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Let me start with this: I’m not a dancer. 

Not naturally, at least. I’ve always been clumsy in a way that results in broken plates, mysterious bruises and countless embarrassing moments. It was clear that I belonged in academics, music and anything that didn’t involve physical coordination from a young age.

Still, I was always intrigued by ballroom dancing. It seemed like every romantic fantasy movie involved the heroine being swept off her feet in a ballroom. With the popularity of shows like Dancing With the Stars in the 2000s, I admired the power and confidence of Latin dancers.

I figured my window to dance had passed once I reached my teens until I spotted a ballroom dancing class in UCF’s catalog. I was nervous, but I resolved to say yes to every new opportunity that came my way. So I enrolled.

The class was filled with people just like me — new to dancing but eager to learn. As I learned to waltz, cha-cha and swing, I made new friends and started social dancing. The class moved online during the pandemic, but I continued to practice the basic steps and line dances.

Several months later, I received a text from a friend in the class. He danced on the professor’s young adult dance team, and they were looking for new members. Keeping with my philosophy of saying yes to opportunities, I attended a rehearsal and have been going back since then.

Now, dancing is a significant part of my life. I met my current partner on that team and we get to dance socially, compete and perform. I’ve even taken over as an officer for UCF’s ballroom dance club, Ballroom Knights, where I help teach other college students that it’s never too late to learn.

Interested in trying out ballroom dancing yourself? Here are some of my tips:

Know the Different Types of Partner Dance

Partner dancing comes in many forms, each with its selection of dance styles. Try out a few to figure out where you’re most interested.

1. Ballroom

Ballroom dancing offers the widest variety of styles. It comes in two primary forms where the dances are further divided into two categories: International (Standard and Latin) and American (Smooth and Rhythm). Here you’ll find dance styles from waltz and tango to cha-cha, samba and jive. It’s an excellent place to start if you’re looking to learn as many styles as possible.

2. Latin (Social)

Unlike International Latin, social Latin represents the styles you’re more likely to find at clubs and social gatherings, like salsa, bachata, casino and merengue.

3. Swing

Swing dances originate from Lindy Hop, a dance style from the 1930s. Swing is typically danced to big band music, but some styles like West Coast Swing and hustle can be danced to pop, rock, disco and more.

4. Country-Western

Country dancing takes styles from ballroom and swing and puts them to country music. Additionally, it adds styles like the two-step, polka and line dancing. Dancers typically wear cowboy boots and leaders must wear a cowboy hat when competing.

How to Find Ballroom Dance Classes

When looking for dance lessons, you can sign up for a group class or take private lessons. Group classes are a great way to meet people and cost less, while private lessons cost more but will help you improve faster. Here are some ways to find classes.

Sign Up for a College Course

Many colleges offer a ballroom dancing course you can take for credit. If you’re a UCF student, there are two partner dancing courses you can take:

  • DAA 2300 – Ballroom Dance
  • DAA 2351 – Salsa & Latin Dance

Look for Dance Clubs on Campus

If your university doesn’t have a dedicated course, it will likely have classes through a student organization. UCF’s partner dancing clubs include:

Click the links for each organization to visit their Instagram and learn more.

Go to a Dance Social

If you’re brave enough, social dancing is one of the fastest ways to become a better dancer. Many socials will have a group lesson beforehand, and the more seasoned dancers are always willing to help younger dancers learn. Look for your area’s USA Dance chapter to find a social near you.

What to Bring to A Ballroom Dance Class

Found a class? Here’s a list of things to bring with you:

  • Comfortable clothes and shoes: Dance shoes are not necessary but make things easier. Real ballroom shoes will have suede on the bottom to make moving across the floor easier. If you’re just starting out and want a cheap shoe that’s easy to dance in, jazz shoes are recommended.
  • Water: Dancing is a workout, so it’s important to stay hydrated.
  • Deodorant: You’ll be dancing close to another person, so be polite, and make sure you smell decent.
  • Perfume/Cologne: See above.
  • Gum/Mints: See above
  • Fan: It can get hot while you’re dancing. A small hand fan will keep you cool even if there’s no A/C to stand by.
  • Hair Tie: If you have long hair, it’s good to keep it out of your face if you’re going to be spinning and turning. Plus, you’ll catch less sweat and avoid hitting your partner in the face.

Ballroom dancing is a great way to meet new people, exercise and build confidence. You can create an entire social life or even a career out of it, or just learn for fun. All it takes is some passion and the will to get started.

Emma Charlotte Young is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Public Relations. Texas-born and New York-raised, she is currently exploring everything the Sunshine State has to offer. When not in school, she enjoys sewing, baking, writing, photography, and playing with her Boston Terriers, Millie Mae and Quinnie Pearl.
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