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Which Dances Should I Learn First?

As a new dancer, you might not know which dances to start with. These brief descriptions with video and song clips will give you an idea of what each dance is like, so you can decide which ones might suit you best.

Foxtrot is like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park… smooth and relaxed, with just a touch of liveliness in its steps. It is a traveling dance, so it is comfortably danced on a medium to large dance floor. Appropriate music is jazzy with a medium to quick tempo. For instance, if it’s by Frank Sinatra and you can snap your fingers to it….it’s probably Foxtrot.

  Traditional, medium tempo
  • Too Marvelous for Words
Frank Sinatra
  Traditional, slow tempo
  • Our Love is Here to Stay
E. Fitzgerald and
L. Armstrong


Competitive-Performance Foxtrot
Waltz is smooth and romantic, and as a traveling dance, requires a medium to large floor to be danced comfortably. Rise and fall throughout the dance give it a very fluid, almost ‘floating’ look. Waltz music can be identified as it is in ¾ time, as opposed to the 4/4 timing of the other dances.

  • A Tender Heart
Joe Romano
  • Come Away with Me
Nora Jones  

Viennese Waltz is a fast and invigorating style of Waltz. It travels the floor at a feverish pace, and requires a large floor to be danced comfortably.

  • You Ever Really Loved A Woman?
Bryan Adams
American Tango is passionate and dramatic! Its staccato movements and bold, forceful steps make it exciting for both dancer and spectator. As a traveling dance, it requires a medium to large floor to be danced to it’s fullest.

  • Tango Jack
Joe Romano
  • El Toreador
Argentine Tango is the original Tango. It is a passionate, yet intimate dance characterized by a close embrace and steps that entwine the legs, as well as intricate and delicate foot movement. It is a dance that allows a lot of ‘playing’ with the feet. Although this style of Tango may travel quite a bit on the floor, it is also comfortably danced in small spaces.

  • Recuerdo
Orquesta Tipica
  • Jeanne y Paul
Astor Piazzolla  

Argentine Tango

Tango Performance
(be sure to watch the past 2:17)
Rumba is the mother of the Latin dances. Its slow, sensual movements make it perfect for an intimate ‘slow dance’ (just you and your sweetie) whereas it’s elaborate patterns make it just as appropriate for a performance dance (just you, your sweetie, and the cheering audience). Rumba has a relaxed feel for the dancer, and is characterized by plenty of Latin hip motion. It is compact enough to be danced on a rather small dance floor. In addition to traditional Latin music, many popular (top 40 type) ballads are appropriate for dancing Rumba.

  • Amado Mio
Pink Martini
  • You Make it Easy


Rumba Wedding Dance
Cha-cha is exciting and invigorating! Latin in nature, the Cha-cha is characterized by fast Latin rhythms with a syncopated beat. It is a ‘spot’ dance, so it does not travel and can easily be danced on a small dance floor. The hips are likely to get a good workout in this dance, as it incorporates plenty of Latin hip motion. In addition to traditional Latin cha-cha music, many popular club songs and faster ‘top 40’ type songs are appropriate for dancing cha-cha.

  • Volver a Verte
Oscar D'Leon
  • Lady Marmalade
Christina Aguilera,
Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink
  • Echa Pa`Lante
Salsa is by far the most popular of the Latin dances in the United States today. It is fast, sexy, and relentless in its combinations of exciting spins, twists, and turns. It incorporates the constant rhythmic hip motion of the other Latin dances to provide a dance experience that is “action packed” (to say the least). It is a ‘spot ‘dance, so it requires only a small bit of dance floor space to be comfortably danced. (Which is good, because the Salsa clubs are generally quite full!)

  • Amar Sin Condicion
  • Juliana
Dark Latin Groove  

East Coast Swing is essentially the “Jitterbug” that became so popular in the 40’s and 50’s…and it is still very much alive today. A lively dance, it has a less serious, very ‘happy’ feel to it. Swing is a ‘spot’ dance, so it can be danced in rather tight quarters. Plenty of twists and turns to be had-as well as the occasional being wrapped up into your partner’s arms! E.C.Swing can be danced in three different timings - to accommodate very fast to very slow tempos. Appropriate music would be ‘Big Band’ style songs.

  • In the Mood
Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • Are you Hep to the Jive
Big Time Operator  
  Modern, slow
  • Tryin’ to Forget You
Candye Kane  

East Coast Swing - Triple Time
Lindy-Hop is a traditional version of swing, and an elaborate dance with changes in timing throughout. It is danced to Big Band music, at fast, medium or slow tempos. It is a ‘spot’ dance, so it requires little space to be danced comfortably. Lindy is known for it’s aerials (lifting or “throwing” one’s partner) as well as abundant spins and swivels. (A girl can “work her skirt” by swiveling her hips from side to side.) Modern Lindy-Hoppers are known for incorporating other dances of the era such as Charleston, Balboa, Boogie-woogie, and Shag.

  Modern, slow tempo
  • The Way we Ought to be
Indigo Swing
  Modern, medium tempo
  • Give Your Little Baby Lots of Lovin
Anson Weeks
  Modern, fast tempo
  • That’s Where my Money Goes
Indigo Swing  

Lindy Competitive-Performance

Lindy Competitive-Performance
West Coast Swing is a descendant of the Lindy-Hop, and the two dances are structurally similar. W.C. Swing, however, has a more sophisticated feel, and is traditionally danced to Rhythm and Blues. (Cool & sexy). Modern dancers, however, dance to many styles of music including Hip-hop, and Funk. W.C. Swing is a ‘slot’ dance, as each couple takes up a ‘slot’ of space on the floor. This enables dancers to take advantage of even a very small space for dancing. The dance is characterized by sharp stops-or freezes-at appropriate breaks in the music, as well as invitational patterns, which give the lady an unusual amount of creative freedom.

  Traditional, slow tempo
  • Wade in the Water
Eva Cassidy
  Traditional, fast tempo
  • Whole Lotta Leave Me Alones
Trudy Lynn  
  Modern, slow tempo
  • Give Me One Reason
Tracey Chapman  
  Modern, fast tempo
  • All For You
Janet Jackson  

West Coast Swing
Nightclub Two-Step (also called California two-step, Disco two-step, or Night-club Slow) was invented by Buddy Schwimmer around 1965. It is danced to medium to slow pop music, and has a more relaxed feel and frame than most ballroom dances. A spot dance with a smooth feel, it has stationary as well as traveling moves, and is appropriate for most dance floors, whatever the size.

  • Lady in Red
Chris De Burgh
  • By Your Side

Nightclub Two-Step

NC 2-Step Choreography-Performance
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