For someone new to the ballroom scene but eager to learn, which dances would you recommend he learn and in what order?

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I live in Brazil, so I wouldn't recommend you the same dances we dance here.
Two nice dances that you can find anywhere are salsa and bolero. Tango looks nice, but I just had two tango classes and it does look hard to learn (I started dancing this year).


But I guess you should just choose one or two styles and start dancing. If you don't know which to pick, just try to figure out what songs you like (or think you would like If you got used to) and choose the style to dance those songs.

Good luck, John!
Thanks, Leonardo. It is difficult here in Ohio to find venues that feature Latin music. In any event, the tango does look as if it would be difficult to learn, so good luck if you decide to keep at it.

It was interesting hearing from someone in Brazil.
Depends what kinda thing you're after - I would probably recommend Waltz and Jive. Girls love a good waltz, the slowness and the closeness of it (at least if you're dancing it romantically, rather than competitively). The jive is a good upbeat dance to do because you can do it more easily with little technique, and with less regard for timing - Cha has to be on a very precise beat and is easy to lose.
I would not recommend Tango and Foxtrot, nor Samba or Paso for a beginner. I'm learning to compete with Tango at the moment and am finding it extremely difficult - the leads have to be extremely precise to get a crisp and good-looking rhythm. Foxtrot is very difficult if you are not used to ballroom hold as it's a very close dance. Samba and Paso are just very hard for beginners!
Rumba is a possibility for a first dance to learn if you're after something sensual, I find the timing pretty tricky though, and not as fun as faster dances.
Quickstep is a similar difficulty (at least to begin with) as waltz, so could be another first, although it needs a lot more room than a waltz so probably you couldn't get as much use out of it. Viennese waltz you should certainly leave until after you've got to grips with slow waltz.

hope this helps!
Thanks, Rob, for your insight. My wife and I have been social dancing for about a year now. So far, we have tackled the foxtrot, the single-time swing (jitterbug?), the waltz, the hustle and the salsa. I wouldn't be so rash as to say we have mastered all of those dances, but we have at least "dipped our toes" into them. To this point, we're most proficient at the swing, which does seem to be somewhat versatile as far as being suitable for a fair range of music. I've heard a lot good things about the rumba as far as it being a romantic dance. I guess the reason for my question was to help me decide, with all of the dances that are out there, what to concentrate on. We have enjoyed all of them. I just wonder which of them (or other dances that we haven't attempted yet) would be the most "useful" to know in a social context?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and those of others in that regard.

Thanks again.

Exactly what dances you begin with often depends on what's being taught when you're available.  Look for nearby dance studios and find out what classes they're offering.  If you ask the studio, they will surely be able to recommend where to start.

 

Some dance studios offer beginner classes that cover multiple different dances at once.  This is a great way to start out because it gives you a chance to experience some of the variety that exists, plus it gives you a wide base to begin with and dance multiple dances right away.  When attending ballroom dance parties (which are a great way to practice beyond classes), they usually play a variety of music for all the different dances, so knowing more than one dance can give you more opportunities to dance.  And as you experience the different dances, you will get an idea of which ones you like and want to pursue more.

 

There are a variety of different styles/categories/branches of dances, and each of them have a good dance to start with.  A simple list of dances in different categories that I would recommend starting with would be: Waltz, Rumba, Nightclub (Slow) Two Step, and Salsa.  Each of these provide a good and simple base to start with and build from as you progress to other dances in the same category.

 

There is no "right" or perfect order in which to learn any of the dances, and as you go beyond the basics, you will likely find your own reasons for learning more dances in the order that you choose.  But for the purpose of offering some idea, this would be my recommended order of progression in three of the major branches of dances:

Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep.

Rumba, Cha-Cha, East Coast Swing, Mambo, Bolero.

Nightclub Two Step, Hustle, West Coast Swing.

 

One other factor that could greatly influence the dances that you learn and the order that you learn them could be where you want to do your dancing.  If there's a club that does Latin dancing, you might end up learning Merengue, Salsa, and Bachata.  If you want to dance to more typical club/pop music, you might focus on West Coast Swing and Nightclub Two Step.  If there's a big swing dancing crowd in your area, you might stick with East Coast Swing, Jitterbug, Lindy, and Balboa.  You could even spend all of your time learning nothing but Argentine Tango.  Then there's all of what I listed above if you're interested in traditional ballroom dance parties.  And if you're more interested in dancing to compete rather than social dancing, that can also focus which dances you learn and in which order.

 

All of these options may seem overwhelming, but it all comes down to personal preference and what you enjoy in your area.  My most basic recommendation is to find a place where people are dancing something that you're interested in, and ask them how to get started.  Most of the people I have met through the ballroom dance community are very friendly towards beginners and are eager to help them get further into dancing.

Thanks, Jeffrey, for taking the time to write such a comprehensive note. It's well articulated and very helpful. I will take your advice. I think the dance we will concentrate on improving next will be the nightclub two-step. Thanks again for the thoughtful advice.

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