Arthur Murray Woodland Hills - couple out dancing

How to Rock Ballroom Dancing on the Social Floor


Strong frame! Eyes up! Head left!

You’ve entered some competitions and your teacher hasn’t been shy about beating the steps, timing, footwork and even flashy arm styling into you. Working so hard on perfecting all of these is great, but now you need to transition to the social dance floor where space is at a minimum.

Outside of the studio, dance floors are usually the size of a postage stamp and filled with people doing ‘freestyle’ dancing, you know, what you used to do before Arthur Murray! The key to looking good on the social dance floor, whether at a wedding, nightclub or on a cruise, is to make sure your moves match the environment. The size of the floor, the kind of music, and who is attending all factor in when figuring out how to adapt…. without being that guy (or girl).

Here are four tips to help you fit in on the social dance floor

1. Shorten your steps.

No one likes to be bumped into or stepped on, so smaller steps are key! We want to make sure we keep our steps underneath our own body, especially in dances with rocking actions. Stepping on someone with a bad temper and a few too many drinks in their system could be hazardous to your health.

2. Shorten your connection.

Keep your elbows close to your body, so your partner stays close, and out of harm’s way. If we stretch our arms out completely while spinning and turning, we definitely won’t be the most popular person on the dance floor.

3. Use a compact hold.

A fully expanded, head-stretched “Ballroom frame” looks terrific on a competitive floor, but (how do I say it?) it looks ridiculous at your best friend’s wedding. Learning to use an expanded frame gave you tools you need to be able to lead and follow, and now you can use these techniques in just a more compact way. A compact hold will allow you to execute all the fun steps you’ve been learning, without looking completely out of place.

4. Save your flashy arm styling for the judges.

You know the kind of arm styling that looks like a karate chop? So sharp that it can take a person down? Use it to take out your competition and not your friends! Using your arms while you dance is very important to help you look natural. For the social dance floor, keep your arms in a relaxed running position and let them move naturally. You will not only look cool, but also fit in.

As we know, if you do anything competitively, it is done at one’s full capacity. Every year athletes are getting faster and records are being broken. The same is true for Ballroom dancing. The dance frames and shapes that two people can make are extraordinary! But social dance floors aren’t the place for exaggerated or big movements. Take the instruction that has been given to you, and adapt! It is such an amazing experience to use your dancing with success, wherever you go. My wish for you is that there are no limits to your dance experience.

Live, Love, Dance, and Enjoy!

-Christy Melgoza


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