Technique: Bridging The Gap Between Doing Steps And Really Dancing

United States Amateur DanceSport Championship

By The Girl with the Tree Tattoo


What is the first thing you think of when I say the words “technique drill”?

Boring? Tedious? Your teacher telling you “one more time” when you know it will end up being 10?

When I think of technique drills, I think discipline, detail, strength, and yes, sometimes tedious work.

You find technique in every dance style, but the curious thing about ballroom is it’s not the first thing you learn. In ballet, you learn your five positions and then you repeat them over and over and over again before you get to do anything else. But in ballroom, when you go to your first lesson, you can learn an entire rumba routine complete with box steps, underarm turns, and cross-body leads. You’re dancing!

Or are you?

One thing I love about ballroom is the fact that you can quickly learn a handful of basic steps that you can do to music and feel like you’re dancing. It makes this dance genre very accessible to everyone. But if you compare your “dancing” to, say, a professional champion’s dancing, the two look VERY different!

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While there are many mountains to climb to reach a championship level, technique is a clear path to get you started. The basic American rumba box steps are forward, side, together, back, side, together. Walk through those steps using the timing of slow, quick, quick, and you’re doing the rumba! But when you start examining the technique of the steps, such as how exactly do you take that step forward, that’s when you start discovering the dancing in the steps. 

I admit that I kind of geek out on technique. Not only is it a path to higher levels of dancing, but it’s also a path to connecting more deeply with myself as a dancer. Only dancers can truly appreciate how involved a step forward can be. From the toes to the leg and hip joints to the spine and head alignment, every body part gets to be involved in that “simple” step forward. Personally, I think that’s amazing. It’s like shining a beam of white light through a prism and discovering that simple white light is full of rainbows. 

Technique enriches the moments between steps that would otherwise be empty and gives small movements BIG impact. Just think about the way a top Latin dancer draws in her foot or rolls her hip or the way a champion ballroom dancer uses a practically imperceptible hip tick to cue his follower to change from closed to promenade position. That’s the power of technique. It gives you ultimate control over every inch of your body.

So what do you say now? Technique may be tedious or boring to learn and develop, but it’s key to turning your steps into dancing and your dancing into magic. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do my drills.

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