however this is something you can practice and perfect.
6. Be Social, Not Shy!
Dance classes are all about getting involved and giving it a go, if it’s your first class and your nervous – bring a friend if this will help you get up and dance.
If you haven’t got anyone to go with, dance classes are extremely welcoming and an amazing place to meet new people. You don’t need a dance partner to turn up as normally they’ll rotate around the room, so that you’re used to dancing with a variety of different people.
7. Should I go to a Private Class to Start?
This is personal preference; if you’ve feeling a little more shy and want a one-on-one session then these are always available to book. Private dance classes are popular for couples looking to learn a dance for an event (usually a wedding dance) and private classes can be much more useful for this. The beauty of a private class is that it can be tailored to your dance experience and level and to the music of your choosing.
Group classes are more common as they’re cheaper and more sociable. Dance teachers still walk around and give you one-on-one feedback so they’re a great way to improve, but perhaps not at the same rate. Group classes are amazing for practicing steps, patterns and rhythm and less so about technique.