Have you ever watched a performance of talented dancers and wished you could do that? Maybe you imagine those dancers were born with a sense of rhythm and movement you just don’t have. Or maybe you want to get up and move, but you just don’t know how. The truth is, good dancers aren’t born, they’re made. You can learn to be a good dancer and enjoy all the benefits that brings you—fun, friends, good exercise, and more.
In the 25 relaxed, easy-to-follow lessons of How to Dance, you’ll learn the rhythm, solo steps, and partnering techniques of 16 of the most popular social dances so you can have a great time on the dance floor. From the gentle elegance of the waltz to the hot rhythms of the mambo, from the bouncing steps of the polka to the swagger of the tango, you’ll learn it all and have a great time in the process.
Your instructors, professional dancers Rob Glover and Alyssa Lundgren, were beginners once, too, as they point out. They know what it takes to learn the steps and they encourage practice all along the way and invite you to review each lesson as often as you’d like. They teach with an informal clarity and calm demeanor, making each lesson very easy to understand. Most important, it’s clear they’re having fun—and you will, too!
Types of Dance
This course addresses four basic genres of dance—Latin & rhythm, swing, smooth & ballroom, and country. In each of the four modules, you’ll learn the rhythms of that style, how to count and feel the music, steps each person can practice by themselves, and the specific ways in which the leader and follower contribute to the partnering process. You can certainly take the course in the order it’s offered, or you can use the self-contained modules in any order, starting with the type of dance you like best.
In this course, you’ll learn:
- Latin & Rhythm. In Latin, the dance frame (the way the partners hold each other) is fixed with bent arms, never straight. Partners stand only slightly apart, and the foot movement is typically sharp. You’ll learn the Cuban motion that is so important to Latin dance—a hip motion that originates from the knees—as you learn the unique rhythms and steps of the rumba, mambo, cha-cha, and salsa.
- Swing. Unlike Latin dances, the majority of swing dances are spot dances, which rotate and can travel across the dancefloor, with energetic, tight turns. With the two basic steps of swing—the rock step and the triple step—the dance can be adapted to many types of music, although it had its origins in the world of jazz. In this course, you’ll learn the single-time swing, East Coast swing, Lindy Hop, West Coast swing, and the hustle.
- Smooth & Ballroom. Ballroom dances also move around the dance floor in a circular motion, using specific step patterns and rhythms that reflect the music. Previously danced in tuxes and ball gowns, these dances are still enjoyed and taught all around the world in less formal settings. In this course, you’ll learn the foxtrot, American tango, and the waltz.
- Country. Country dance is a true reflection of the American melting pot, with dance elements from several continents blended into it. Country music and its associated dances became more accessible in the 1920s when the Grand Ole Opry began to broadcast nationwide. In this course, you’ll have fun learning the polka, the two-step, and the nightclub two-step.
Your instructors share everything you need to know, step by step, and are always reassuring. Getting ready to learn the partner steps for the mambo? They will remind you to go over the solo steps as many times as you need in order to feel confident. While tradition has often dictated that male dance partners lead and women follow, this division no longer matters. In fact, your instructors change leader and follower roles when they practice, to help them learn more about partner communication, and to refine their technique.
In this course, you will learn each dance in a specific sequence:
- Rhythm. You learn how many beats are in each measure of music by listening to the instructor and then clapping the rhythm yourself. Once you hear the music and feel the rhythm, then you’re ready to move.
- Solo Steps. Before dancing with a partner, it’s important to learn the basic steps on your own. From a walk, walk to a rock step to a swivel, you’ll learn all the steps you need to know for each dance before moving with a partner.
- Partner Steps. You’ll learn how to place your body relative to your partner’s for each dance. Your instructors will explain when to keep each other at arm’s length, move in closer, or turn under your partner’s arm.
- Dance-Along. Each module of the course concludes with a dance-along in which the instructors perform all the dances in that genre. It’s a great opportunity to try out everything you’ve learned, or to watch the performances with your newly trained eye.
Where Do These Dances Come From?
While the dances you’ll learn in this course might feel like classics, no dance starts out that way. As you learn to dance the various styles presented here, you’ll also learn about their history. People immigrating to the US from all over the world brought their music and dance styles with them, and Americans traveling abroad learned new styles to bring back home. One person showed someone, who showed the next person; a group got together to dance, and if it had the right feel and rhythm for the time, it could catch on and become popular. Sometimes a movie or television show would highlight a dance, and suddenly people were dancing that style all across the country.
In addition, sometimes one person or one ballroom could make a lasting difference in the world of dance. In this course, you’ll learn about the contributions of many individuals and institutions, including:
- Arthur Murray. Young Arthur started teaching dance in New York as a child; and today, 260 studios around the world carry his name. He not only wrote books and promoted dance on radio and TV, but he is also responsible for standardizing the foxtrot and creating single-time swing.
- Savoy Ballroom. In the 1920s, the Savoy Ballroom in New York’s Harlem district was one of the few places where interracial dancing could happen and where people could learn new styles from each other despite segregation. It was here that the Lindy Hop went from street dance to social phenomenon, eventually to become known as the grandfather of swing.
- The Grand Ole Opry. Country music and country dancing were very regional throughout the 19th and early 20th century, but it became much more widely accessible when the Grand Ole Opry began to broadcast across the nation in the 1920s.
As you learn about the history, rhythms, and steps of all these exciting dances, you’ll learn one more thing, too: You can dance! Relax, have fun, and let the music and the steps take you where you’ve always wanted to go.