Have you ever watched a performance of talented dancers and wished you could do that? Maybe you imagine those dancers were born with a sense of rhythm and movement you just don’t have. The truth is, good dancers aren’t born, they’re made. You can learn to be a good dancer and enjoy all the benefits that brings you—fun, friends, good exercise, travel, and more. In How to Dance, you’ll learn everything you need to know to have a great time out on the dance floor. In 25 relaxed, easy-to-follow lessons, you’ll learn the rhythm, solo steps, and partnering techniques of 16 of the most popular social dances. From the gentle elegance of the waltz to the hot rhythms of the mambo, from the bouncing steps of the polka to the swagger of the tango, you’ll learn it all and have a great time in the process.
How to Dance
Hey wallflowers: You CAN dance—and we can help. Master the rhythms, solo steps, and partnering techniques of 16 classy, funky, twisty, and sexy social dances with friendly lessons from two stars of the dance competition circuit.
Originally from Liverpool, England, Rob Glover has been involved in the performing arts since he was a young boy. He first trained at Chiltern School of Dance and Drama during high school and then at Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre, a private performing arts college.
Rob is a world-renowned professional dancer and choreographer. He’s skilled in the dance styles of ballet, tap, modern, jazz, Latin, ballroom, American rhythm and smooth, lyrical, contemporary, swing, and more.
Rob holds many championship titles and is a certified judge in multiple styles of dance. As a creative director within various worlds of entertainment, including TV, theater, and other large-scale event formats, he has worked on many celebrated and diverse productions. He owns a production company based in Boston and serves as director of FLX Movement for Millennium Tower.
Growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia, a young Alyssa Lundgren dreamed of becoming a ballerina and a doctor. While her journey took a slightly different path, her love of movement, science, and the arts was already evident. She took jazz, ballet, and ballroom dance at a young age, ultimately becoming an instructor by the age of 16.
Alyssa attended James Madison University and graduated with a BS in Biology. She spent more than a decade managing a medical research lab at the University of Virginia, all while continuing to cultivate her dance, movement, and coaching profession.
After finding national competitive success and recognition, Alyssa has since routinely served as an instructor and a judge within various esteemed dance circuits and conventions throughout the United States. Her passion for body mechanics, movement, and science has also led her to become a certified personal trainer.
01: Beginning Your Dance Journey
In this lesson, you’ll meet your instructors. Learn why they say dance opened the whole world up to them and why they describe dance as a way to engage cognitive and physical function in the social realm. Your instructors will introduce you to the four main genres you’ll experience in this course: Latin, swing, ballroom, and country.
02: Getting Started with Latin & Rhythm Dance
Explore the history of Latin dance—from Spanish and Caribbean immigrants to African slaves, Spanish troubadours, and more. Since most of Latin dance evolved in Cuba, you’ll learn the knee movements that lead to the hip action known as Cuban motion. With Cuban motion and closed-change foot action, you’re ready to learn the individual Latin dances.
Rumba comes from the Cuban Spanish word rumbo, meaning “party”—and that’s exactly what the rumba is. It’s a passionate dance that is said to embody important elements of life and love. In this lesson, you’ll learn the American version of the dance by exploring the rumba box, rumba rocks, crossover breaks, and more.
The mambo is a Latin dance from Cuba that became extremely popular in New York in the 1940s and ‘50s. In mambo, the dancers keep their feet directly underneath their body weight, not traveling a great deal. Even so, this quick dance can be full of fun twists and turns. Master the mambo basics—rock steps, switch turns, and pivot turns—along with several partner patterns, including open breaks and double turns.
The cha-cha, born in Cuba from the mambo, was one of the most popular dances in the US in the 1950s. Discover how to dance the cha-cha’s defining triple step—which differentiates it from the rum-ba and mambo—as well as rock steps, switch turns, crossover breaks, and more. And, both the follower and leader can turn in the cha-cha, making it even more fun to dance and to watch!
The salsa—mixing Cuban mambo with New York jazz—has many local variations. Here, you’ll learn how to dance LA salsa, also known as “On 1.” While this is a fast dance without a lot of traveling, arm styling and spins add freedom and creativity. You’ll discover salsa’s circular motion while learning rock steps, spot turns, salsa breaks, twists, and more.
07: Latin & Rhythm Dance-Along
Join in on a Latin dance party. Along with your teachers, you’ll enjoy dancing the rumba, mambo, cha-cha, and salsa. The similarities between these four Latin dances will be obvious, both in the dance steps and the musical instrumentation. But watching the styles one right after the other, you’ll be able to clearly hear the varying rhythms that make each style unique.
08: Getting Started with Swing Dance
Swing dance was born out of 1920s jazz and is one of the earliest true American dance forms. From the Lindy Hop, known as the grandfather of swing, several subsequent dance styles developed. The majority of swing dances stay in place but rotate in circular motion, with energetic, tight turns. In this lesson, you’ll learn the basic rhythm of swing, and the main dance elements—the rock step and the triple step.
09: Single-Time Swing
Single-time swing might be the first dance style developed specifically for television. The music tempo featured on American Bandstand in the 1950s was too fast for triple-steps and Latin hip motion, which the censors did not want to see on after-school TV, in any case. Consequently, a simpler and tamer version of East Coast swing was demonstrated on the show and is still danced today. Explore the solo and partner patterns—including the throw out and the cuddle—of this single-time swing.
10: East Coast Swing
East Coast swing includes the triple steps that were removed in single-time swing. It is danced to medium-tempo music, with part of the steps underneath the body weight, and the other part traveling. You’ll learn variations on the single-time steps from the previous lesson, as well as how to put some spin in the dance by rotating the triple steps.
11: Lindy Hop
The Lindy Hop is a high-energy dance that originated in Harlem, New York, in the 1920s and ‘30s. Similar to East Coast swing but with more counts and bounce, the Lindy Hop can move in all directions, all around the room. Here, you’ll learn the rock step, triple step, swivels, flip flops, as well as the Lindy circle, the most useful and popular Lindy partner pattern.
12: West Coast Swing
West Coast swing developed from the Lindy Hop and was documented on the dance floors of Los An-geles in the 1940s and ‘50s. The beauty of this version is that it can be smooth or energetic, bluesy or contemporary, and danced to almost any tempo music. Learn the most important solo basics—walks and triple steps—along with the sugar push, underarm turn, sugar tuck, inside roll, and more.
The hustle is an energetic dance melding the Latin and swing genres, incorporating the footwork of single-time swing and the hip motion of the mambo. The height of the hustle’s popularity was during the 1970s disco era, but it is still danced socially and competitively today. You’ll learn the hustle’s syncopated back and side rocks, the throw out and return, the shadow, and more.
14: Swing Dance-Along
Get a front-row seat to watch all five swing dances performed one after the other, highlighting the similarities and differences between the various dance rhythms and steps. You’ll also see some techniques and tips that weren’t taught in previous lessons but add refinement and sparkle to the genre. Follow along with the jazzy excitement of swing!
15: Getting Started with Smooth & Ballroom Dance
Dive into the history of ballroom dancing—which really took shape in the 20th century with the burst of new musical styles—and meet the Americans who were important in popularizing the genre. While the days of social dancing in tuxes and ball gowns are behind us, these dances are still taught and danced throughout the world.
The waltz, once known as a “wicked dance” because the partners seem to be in an embrace, is an elegant and graceful dance that moves around the entire dance floor. It was disliked historically by Euro-pean dance masters because it was considered too easy to learn. In this lesson, you’ll learn waltz box steps, hesitations, links, and twinkles.
The foxtrot is an elegant and romantic ballroom dance, considered to be one of the easiest of the genre to learn. Contemporary foxtrot can be danced to a variety of music styles, but it will often be paired with the songs of Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra. Here, you’ll learn foxtrot basics such as the side together, rock steps, rock turn, and the follower’s underarm turn.
18: American Tango
It is said that the tango, developed in the poor barrios of 19th-century Buenos Aires, is not a dance of the feet, but of the heart. This lesson focuses on the American style, which still evokes the smoldering passion and desire of its creators. You’ll learn the solo movements that give tango its characteristic swagger, as well as partner moves such as the curving forward basic, promenade rocking basic, and swivels.
19: Smooth & Ballroom Dance-Along
Dance along as your instructors perform all three ballroom dances in sequence—waltz, foxtrot, and American tango. Seeing all three performed together, you’ll recognize steps borrowed within the gen-re from one dance style to the next. You’ll also learn some of the finer details about leading and following.
20: Getting Started with Country Dance
Country dance is a true reflection of the American melting pot, with dance elements from several con-tinents combined within it. Although country music was very regional in the 1800s and early 1900s, it became more accessible in the 1920s when the Grand Ole Opry began to broadcast nationwide. Uncover the history of country music and dance and its resurgence in the 1980s.
The name polka is from the Czech phrase for “half-step,” which describes the dance’s energetic style of lightly hopping from one foot to the other. Although its popularity receded a bit in the 20th century, the polka is still danced competitively. Experience this high-energy dance as you learn to quickly move around the dance floor with traveling triples, coaster steps, the turning basic, the weave, and more.
The country two-step, also known as the Texas two, developed from the foxtrot. But while it travels around the dance floor like the ballroom dances, it also incorporates many of the fun twists and turns of the swing genre. Practice the solo techniques of traveling walks and turns and the partner patterns of the promenade basic, turning basic, weave, and more.
23: Nightclub Two-Step
This relatively young dance style has a gliding, sweeping, graceful quality, and is perfect for a night out with your sweetheart when you’re looking for an informal and romantic dance. Competitively, the nightclub two-step has become a staple in the country dance circuit. Learn such solo fundamentals as the side step and spot turn, as well as partner basics including the underarm turn, back to back, and toss across.
24: Country Dance-Along
Join your instructors as they perform all the country dances you’ve learned. You’ll notice the differences in styles between the polka, two-step, and nightclub two-step, and also pick up some additional pointers on partnering for both the leader and follower.
25: Take Your Dancing to the Next Step
In your final lesson, you’ll learn some techniques to take your dancing prowess to the next level. These include the importance of switching leader and follower roles, meeting up with existing dance communities, and continuing your dance education—as well as rewatching the lessons in this course as often as you need. That’s exactly what the pros do, and now you can, too!