Learning Step Patterns vs. Technique in Ballroom & Latin Dance

Learning Step Patterns vs. Technique in Ballroom & Latin Dance

Steps Vs. Technique 

Where did the idea for this blog come from? 

Well, it’s something I’ve wanted to get down on paper (or screen) for a while… It is not uncommon when teaching dance that we’ll hear these sorts of comments: 

‘Nah, I don’t want to learn any more technique, I don’t want to be a professional or anything’ 


‘I just want to learn more steps, I’m only learning for fun’ 

Some of it I agree with.

Dancing should be all about having fun! We are not interested in training people up to be ‘comp’ dancers (there are plenty of other studios for that) and we don’t claim to train up professional dancers either. So, in that way, I guess these comments are positive and means we have attracted the right members to our studio. After all our whole motto is ‘creating happiness through dance!’ 

Now why do I feel that this sort of thinking is not 100% correct…? The assumption that someone that is not planning on becoming a professional/comp dancer or is ‘just learning for fun’  has little need to learn good technique. Nor should they get too gung hoe with step patterns. Here’s why… 


Lots of steps does not make you a good dancer – Remember: it’s not the size of your repertoire; but the way you use it that counts!

Steps that are autopilot for both the leader and the follower are the ones that will be danced and executed smoothly and harmoniously to music. Once you start adding step patterns in there that are newer and not as well revised the dance can begin to feel bumpy or jerky. 

When myself and many other teachers dance at pubs and social events we will primarily use beginner 1 and 2 with a tiny bit of int 1 sprinkled in (depending on whom we are dancing with). Why? This is by far the most practical and enjoyable material for most people to dance. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that just dancing this material full stop is a good idea. It needs to be danced with lovely technique, smooth lead and follow and a high level of ‘continuity’. 

***Continuity is the art of threading steps together smoothly, often without necessarily having a ‘basic step’ in between. This makes all the difference!

Give me a leader dancing beginner 1 and 2 perfectly any day over some fancy pants leading Int 2 or advanced material at 50%. For sure! 


Bad technique is not fun for you

At first, dancing without the right technique certainly feels more fun, I get it. Stepping through your moves without having to concentrate on which hip goes where is so much easier! And easy=fun, right? Absolutely! 

It is completely normal that when you first start learning technique it will feel like you have taken a few steps backwards. (see this handy diagram) 

Learning Step Patterns vs. Technique in Ballroom & Latin DanceHowever , if you stop working on technique you will be setting yourself up for failure in the future. 

There are steps coming up in Int 1, 2 or Advanced that simply cannot physically be performed if you do not have the correct technique. You may find yourself in a class that is supposed to be your level and wonder why you are just not getting it. 

  • Why can’t I spin fast enough to stay in time? 
  • Why do I keep losing my balance in the middle of this move? 
  • Why can’t I get my step patterns the right size to keep up with my partner? 
  • Why can everyone else get it and I can’t? 

Feeling like this during a calls is not fun. 

Bad technique is not fun for your partner 

Okay, I’m just going to say it…. (with all the love in the world, of course)

Followers with bad technique are hard work to lead- They can feel heavy and leave you feeling sore and dancing awkwardly. It can feel like pushing a pram with the brakes on. 

Leaders with bad technique are hard to follow – The dance can become an anxious guessing game and timing is easily thrown out the window (which does not feel very good)

Niether of these scenarios make your dancing fun for you or others on the dance floor.