Physical Benefits of Ballroom Dance

Ballroom dancing has been shown to benefit the whole being – from providing mental stimulation to offering a social outlet. But what about the physical benefits of dance? Here is a list that is far from comprehensive, and will get you wanting to find your closest dance studio!

1. DEFY AGING with Ballroom Dance.

Dance actually retards the aging process. It’s heart healthy – strengthening not only our hearts, but the whole cardiovascular system and increasing our lung capacity. “The muscle exertion and breathing rates of dancers performing in one dance competition is equivalent to those of cyclists, swimmers and an Olympic-level 800-meter runner.” 1 “Folks with heart failure who waltzed for 21 min., 3 times a week, increased their cardio-circulatory fitness more than those on cycles and treadmills.” 2


Dance aids in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, which is a major concern for women, especially during post-menopause because of the significant drop in estrogen that occurs at this stage. A decrease in our estrogen levels stops calcium from being absorbed into our bones. Dance also keeps joints lubricated, which helps prevent arthritis.

3. Dancing BURNS FAT.

Dance exercises our bodies to allow for increased circulation. It helps us burn calories while improving our stamina. Dance burns from 5 to 10 calories per minute depending on speed and intensity. For example, swing and mambo burn more calories than a slow waltz.

4. LOWER CHOLESTEROL – yes by Dancing!

New research has discovered that it is necessary to measure both good and bad cholesterol levels when determining our health. Dancing aids in lipid control, which raises our HDL (good cholesterol), and lowers our LDL (bad cholesterol). Dancing is also great for diabetics because it aids in blood sugar control.

5. FEND OFF ALZHEIMERS – the Best Of Ballroom!

Ballroom Dance improves our memory by making us recall steps, routines and dance patterns making it a great mental exercise for our brains. The big benefit is that increasing mental exercise keeps your mind young, quick, alert and open.


Balancing yourself in one position may be easy, but balancing in the numerous types of positions involved in dancing is much more difficult. Dancers have mastered the ability to balance themselves in a number of positions. This strengthens our stabilizer muscles, while protecting our core and keeping us less prone to injury in our daily lives. Dancing also aids in coordination and helps strengthen our reflexes. It is a great way to keep our central nervous system in tip-top shape by improving the connection of our bodies to our mind.


Ballroom Dancing is recreational and entertaining. It creates a social life for us, while affording us the opportunity to make new friends. Friends helps us grow, make us laugh and support us as we learn.


Dancing has no cultural barriers. People from all parts of the world, with different ideologies, meet on the dance floor. Cultural interaction improves our health by expanding our mind and sharing our spirit!

9. GROOMED TO PERFECTION – looking good on the dance floor!.

Dancing is not only fun and romantic, but it helps promote good grooming because everybody wants to look his or her best while they dance.

10. Ballroom Dancing MAKES ENDORPHINS.

Dance elevates our mood by raising our endorphin levels. This is what allows us to heal stress and depression — two of our immune system’s biggest enemies! It helps us establish our self-confidence and self-discipline. It improves the harmony between our mind and body, giving us a sense of well-being. ____________________ 1 “10 Benefits of Dancing” Barbara Craddock 12/10/08 2 AARP Magazine May/Jun 2007

The Nine Essential Dos and Don’ts of Asking Someone to Dance

There are some unwritten rules of etiquette that ballroom dancers follow and it’s essential to know them if you are going go dancing and enjoy yourself! In this article, ‘ballroom dancing’ is used as a generic term referring to most forms of couples dancing… including Ballroom dancing, Latin dancing, Swing dancing and Salsa dancing.

Essential Dance Etiquette

1. A dance invitation can be given by either gender. This is important. Feel free to ask a gentleman to dance, they often times barely make it off the floor and if you want to dance, it’s best to not ‘wait’ for an invitation.

2. It’s acceptable, and even expected that you dance with people other than your partner. Most dancers enjoy a variety of dance partners and dancing with someone besides your partner strengthens leading and following skills making dances with your partner that much better!

3. Chivalry still lives in the dance community! Regardless of who asks whom, the man still escorts the lady back to where he found her! Please don’t abandon your partner mid-floor!

4. All levels of dancers enjoy dancing…. Please don’t ‘out dance’ your partner if you have the privilege of dancing with someone not as accomplished as you. It’s intimidating and frustrating. Everyone was a beginner at some point, remember what it was like for you and offer a fun, engaging and gracious dance that will inspire this newer dancer to continue!

5. It’s considered polite to dance with whoever asks. If you’ve just come off the floor from a fast-paced dance or have been dancing several songs in a row and need a break, it’s acceptable to take a song or two. Please be sure to resume your dancing with the person who asked you when you needed a break!

6. There are traveling dances and stationary dances. Traveling dances (Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Samba, Country Two Step, Polka, etc.) travel counter clockwise around the floor. It’s important to go with the flow of traffic.

7. During traveling dances, faster moving dancers usually use the outer most edge of the floor, while slower moving dancers move towards the center. Be aware of the ‘lanes’ of traffic and do your best to dance where it’s appropriate

8. If you bump into another couple (which does happen), apologize sincerely and offer a smile. Dancers do their best to avoid collisions, and with people moving about the floor executing different patterns, occasional crashes are inevitable. Make sure no one is hurt and then get back to dancing!

9. Dancing with a partner means sharing their space. It’s important to be ‘fresh’, dry and smelling good. If you perspire a lot, bring a change of shirts (or several) and a towel. Everyone needs to wear deodorant and carry mints!

While not an exhaustive list, this does cover the basics. There are no ‘dance police’ to enforce the rules or hand out punishments. However, most dancers show one another politeness and consideration making ballroom dance a unique and wonderful pastime for everyone involved!

What are the Ballroom Dances?

Whenever I tell anyone that I teach Ballroom Dance I get the question, do you teach Salsa, or Swing or (insert name of dance).  The words ‘Ballroom Dance’ seem to be used generically and indiscriminately, so no one is really sure what dances are actually covered!

According to Wikipedia, “Ballroom dance may refer, at its widest, to almost any type of social dancing as recreation. However, with the emergence of  DanceSport (term for competitive ballroom dancing) in modern times, the term has become narrower in scope.”

So let’s look at it from both perspectives – the narrower ‘DanceSport’ and the wider perspective of ‘Social Ballroom Dancing’.

Ballroom Dancing As Defined By Dancesport

There are two main arenas in competitive ballroom dancing: International and American. Dancesport technically refers to the ‘International’ Standard and Latin dances.  Dance teachers sometimes use it more generically to also encompass the ‘American’ competition ballroom Smooth and Rhythm dances.  Below is a chart of all the competition dances and where they fall.

Ballroom Competition Dance Chart

The technique used in the Smooth and Standard dances is similar, although Standard is done ONLY in closed position while Smooth allows both closed and open positions.  The patterns that are taught also vary between the two styles.

Rhythm and Latin have very different techniques and while they do share some styling and patterns between the dances, many of those are different as well.

There are several dances that are unique to their sector like Paso Doble, Quickstep, Bolero and Mambo.  Swing and Jive are cousins that are now quite different in their look and feel.

Each of the dances has its’ own character and you can find that information by looking up an particular dance by name.

Ballroom Dancing As Defined For the Social Dancer

The term ‘ballroom’ dancing is often used as an umbrella for a multitude of dances including all the dances mentioned above as well as ‘club’ dances that are not competed on the Ballroom Dance circuit.  Dances such as: Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Nightclub Two Step, Hustle, Salsa, and Merengue fall into this category.

New dances or folk dances are added to/removed from to the ballroom ‘repertoire’ from time to time, so no list of subcategories or dances is truly complete.

Reality of ‘Ballroom Dance’

My own personal informal study has led me to believe that most people think of the Smooth & Standard dances (chart above) when they hear ‘ballroom dance’.  The term Latin Dance usually will evoke the images of the Latin & Rhythm dances (chart above) – as well as Salsa, Merengue & Batchata.

Swing dancing seems to be in its own category.

Hopefully this helps and the next time you hear the term ‘Ballroom Dance’ you’ll be able to ask the person to be more specific!

Etiquette for Ballroom, Swing & Salsa Dancing

Ballroom Dance ShoeOne of the things that is rarely covered by a dance instructor in Ballroom, Swing or Salsa dance class is “dance floor etiquette”.  Some common social dance questions are:

What is the proper way to ask someone to dance?

Can anyone ask anyone else?

Is there a protocol for turning someone down?

How do you let potential partners know you are interested in dancing?

Let’s establish some ground rules to make it simple.

Rules For Requesting a Dance

1. Anybody Can Ask Anybody.

In today’s day and age, a woman asking for a dance is a common occurence.  (Remember that it’s a dance, not a date!)  For either gender, it’s best to be aware of clearly exclusive couples unless you know for certain that they are interested and available to dance with others.

2.  Respect Partners’ Dance Time

You may enjoy dancing with a particular person, and it’s ok to request a second dance, but it’s NOT ok to monopolize their time throughout the evening.  Asking for a second dance in a row is acceptable if you only made it to the floor for a portion of the current song.  Then you have to move on.  You can ask that person for another dance later in the evening – be sure to space out your requests.

3.  Ask Lots of People

The best way to improve you dancing – is by dancing!  Getting out on the floor and staying there with a variety of people, not only is good practice, but it’s great exercise and much more fun that sitting on the side watching.  In addition, you have the opportunity to get others to feel good about themselves!

4.  Pay Attention

Asking another to dance means risk – the risk of someone saying no!  Look for people that are close to the dance floor and look like they want to get onto the dance floor.  Avoid someone in deep conversation, or someone standing at the back of the room unless you know the person.  Watch body language as well – not every shoe fits and there will be some people that would rather dance with someone else.  If you approach and they turn away, don’t take it personally, and look elsewhere for your next dance.

Rules for Accepting or Declining a Dance

1.  Always Accept a First Invitation to Dance

Someone has built up the courage to ask you to dance, it’s only decent to accept.  If there is some glaring reason that you can’t accept (you danced the last 10 dances and need a break, it’s a Waltz and you don’t Waltz) clearly explain WHY you can’t dance with them in that moment, and then FIND THAT PERSON LATER when you are able to dance.

2.  If You Decline a Dance, Sit That One Out

If you’ve told someone ‘no’ for a dance, then don’t dance.  It’s insulting and painful to be rejected only to have the person you asked to gladly dance with another.

3.  The Only Three Reasons to Say No

Dances last about three minutes, being polite and gracious is easy in three-minute doses.  Having said that, there are only three acceptable reasons to decline a dance invitation after the first:

  1. Fear of injury.
  2. Inebriation.
  3. Intolerable hygiene.
  4. Inappropriate body contact.

The Golden Rule of Social Dancing

All other rules fall behind one simple rule of thumb:  Be polite and treat others the way you want to be treated.  Social dancing is only fun if people are social.  Do your part to help keep it fun!

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