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Just One Thing

by Dr. Warren Lieuallen, Two Left Feet Dance Academy – Chapel Hill, NC

Ballroom dancing requires multitasking. As soon as you hear a cue, you have to think about what that move is (what are the correct steps). You have to listen to the music (when is the correct time to step). And you have to think about technique (what is the correct way to step).

But more important than any of that is the one simple thing that you absolutely must do to dance well. The good news is that this single thing is really your only responsibility. The bad news is that you still have to think about all those other things, too.

All other dance techniques are built on this one simple principle. Do this, and the rest will follow. Do not do this, and you will struggle with most moves for the rest of your dancing life. [insert ominous music here] It really is that important. If you want to dance well, you must learn and master this one technique. Just do it!


You must establish and maintain proper frame. It really is that simple. Create a really good frame for your partner, and then just keep it! Easier said than done, I know. But just keep the thought in your head: “don’t move my arms”. Once you have a good frame, don’t let it go. Do not “steer” with your arms. Do not lead by pushing or pulling. Move your frame (the entire, one-piece unit), and your partner will follow.

Many men establish a good frame, but cannot maintain it. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us at some point! But be aware of it; focus on it. Really think about your arms, and constantly ask yourself if they’ve moved (even for only a moment). Habits are hard to break, and you must never let your guard down. Toss out your ego and ask your partner. She knows when you’re moving your arms!

Obviously, some moves will require you to adjust (or even temporarily abandon) your frame. Varsouvienne, Shadow, Open, just to name a few. But trust me, you’ll soon find yourself blending back to a more “normal” dance position. Make a good frame! Keep it!! Your partner will love dancing with you, and it will improve your dancing more than any other thing you can do.


In the smooth rhythms, your job is simple. You only have one thing to think about. Velcro your hips to your partner! And I think “Velcro” is a perfect description. You are not welded to your partner; it’s not a bone graft. It is a good, solid attachment, but one that allows for a little adjustment, and even occasional separation (and re-attachment).

Through your frame, you will feel your partner’s lead. Move with him, allowing him to direct and place your steps. And keep those hips connected to him. Occasionally, a move will require partial (or complete) loss of this attachment. Varsouvienne, Shadow, Open, just to name a few. But trust me, you’ll soon find yourself blending back to a more “normal” dance position. Tilt your hips forward just a little bit, and Velcro them to your partner! Keep them there!!

Many women establish a good connection, but cannot maintain it. This may be because your partner doesn’t have a good frame. But it may also be because you didn’t try hard enough to stay with your partner. With every step you dance, focus on maintaining that connection. Really feel his movements and adjust your steps and rotation to allow your hips to stay together. You’ll be dancing as one! Your partner will find dancing with you easy and relaxing, and this connection will improve your dancing more than any other thing you can do.

Reprinted in the DRDC Newsletter, January 2023.


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