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Duet Dance Studio

2412 W North Ave., #201, Chicago, IL 60647

312.823.8199 | info@duetdancestudio.com

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2412 West North Avenue, Suite 201
Chicago, IL, 60647
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312.823.8199

Duet Dance Studio Chicago offers ballroom dance lessons and wedding dance classes. We teach salsa, swing, tango and waltz dance lessons. Privately and in groups, for adults and kids.

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Get useful tips on ballroom dancing and wedding dance preparation and watch tutorial videos created by Szewai Lee, founder of Duet Dance Studio.

Filtering by Category: Howto

How to Waltz? Waltz Basics for Beginners with Video Tutorials

Szewai Lee

The Waltz is an elegant and graceful dance that is designed for large dance floors.  Because of the dance’s long, flowing movements, perpetual turns, and rise and fall technique, dancers appear to glide effortlessly through the space.  Waltz can be done to any music with a slow tempo in ¾ time.  Our favorite waltz songs include “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn and “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones.  In this blog post, we will tell you the history, characteristics, music of Waltz and show you how to do the Waltz basics. Enjoy!

History

Although we think of Waltz as classy, the form was considered vulgar and immoral when first introduced to English ballrooms in the early 1800’s.  It was the first time anyone had seen a man holding a lady so close!  It started as a country folk dance in the suburbs of Austria and Bavaria.  While the upper class danced the minuet, bored aristocrats snuck away to their servants’ balls where they discovered the Waltz.  Shortly thereafter, the Waltz was introduced to the United States where the dance and music developed a slower tempo.

Characteristics

Waltz is a progressive dance style that travels and sways.  It is characterized by large, fluid movements and turns with a rise and fall technique. Waltz resembles Foxtrot in that it has a similar frame.  Foxtrot is done in an even time signature whereas waltz is done as a triplet.

Timing and Music

The time signature in Waltz is 3/4. The waltz basic can be counted as "1,2,3; 1,2,3".  Waltz can only be done to music in this time signature.  Check out our Waltz song list here!  The waltz that is common in the west is danced at approximately 90 beats per minute with 3 beats in each measure.  If a song is faster (around 180 beats a minute) then Viennese or a modified Waltz would be more appropriate.

Dance Hold

In Waltz, dancers maintain a wide and extended dance hold that helps them travel across the floor and navigate more efficiently.

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How to Waltz? Let's Start with the Basics!

The waltz box is the basic step in Waltz and it is a simple yet versatile step perfect for beginning dancers. Learn how to do the waltz box step in this tutorial video below. 

Once you've mastered the basic box step, you can move on to learn a beautiful Under Arm Turn!

What is favorite ballroom dance style? Please share!

Want to learn more Waltz? Check out our Online Dance Lessons now!


The Duet Team is a group of friendly dancers who are passionate about helping people and sharing the joy of ballroom dance. And we love to make new friends and have fun at work! Duet Dance Studio is located in Chicago West Bucktown. We offer ballroom dance lessonswedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Online Wedding Dance Lessons and Skype dance lessons are also available! Dances we teach include Salsa, Swing, Tango, Bachata, Merengue, Waltz and Foxtrot. Sign up for an introductory dance lesson now to get started!

Differences Between Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha and Merengue

Szewai Lee

Many beginning students have asked me the differences between some of the popular Latin dances. So, I'm writing this post to help you understand the general differences between Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha and Merengue. All of these styles are danced in Latin dance clubs these days and are intimate dances usually performed to upbeat Latin music. Exotic, hot, sexy and sensual are words that often used to describe these dances. And, of course, there is a lot of hip motion in all of these dances!

What is Salsa

Origin: The exact origin is unknown but many believe that Salsa dancing began in New York in the mid-1970s. It has its roots in the earlier Latin dance styles, such as Cha-Cha and Mambo and was also influenced by other swing dance styles. Salsa dance is a combination of different dance styles, just like the sauce, "salsa," which is a delicious mixture of various ingredients. Salsa is considered the king of Latin dances and is being danced throughout the world.

Music: Salsa is in 4/4 time and sounds more intricate than Merengue and Bachata because of its syncopated rhythm, known as the "Clave" rhythm. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the "Clave" rhythm. Here is a video demonstrating the "Son Clave," which is often used in Salsa music.

Steps: Salsa basic consists of 3 steps (2 quicks and 1 slow or a pause). You could dance the Salsa "On1" (LA style) or "On2" (NY style); in other words, you can start your first step (breaking step) on the first beat (the strong beat) or the second beat. Footwork in both styles are generally the same however the feelings are quite different. Dancing "On1" appears to be more exciting and flashier while dancing "On2" feels more relaxed and smooth. Below are my tutorials on Salsa Basic and Simple Right Turn in "On1" style. 

Characteristics: Intricate music, fast-paced, sharp and exciting turns

Salsa Basic

Simple Salsa Right Turn

What is Bachata

Origin: Bachata originated in the rural neighborhoods of Dominican Republic. It has become one of the most popular Latin dances in recent years. 

Music: Bachata is also in 4/4 time but has its own distinctive sound. In the early days, it was a guitar music played by peasants and were often slow, sad and romantic. These days, Bachata has gotten more upbeat and incorporated electronic sounds. Some contemporary Bachata Artists and groups include Luis Vargas, Aventura, Prince Royce, Juan Luis Guerra and Xtreme.

Steps: Bachata basics consist of 3 steps and a tap. The chasse basic goes "side-together-side-tap" and can be spiced up with a hip motion or a lift of the leg at the "tap" step. Dancers keep their knees bent throughout to promote hip motion. Bachata can be danced in two-hand hold, open embrace but is often danced in close embrace at nightclubs. 

Characteristics: Sensual, intimate, relaxed, hip motion

A presentation of Bachata being danced in different styles by local Dominicans.

Social dancers in a Bachata competition.

What is Cha Cha

Origin: Also known as Cha-Cha-Cha, it is a dance style originated in Cuba and became popular in the U.S. in the 50s. Cha-Cha is also a competitive Latin dance style in both American and International ballroom dance competitions.

Music: Cha-Cha is danced in 4/4 time as well. It is often counted as "1-2-3-cha-cha" (a cha is 1/2 beat) or 1-2-3-4-&. This dance style can be danced to authentic Cuban music as well as Latin Pop and Latin Rock.

Steps: The basic consists of a rock step and a chasse step, which is a triple step pattern that goes step-together-step. The chasse step in Cha-Cha makes the dance look more intricate, sharp and stylish. Similar to other Latin dances, in Cha-Cha, dancers keep their feet close to the floor and let their hips move freely throughout.  

Characteristics: Intricate footwork, sharp action, quick spins, flashy, staccato music

A fun video of Bruce Lee dancing the social Cha-Cha-Cha (dancing starts at 0:33)!

Professional dancers demonstrating the competitive Cha-Cha-Cha at the Blackpool.

What is Merengue

Origin: Merengue is a traditional folk dance originated in Dominican Republic and was brought to the U.S. by Dominican musicians in the early 1900s. 

Music: Merengue is in 2/4 time (1-2-1-2), which gives a marching feel to it. These days, Merengue has been influenced by Hip Hop, R&B and other pop music. Some well known Merengue artists include Juan Luis Guerra, Elvis Crespo, Wilfrido Vargas, Eddy Herrera and Los Vecinos. 

Steps: The basic dance step (similar to marching) is quite simple in Merengue. Dancers keep their knees slightly bent and feet in contact with the floor throughout. It's a wonderful dance for beginners and a great way to practice the Cuban motion (hip motion).

Characteristics: Lighthearted, festive, casual, social, hip motion

A demonstration of the traditional Merengue dance.

Merengue being danced at a casual social setting.

What's your favorite Latin dance? And why? Please leave a comment below! 

Wanna learn how to dance?


The Duet Team is a group of friendly dancers who are passionate about helping people and sharing the joy of ballroom dance. And we love to make new friends and have fun at work! Duet Dance Studio is located in Chicago West Bucktown. We offer ballroom dance lessonswedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Online Wedding Dance Lessons and Skype dance lessons are also available! Dances we teach include Salsa, Swing, Tango, Bachata, Merengue, Waltz and Foxtrot. Sign up for an introductory dance lesson now to get started!

Lead and Follow in Ballroom Dancing | Part 2: How to Follow like Ginger Rogers

Szewai Lee

ginger_fred1.jpg

“After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” - Ann Richards

 

While most people are used to making their own decisions in their personal and professional lives these days, it can be a challenge to let go and learn to follow on the dance floor. And like what Ann Richards said, Ginger did everything Fred did on the dance floor but backwards and in high heels. It is not easy to be a follower; however, learning to follow can be a powerful practice of patience and trust and can be very enjoyable!

How to Follow like Ginger

1. Maintain a Strong Frame. Remember the "Spaghetti Arm" syndrome that Patrick Swayze mentions in "Dirty Dancing" ? As a follower, you must keep your frame firm so that your partner can connect to your body and lead you effectively. You should feel like you are part of his/her body and wherever he/she goes, you should be able to sense the motion instantly. Think about the cup phones you played with when you were a kid. Your frame is similar to the string that connects the cups.  To communicate effectively through the cups, you and your friend at the other end need to keep the string taut by maintaing the distance between you two (maintain your personal space!). And when the string is loose, you lose the connection. Here are a few checkpoints to help you maintain a strong frame:

  • Roll your shoulders back
  • Push your left wrist slightly forward towards the leader's triceps
  • Engage your right arm and keep your right elbow in front of your rib cage
  • Stand up straight
  • Engage your core (tuck your belly in!)

2. Be Patient. The key to following is to slow down and wait. As a follower, your movement should always be a tiny bit delayed because you are reacting to your partner's lead. It's okay to be late!

3. Let Go. It's time for you to relax and let go. Stop counting the music for your partner, telling him/her what to do or even back-leading. Your job is to maintain a good connection to your partner and travel with him/her. Let your partner surprise you and enjoy the ride!

4. Trust your Partner. Next time when you practice with your partner, blindfold yourself and simply follow him/her. It might be scary in the beginning but soon you will have fun following. It's a great way to build trust to your partner and improve your following skills. Your partner will also get better at leading when you are actually following because your partner has to make even stronger and clearer signals when you are not anticipating what your next step would be. 

 

What is the most challenging thing for you in leading or following? And how do you overcome those challenges? I'd like to hear about your experiences.

If you like this post, you may also like my previous post, How to Lead Like Fred Astaire.

Happy dancing!


The Duet Team is a group of friendly dancers who are passionate about helping people and sharing the joy of ballroom dance. And we love to make new friends and have fun at work! Duet Dance Studio is located in Chicago West Bucktown. We offer ballroom dance lessonswedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Online Wedding Dance Lessons and Skype dance lessons are also available! Dances we teach include Salsa, Swing, Tango, Bachata, Merengue, Waltz and Foxtrot. Sign up for an introductory dance lesson now to get started!

Lead and Follow in Ballroom Dancing | Part 1: How to Lead like Fred Astaire

Szewai Lee

It's amazing to see how two complete strangers can move and dance together as one. And that's the beauty of partner dancing! You don't need to know your dance partner previously in order to dance together. All you need to do is effectively perform your role either as a leader or follower. In this and the upcoming blog post, I'm going to offer tips on how to lead and follow like pros on the dance floor.

How to Lead Like Fred

1. Maintain a Strong Frame.  The dance frame is the most important thing in lead and follow as it helps you maintain the connection between you and your partner. Your frame should be firm and steady all time. "Noodle arms" or a weak frame will hinder the connection to your partner. Think about the cup phones you played with when you were a kid. Your frame is similar to the string that connects the cups.  To communicate effectively through the cups, you and your friend at the other end need to keep the string taut by maintaing the distance between you two. And when the string is loose, you lose the connection. When you have a good connection/frame, your partner will feel like he/she is part of your body. Wherever you go, he/she can sense the movement from your body instantly. Here are a few checkpoints to help you maintain a strong frame:

  • Cup your partner's shoulder blade with your right hand
  • Lift your right elbow
  • Roll your shoulders back
  • Stand up straight
  • Engage your core (tuck your belly in!)
 Proper dance frame for strong lead.

Proper dance frame for strong lead.

 Duet Dance Studio's students practicing the proper dance frame in a private dance lesson.

Duet Dance Studio's students practicing the proper dance frame in a private dance lesson.

2. Take Decisive Steps. Accidents often happen when the driver isn't sure where he/she is going and is being hesitant with his/her moves. On the dance floor, when you are hesitant about your dance steps, your partner will often start leading and you will end up stepping on each other's toes. As a leader, you must take strong, intentional steps and be clear with your leads and signals. When you are new to a dance step, practice it a lot until you can perform it confidently. Remember, leader, you are in charge on the dance floor!

3. Lead with Your Body. One big misconception in leading is to lead with the arms and hands, which can cause a lot of yanking that is ineffective and uncomfortable to the followers. Remember, movements are initiated from the core/torso, your arms are simply the extension of the torso that connects to your partner. So, when you are about to take a step, think about moving your body first before you take the step. Along with a strong steady frame, your partner will be able to react to your movement accordingly when you lead with your body.

4. Be Gentle.  Relax your fingers and try not to squeeze your partner's hands. Your partner should feel some pressure from your hand but you shouldn't hold your partner's hand too tight that causes discomfort and/or hinder the fluidity of a movement, such as a spin. Spins are the very few movements that you use your hands and fingers to lead, but still, you don't want to force a spin. Instead, pay attention to where your partner's weight is before a spin, find the right time to initiate the spin and let momentum do the magic. 

5. Listen to Music.  When you are new to partner dance, I understand how difficult it is to listen to the music while executing all the details in leading. However, you must try your best to dance to the beat of the song. Even though your partner is supposed to follow you no matter how off you are with the music, it will make it easier and more enjoyable for your partner if you dance to the music. Check out my previous post that teaches you how to find the beat in music. 

 

 

What other suggestions and/or observations do you have regarding leading in partner dancing? Please share! Also, stay tuned for our upcoming post, How to Follow like Ginger Rogers!

Happy leading!

-Szewai


The Duet Team is a group of friendly dancers who are passionate about helping people and sharing the joy of ballroom dance. And we love to make new friends and have fun at work! Duet Dance Studio is located in Chicago West Bucktown. We offer ballroom dance lessonswedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Online Wedding Dance Lessons and Skype dance lessons are also available! Dances we teach include Salsa, Swing, Tango, Bachata, Merengue, Waltz and Foxtrot. Sign up for an introductory dance lesson now to get started!