Dance Basics


Dance is a performing art and an emerging sport. Dance uses movement of the body, timing, and visually pleasing maneuvers to create art. Dance is making a shift towards being widely accepted as a sport. Competitions such as World of Dance have helped with this effort. Many such competitions have huge cash prizes and attract the best dancers in the world.

Competitive dancing uses scores to evaluate dancers and determine victors. Scores are typically based off of routine, technique, choreography, and presentation.

Dancers can perform and compete individually or as part of a team. Teams can be as small as two dancers, and often have no maximum team member amount.

There are many different styles of dance. A few examples include contemporary, hip-hop, and bollywood.

The Basics

When individuals or teams dance, they will typically dance to music. In competitions dancers will either have a set of several songs, or just one song to dance to. Dancers pick from commercially available songs. Dancers attempt to coordinate their dance moves to the beat of the song, delivering big moves during appropriate parts of the song.

There are three sides of dancing: choreography, training, and performance. Choreography involves designing and editing the dance routine to be performed. Training is the stage during which the dancers practice the routine until they have it perfected. Finally, the performance is the final display of the dance, often in front of judges and/or an audience.

dance basics

Basic Steps

While different choreographers like to craft routines differently, there are some universal steps which are fairly universal in the dance community:

  • Ball Change
  • Box Step
  • Chaîne Turns
  • Dos-i-do
  • Grapevine
  • Heel Turn
  • Moonwalk
  • Rond
  • Swing

Basic steps are unique to the dance in which one is learning. For example, the waltz has different basic steps from the salsa. Here is a list of some of the most common types of dances:

  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Quickstep
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Cha-Cha
  • Rumba
  • Jive
  • Paso Doble
dance 101

Basic Positions

There are five basic dance positions. Position one has toes pointed outwards and heels nearly together, with arms raised to a circle in front of one's chest.

Position two has one's feet more separated, but still pointed out. Arms should be raised to the sides and pointing out.

Position three has the left foot in front of the right, with the right hand raised above the head and the left hand in front of the stomach.

Position four is similar to position three, but has the opposite foot in the front and it is now farther from the other foot.

Fifth position has one leg crossed in front of the other, with arms raised into a semi circle above one's head.

dance positions

The Waltz

Many beginners start out with the Waltz. It is perhaps the most famous dance and it is fairly easy to learn. However, the waltz is a ballroom dance, and many dancers will never even take part in the ballroom style. For dancers in other styles, it depends what their teacher or choreographer tells them. If you are thinking about starting dance, it is a good idea to take a class or get a private instructor who can walk you through dances at first.

The Foxtrot

Many dancers point to the foxtrot as the easiest dance to learn. The foxtrot is similar to the waltz, but it uses a different time signature for its rhythm.

The foxtrot is a ballroom style dance. It is likely the easiest ballroom dance, but not necessarily the easiest dance of any style. Theoretically the easiest dance to learn would be a simple free-style dance with very few steps. However, there are infinite possible free-style dances.

The best ways to learn dances for beginners is with dance classes, personal instructors, or online tutorials. There are countless youtube videos with walkthroughs to simple dances such as the foxtrot. Keep in mind that many dances require a partner to dance with!

How To Start Dancing

Dance is a unique sport in that there are no required materials. However, there are some optional things that definitely help.

It is easiest to learn how to dance in a dance studio. Such studios have mirrors all around so that you can see exactly what you, and everyone else, is doing. Dance studios also have floors that are conducive for dancing, and bars to stretch on.

It is also important to have good dancing shoes. Dancing shoes are typically lighter than normal street shoes. This allows you to be more mobile and swift in your dancing movements. If you are tap dancing, you will need special tap dance shoes.

Dancers also need to have a good outfit to dance in. A good outfit is lightweight and flexible, just like the dancing shoes.

For competitive dance teams, a matching outfit is an important part of the presentation.