UWCE Beginning Ballroom Dance – Spring Semester

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Event Dates

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Wed, 02 February 2011
Wed, 26 January 2011
Wed, 04 May 2011

Instructor: Darrell Dieringer
Limit: 30; 2.1 CEU; $167/person
Program #1181
Register by Jan 22

Held At:
  Kanopy Dance Studio – 341 State St
  2nd floor above “The Gap” clothing store

Offered By: UW Division of Continuing Studies – Movement and Dance

You must register through the UW Division of Continuing Studies
( Register on paper | Register online )

UW Continuing Studies


New and experienced dancers alike, learn to lead and follow with skill and confidence! Learn the music, basic patterns, styling, turns, and common moves for the classic “smooth” partner dances – Tango, Fox Trot, and Waltz – as well as the exciting rhythmic Merengue. Beyond just steps and patterns, class focuses on good form and function. You will learn the movement and partnering principles to unlock your individual style. No dance experience required. No partner needed. Dress comfortably for a movement class.


Students will know basic moves and be able to identify the music for four different dances – Waltz, Tango, Fox Trot, and Merengue. Students will develop good dance habits, emphasizing the importance of posture, frame, and connection. Students will recognize how those good habits help in the Leading and Following of moves, and how they also demonstrate respect for your dance partner and other dancers. In addition, students will understand the responsibilities and duties involved in skillful Leading and Following, as well as how to avoid collisions on a crowded dance floor.


No Class Wed 02 Feb 2011. – severe weather

Weather-related cancellations (or cancellations for any other reason) are announced on the UW’s Cancellation Web Page by 2:30pm on the day of class.

Though taught by an instructor from the Art of Dance, this class is offered exclusively through the UW Division of Continuing Studies.

To enroll in this class, you must register with the
UW Division of Continuing Studies.

Gift certificates or discount specials issued by the studio may not be used for the activity described above.

written by:   [ About ]   [ Contact ]
Published: 20 November 2010 at 12:18pm
Last Edited: 29 April 2011 at 3:10pm

Class Notes

The class notes for UWCE Beginning Ballroom Dance – Spring Semester

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Class Notes

Week Eleven

The end of the semester is fast approaching – please make attending class a priority.

This week you reviewed Twinkles (Simple, Fall Away, Turning, Progressive) in a Box rhythm (Slowly-Quick-Quick). The point was to unlock some of the mysteries of leading and following. And it is mysterious. No one single thing (timing of your head turning, amount of flex in your elbow, direction your toes are pointing, etc), the way your body weight is situated, is the whole story.

Instead, Leading well and Following well involve a collection of little things that add up to a sum greater than each part individually. What to do is the move (the twinkles, in this case). How to do it is the Leading and Following.

Leads must be bold, confident, and decisive. Leads must not be forceful, harsh, tense, weak, impatient, or aggressive.

Follows must also have the same boldness, confidence, and decisiveness, moving swiftly only after the Lead has put the move into motion. Follows must not be passive, weak, harsh, tense, impatient, or aggressive.

When moving with greater authority, your moves worked more often!

You took this authority, and combined with Bend and Send (or Get Low before you Go), you began dancing reverse turns (aka 3/8-Turning Boxes) in Fox Trot. This will make your dancing fly down the dance floor.

Week Ten

The Argentine Tango.

Argentine Tango is an improvisational dance that consists of walking and turning. Sounds pretty simple. However, learning the mutual partner awareness is the tricky part.

You were learning to distinguish weight-changing movements from turning movements, or “turn without stepping” vs “step without turning”.

Being able to clearly lead these two types of actions separately (rotation vs weight-changes) means Follows will be able to move confidently (either turning in response to rotation, or changing weight to the other foot.

You learned a “basic step” for Argentine Tango. I put that in quotes because Argentine Tango is an improvisational dance, and the basic step exists so that you can learn to add improvised movements in a systematic way. Eventually, you will discover your own ways to add these movements (like the Forward Ocho), but for now, having a “basic step” that I divided into “chunks” provides some structure so that you can focus a little more on how it feels to do certain movements (vs having to also discover when to do certain movements).

You made important observations at the end of class regarding how to lead different things and just how perceptive Follows are regarding subtle differences in weight distribution and angles of rotation, etc. This are crucial for Argentine Tango, and also apply to every other partner dance.

** Next Week **

  • Argentine Tango Review
  • American Tango

Week Nine

No new steps this week. Just review. Hopefully you found it to be time well spent, since by somewhere near the middle of the class, everyone was moving with more power, purpose, and intent.

You may find it a bit frustrating that there is more involved with partner dancing than knowing your part or knowing the moves. Remember, knowing what to do (the moves) is different than knowing how to do it.

We had the benefit of having my dance partner, Sarah Calhoun, join us for class. She talked about what it means to Lead, from a Follow’s point of view.

Leading with clear purpose and assertiveness (not force) and moving your own body to where it needs to be (vs trying to move your partner’s body there) is an important part of Leading.

** Next Week **

  • The Tango

Week Eight

This week you spent a lot of time becoming comfortable with the various Twinkles from last week.

Plus, you learned three versions of a Promenade Twinkle using the Magic Rhythm (SSQQ) in Fox Trot. Like every other Magic Rhythm pattern, you start with the Lead’s Left Foot and Follow’s Right Foot. This is the outside foot when you are in Promenade Dance Position.

In each of the next two versions of the Promenade Twinkle, the Lead’s part is essentially the same. However, the Follow does an outside turn (in this case, clockwise or to the right) on either the SS or on the QQ. In either case, you end in Promenade Dance Position so that you can do the first (non-turning) Promenade Twinkle.

** Next Week **

  • Questions and Answers about Twinkles
  • The Tango

Week Seven

You are at the half-way point of the semester!

** Twinkles in Waltz **

Starting in Waltz, you learned the Simple Twinkle. This is a two-measure pattern that starts in Closed Dance Position, moves to Promenade Dance Position, and ends in Closed Dance Position.

The next Twinkle was the Fall Away Twinkle. This pattern is a four-measure pattern, starting exactly the same way as a Simple Twinkle

  • the first measure is exactly the same as a Simple Twinkle
  • the second measure you stay in Promenade Dance Position
  • in third measure, this becomes Fall Away Dance Position (by moving backward)
  • the fourth measure is exactly the same as the second measure of a Simple Twinkle

The next Twinkle was the Turning Twinkle. This pattern is a four-measure pattern, starting exactly the same way as a Simple Twinkle

  • the first measure is exactly the same as a Simple Twinkle
  • the second measure transitions from Promenade Dance Position to Outside Partner Dance Position
  • the third measure transitions from Outside Partner Dance Position back to Promenade Dance Position
  • the fourth measure is exactly the same as the second measure of a Simple Twinkle

The final Twinkle was the Progressive Twinkle. You also did this as a four-measure pattern. This Twinkle is different in that it moves down the dance floor (hence Progressive). It is also different in that the first measure moves to Outside Partner Dance Position (OPP) (offset to each other’s right side), not to Promenade Dance Position…

  • from Closed Dance Position to OPP – right
  • from OPP – right to OPP – left
  • from OPP – left back to OPP-right
  • from OPP – right back to Closed Dance Position

** Twinkles in Fox Trot **

Changing only the timing (to SQQ or “Box” timing), you did the exact same Twinkles. They work exactly the same as they do in Waltz.

** Next Week **

  • More Twinkle Practice
  • Magic Rhythm Twinkles in Fox Trot
  • Two-Way UAT in Waltz Review
  • A bit more Merengue or Nightclub Two Step

Week Six

This week was all about moving efficiently, moving slowly, and digging into the floor like it was wet sand. Leads, you need time to plan your next moves. Follows, you would like it if Leads are not rushing. You can begin to address these issues by managing how you move from one foot to the other. I taught you a forward-walking and backward-walking stability exercise and suggested that you practice it a few times between classes.

You revisited the Simple Under Arm Turn as well a new move, the Two-Way Under Arm Turn. These are your first moves where the Lead and Follow are doing significantly different things.

At the end of class, we covered a little bit more of the Nightclub Two Step. I taught another form of the basic. Instead of rock-step-step, it was side-cross-(in-front)-side. You could combine rock-step-step immediately followed by side-cross-side to develop an incredibly versatile pattern.

Next Week

  • Multiple Twinkles in Multiple Dances

Week Five

You are starting to accumulate more moves, more dances, and the skills to actually lead and follow those moves in those dances! It is one thing to know what to do (the moves). It is another thing to know how to do them (the leading and following skills, proper frame, where to look, etc).

I know I have mentioned it in class and in the Class Notes before, but it is worth repeating. Knowing both what to do and how to do it is very important.

When doing turning moves – like Left Boxes and Right Boxes – I talked about Leads needing to be light yet very clear about leading turns. Assertive, not forceful. I talked about how Follows can use the Lead’s right hand, and how important it is for the Lead to keep that hand in a solid, consistent position.

** Waltz and the Simple Under Arm Turn (UAT) **

When we switched to Waltz, you learned a four-measure pattern called the Simple Under Arm Turn (UAT). For the Lead, it works pretty much like a Left Box, turning a quarter-turn to your left only on the third measure.

For the Follow, this move involves many things. It involves a special way to make a curved path along the floor (Tight Circular Walk) while at the same time stepping forward on each step. There is a good period of time during the move where the Follow cannot see the Lead (requiring the Follow to trust only where her hand is going vs watching where the Lead is going).

Leads, you discovered the importance of keeping the Follow’s hand in front of her face (vs taking her hand over her head). In general, you will provide more room and open up more space (by reaching with farther with the Lead’s arm) when Follows are turning.

** Nightclub Two Step **
At the end of class you learned a new dance that uses a Closed Dance Position from Smooth dances (like Waltz and Fox Trot), but also includes moves or characteristics from Swing or even Salsa dancing. It is a relatively new dance (as far as ballroom dances are concerned), originating some time in the 1980′s. It is intended to be danced to easy-listening-type ballads.

Nightclub Two Step Playlist.

Next Week…

  • Revisit Nightclub Two Step
  • Revisit the Simple UAT in Waltz
  • The Two-Way UAT in Waltz

Week Four

This week you worked on a number of Leading and Following concepts (Get Low Before You Go), learned a new pattern (the Box), and learned a new dance (Waltz).

In Fox Trot, the Box is done with a different timing than the Magic Rhythm. The Box uses Slowly-Quick-Quick (SQQ). In class you will learn the various moves (aka patterns or figures) with the Lead moving the left foot first and the Follow using the right foot first.

You learned to do a Left Box, Right Box, and Progressive Basic.

When doing the Left Box, you can rotate approx 1/4 turn to the left (counter clockwise) as a couple during each half of the box. In other words, you can turn left when someone’s left foot is moving forward (the other person’s right foot is moving backward).

The same applies to the Right Box, rotating approx 1/4 turn to the right (clockwise) as a couple during each half of the box. You can turn right when someone’s right foot is moving forward (the other person’s left foot is moving backward).

The Progressive Basic uses multiple front-halves (aka forward-halves) of a box, while the other person does multiple back-halves (aka backward-halves) of a box.

A good way to count Box pattern is Left-Q-Q, Right-Q-Q. That way you always know which foot you will move next. This, of course, gets easier with practice.

The Waltz
The Waltz uses the Box pattern, but requires a different timing! Waltz is a term that describes a type of dance as well as a type of music. You dance Waltz to Waltz music. Waltz music is distinctive, as it has three beats per measure of music (3/4 time). For the non-musicians, this means you can count to three over and over again.

The Box in Waltz is the same as the Box in Fox Trot. You can still do a Left Box, Right Box, and the Progressive Basic. However, they are done while counting 1-2-3 instead of SQQ.

Next Week

  • Simple Twinkle
  • Simple Under Arm Turn (UAT)
  • Two-Way UAT

Week Three

Please talk to me (or email me) early in the semester if there is something about class that you would like me to address.

** Dance Positions and Promenade Twinkle **

Everything so far in class has used a Closed Dance Position. Even the Practice Hold was just a mildly simplified version of the more formal Closed Dance Position. You learned Promenade Dance Position and used it to do the Promenade Twinkle in Fox Trot.

We spent a lot of class time developing certain specific responsibilities for the Lead and the Follow, as it relates specifically to the Lead’s right hand on the Follow’s back. That hand is there to make Following easier. Leads must not make unnecessary movements of any kind with that hand, and Follows must stretch into or over that hand. Leads, you must not “grab” your partner with that hand not should you try to “steer” with that hand in any forceful or jerky way.

** Merengue and a System of Moves – Cuddles and Hammerlocks **

You learned a system for turning based on one hand going up (to approximately forehead-height of the person who will be turning) and one hand going down (so that the wrist is below the elbow on both partners).

By leading hand-across-the-face and hand-away-from-the-face turns with the up-hand while maintaining connection with the down-hand, the Leads indicate a turn for the Follows, creating Cuddles – hand-across-the-face (the cute move) – and Hammerlocks – hand-away-from-the-face.

Leads can put themselves into Cuddles and Hammerlocks by moving their bodies under the up-hand, though without moving either of the hands while in the process of turning. Double the number of “moves” you know by being aware of the following fact – if the Follow can turn, so can the Lead.

Cuddles and Hammerlocks are very versatile and are the raw ingredients for countless other moves. While these turns stand alone as specific “moves”, they also allow you to practice the limited number of directions you can turn – only left and right, afterall.

Remeber to use our Music Playlists, including the Merengue Plalist.

Next Week:

  • Left Boxes and Right Boxes in Fox Trot and Waltz

Week Two

Only two-weeks into class, and you already know enough moves to navigate around the dance floor. The art of avoiding collisions on the dance floor is called Floor Craft. It is the responsibility of all dancers (Leads and Follows alike) to avoid collisions.

In Fox Trot, you learned the Zig Zag, the Corner Turn, and the Sway Step – all using the Magic Rhythm.

You learned the importance of starting at a diagonal to the Line of Dance – Leads start Facing Diagonal Wall with Follows Backing Diagonal Wall. You also learned the importance of the inside-of-the-turn vs the outside-of-the-turn. The person moving backwards is the inside-of-the-turn and is responsible for moving smaller than normal so that the person on the outside-of-the-turn can get around.

For the Zig Zag, Leads and Follows alternate between being the inside-of-the-turn and outside-of-the-turn.

For the Corner Turn (aka Rock Turn or Quarter Turn to the Left), the Lead is the backward-moving person and thus is on the inside-of-the-turn.

The Sway Step is a non-turning move that allows you to keep dancing while also moving around a slower-moving couple on the dance floor.

Next Week:

  • Box Rhythm in Fox Trot
  • Merengue

Week One

Hello Dancers,

Each week I will post the highlights of what we covered in class. This is not meant to be a dance manual or a substitute for attending class. Instead, it is here to help you remember what we did in class.

Thank you for completing the UW paperwork. Please also complete my separate waiver and welcome survey, and download the class syllabus…

In order to learn to do something new with your bodies – like learn to dance or learn a new style of dancing – you need to engage in new activities. The warmup is designed to be just such an activity.

** The Warm Up **
The warm up is the most important part of any dance class. It how you train your body to move in new ways, developing strength, balance, and poise. In addition to promoting greater leg and back strength, general flexibility, and avoidance of injuries, you will develop numerous isolations and greater coordination though the exercises in the warm up.

Dance classes in other genres of dance – Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, African – all begin with a comprehensive warm up. Partner dancing (ballroom dancing) is another dance discipline equally as involved as those, yet a warm up is frequently missing from many ballroom dance classes.

In the ballroom classes and workshops I have taken over the years, students get through more material more quickly and with greater satisfaction in those classes that began with a comprehensive warm up.

** My Approach **
Just like there is more to music than the notes, and there is more to painting than the brush strokes or color pallet, there is more to dancing than the steps.

Ballroom dancing (partner dancing) involves many skills. The “steps” (aka “moves” or “figures” or “patterns”) are important. It may seem that knowing the steps may be all it takes to ballroom dance. However, things like balance, strength, responsiveness, timing, and communication go into doing the steps with a partner.

I believe in teaching you how to dance – how to make the steps your own so that you will always remember the moves you learned in class. You will know how to produce them instead of only what you are trying to produce.

It takes a little bit of time to lay this foundation, but it is time well spent.

** Leading and Following **
Leading and Following are skills that you can develop in a short amount of time, by engaging in all of the activities and exercises in class. You will continue to refine your Leading and Following skills for as long as you continue dancing.

Partner dancing is a dialogue between two people – each person voluntarily dancing together in response to each other. The Lead does not tell the Follow what to do!

Leading does not imply control. Leading simply means going first. Following does not imply submission. Following simply means going next. Everything you do in partner dancing involves taking turns responding to each other.

The Lead’s role is to define space (or move somewhere). The Follow’s role is to respond to the new space.

Follows have a lot of power in the partnership. A Lead cannot go again until the Follow has moved in response. That is, Follows can make Leads wait their turns to go again. The communication between Leads and Follows involves taking turns.

** The Connection **
You started with
Touchless Dancing. It is an excellent excercise in connecting with your partner’s movements. Everything each person does must be clear and readable, and each person learns patience while dancing (waiting your turn to go).

You worked on what I call the Friction Connection – not too hard, not too soft, just right – and that each person is responsible for building and maintaining the connection. We did this by doing a high-five and keeping your hands together. Each partner must maintain that feeling of connection.

** Dance Position **
You used a Practice Dance Hold (or Practice Dance Position or Practice Hold) for most of the class period. It is important to keep your Topline Quiet (don’t tip your tray). You will almost certainly discover new muscles in your back and how important it is to use them.

At the very end of class, you learned to build a good Closed Dance Position, paying attention to doing it well and developing good habits for your dancing. It is easier to learn how to dance well from the very beginning than it is to repair deficiencies in your dancing later on.

Being able to dance with a good “frame” tells your partner that you understand how to be respectful to other dancers. Remember, you need to invade the personal space of your partner in order to dance together. For many people learning to dance, this close proximity can be a little unusual or discomforting. Having a good frame is one of the ways each partner demonstrates that (s)he knows the rules regarding being that close together.

** Fox Trot and the Magic Rhythm **
By the end of the class, you began dancing the Magic Basic in Fox Trot. Ballroom dance uses the words “Slow” and “Quick” to describe when you move your body. A “Slow” takes twice as long as a “Quick” (for Fox Trot, 2 beats of music vs 1 beat of music).

I prefer to say “Slowly” and “Quick”. The Magic Rhythm is “Slow-ly Slow-ly Quick Quick” (SSQQ). You learned this Magic Basic, which is a move that uses the Magic Rhythm. The Lead always starts with the Left foot and the Follow always starts with the Right foot.

You built the Magic Basic from simple movement principles – moving forward or backward, moving sideways, and bringing our feet together – changing weight from one foot to the other with each movement.

For people with a music background, Fox Trot music is written in 4/4 time, yet each Magic Basic uses six beats of music (1.5 measures). This is intentional and it is okay. Two time through the Magic Basic (or any move using the Magic Rhythm) will take up three measures of music.

** Summary **
Learning to lead and follow from the very beginning of learning to dance promotes greater understanding of dancing and ultimately allows you to dance creatively and expressively. When you begin learning the specific steps and patterns for the various dances, already knowing what it feels like to lead and follow will help immensely.

I end each class session with a review, in the form of a question. “What is something useful or interesting you learned today?” Everyone will have a chance to answer, because sometimes the best observations and really good insights can come from your fellow classmates.

Next Week

  • Personal Space and the Three Socially-Acceptable Regions of Contact
  • More Magic Rhythm Moves in Fox Trot

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