Dance Wear, Part Three: Buying on a Budget

"What do you mean I need to buy dance clothes and shoes? Haven't I spent enough money on lessons already??" I know, I know.. Truth is, having clothing and especially shoes for dancing makes it a lot more enjoyable. And they don't have to break the bank.

I didn't always dress this snappy (my wife bought most of my clothes worth wearing), and I've always tended to buck the trend towards dance studio-themed clothing. Not only do many other clothing choices do the job just as well, they're cheaper too.

Over time, I met others who felt the same way I did, who managed to cut costs on their dance wear, while still buying what looked good and felt comfortable. The tips I'm including today are a combination of their advice and my own. Enjoy!

Hey guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and the creator of Social Ballroom Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

When I first started ballroom dancing, one of my first challenges was having appropriate dance clothes to wear. Back then I was not what you would call a snappy dresser - I was more the kind of guy with the baggy clothes who you might not want to meet at a dark night in an alley.

I didn't even have any proper dance shoes - I generally danced in my socks, because they were the only things I owned that were slippery enough for me to do my turns.

Now, over time I learned how find clothes that were nice, and I could do it on a budget, because I didn't have a lot of disposable income at the time. And I met other students and instructors who were doing the same thing. So today, I present to you our five best tips for how to dance - and wear - on a budget.

Tip number one: Buy shoes that are cheap, but not too cheap. Sure, you could buy those dance shoes that are less than $30 on Amazon, but they those tend to fall apart pretty quickly, and who knows how much the workers who made them got paid?

I recommend aiming for the mid-range, say, $50 to $100. You can find some great brands through a site called Ballroom Guide - I'll include a link to them below (,  and I'll just read off the shoes that they are recommending on this list here, so that you can look these up on Google.

So we have Bloch, Capezio, Diamant, Freed of London, Gogo, Rotate Dance UK, Stephanie Dance Shoes, Topline, and Very Fine.

I'll also include my personal plug here for C&W Dance Shoes. This is great if you live in Toronto - this is actually where I got my very first pair of dance shoes, and amazingly I still wear them sometimes today, and I have yet to wear holes through the soles. That's the only pair of shoes I haven't done that with, so that says something! So I highly recommend them, go check them out. 

Tip number two: Use ballroom dance soles. This solution is a little bit DIY, but it allows you to restore the soles of dance shoes that have worn out, or even to convert non-ballroom dance shoes into dance shoes.

You simply need to buy your soles - preferably from a dance site like Soles2Dance for example, and you can either slap them on with the adhesive that some pads come with, or you can glue them on with a sturdy glue like shoe glue.

Make sure wherever you buy the dance soles that you are buying them from a place like Soles2Dance, because not all suede leather is created equal you want the leather that's specifically designed for dancing, that's soft enough to give you the traction you need on the floor.

And make sure that you follow the glue or adhesive drying instructions, just to make sure that your sole isn't going to come flying off in the middle of your dance performance.

Tip number three: Don't buy your clothing at a regular dance studio. Branded dance clothes are often very expensive, and they're no better than clothes you could just buy when you're out shopping anywhere.

Just make sure that you are buying clothes with the right kind of material, so a lightweight cotton or linen is often great. You want to be able to see the light coming through it, and it should be light in your hands. These are both signs that it's a lightweight material and it's going to breathe well.

Not so good choices will be things like silk or polyester, these types of fabrics tend to hold the heat in - you don't want to turn into a wet sleeping bag on the floor.

Tip number four: Learn how to make small repairs using needle and thread. This is such an easy way to double the lifespan of your clothing. If you don't know how to mend a button or a small tear yet, go to YouTube and learn.

It is just a piece of cake to do, best five ten minutes you'll ever spend, and it's just gonna make it so much easier for you to just fix any little problems in your clothing, before it becomes something big that stops you.

Tip number five: If you decide to go competitive, consider buying and gluing on your own rhinestones. As Steve said in our interview last week, that can be very very expensive to have somebody else do them, because each one is literally glued on by hand, and if you're willing to put in the time it can save you thousands of dollars.

Just make sure that you have a design in mind before you start gluing, and that you follow that design VERY closely: You don't want to get paid off of all that hard work with a ruined dress. But you can pick up some fairly simple clothing at places like Men's Dance Pants, or EK clothing. 

One instructor I know actually just grabs a bottle of wine, puts on a show that she likes, and spends the evening gluing. Sounds like a pretty good night in.

So hopefully these tips help you not only look smart and dress smart, but shop smart as well. And if you have any questions about them please feel free to message me on my Facebook fan page, Ballroom Dancers Anonymous, or you can email me at again that's

And this concludes our theme this month on ballroom dance wear. Next weekend, we're going to have a one-off and I don't know what the topic is going to be yet: you're just gonna have to wait and see.

So until then, happy dancing!

Dance Wear, Part Two: Different Venue, Different Costume

Dressing well for a social dance is about more than simply leaving your sharp jewelry at home and dressing in breathable clothes. Different venues call for different costumes, as my interview with ballroom instructor revealed.

Now, before you start telling yourself how superficial all this is, remember that fitting in is often a way of saying "hey, I'm one of you". And of course, this leads to more dances. That's why you came, right?


Me: Hi guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the joy of dance Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and the creator of Social Ballroom Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.

We are continuing our theme this month on dance wear, and what we might wear to different dance venues, and today I am joined by Stephen James, a fellow dance instructor at the Joy of Dance Centre.

Stephen has danced at a number of different dance places, from Latin nightclubs, to West Coast Swing dance halls, to ballroom dancing both socially and competitively. So he's had a fair bit of in the field experience you might say, and seeing what other people wear and and why. So great to have you with us buddy.

Steve: Thank you.

Me: So let's start with an easy one - do people wear what they wear just because they want to look fashionable or good on the dance floor, or is for more practical reasons?

Steve: Why certainly some people do I imagine, but there should be a practical reason for choosing what you're wearing on the dance floor.

For example, in competitive ballroom you will see people - this is not exactly a costume: if you think of the whole look as part of the costume - will always have their hair tied back. It keeps it out of your partner's face, it's less distracting for the judges: that's something specifically for ballroom.

You notice a lot of tighter fitting clothes in Latin. That's usually so you can see body movements; they want to see if you can do a rib isolation or something with your body. 

So socially speaking, you should be asking a few questions of yourself. First of all what time of year is it - that's practical! (Some places are) air conditioned, so you have to dress appropriately.

I always think practically, but you can't help in a social situation wanting to think aesthetically as well and that's great: you do want to present yourself when you go out in public, but I think it should be secondary to some very important practical considerations.

When you go out dancing, are you wearing something that is going to get caught in your partner's hands or arms, for example loose-fitting clothing that has especially things like weaves, or dangling bits, or belts that kind of hang around out, or those those mesh - if it's like a really thick mesh - fingers get stuck in it, stuff like that.

Me: Yeah yeah. One of my students, she likes to bring these - I guess they're called sweater vests - I don't really have any experience in fashion of any kind - but what they have, its basically they create these little wings that hang down from their arms and when they turn it's just an invitation to get caught on all kinds of things.

Steve: Wings will fly.

Me: Yes. And then I politely asked her to remove it, and then it's okay.

Steve: Haha. So we also had vests - we'll do that same thing  in West Coast Swing right now. For people to have an open vest or something like that, that can sometimes fly and get in the way.

Then again, that can also be a source of fun in that particular dance, because in a jack-and-jill, even having a moment of improvisation, which could be a gift from God to you in that moment.

Generally speaking, on a social dance floor you want to avoid anything that's gonna snag on your partner. You also want to think about something that's not too hot or too cold - usually too cold, it's not a problem, you're dancing. But too hot, then we run into the issues of people sweating a lot.

I know there's some guys who will wear one shirt to the dance and bring a spare to change to later, which is really smart, because nobody really wants to dance with somebody covered in sweat.

Me: Yeah, it's it's not pleasant. What are some other costume differences that you've noticed between say, people going salsa dancing, or Latin dancing in general, versus west coast swing dancing, versus ballroom. What are some examples you've seen?

Steve: Aside from practical, we start with the aesthetic. Every dance has a sort of a look to it - ballroom dancing smooth and standard both have a very classic look. They want to, if you think of something you'd wear for a night on the town, evening wear, formal attire, or something like that.

People will compete sometimes in a tuxedo, a variation on a tuxedo. They will of course tailor them specifically for competitions. So you wouldn't wear a normal tux jacket for example on the dance floor, because when you lift your arms up in your frame, the shoulders bunch up and they look kind of ridiculous.

So they're actually tailored to look proper when your arms are held up in your frame and when the arms are relaxed, it's not as nice a look. So they're specifically designed for down some of these, specifically the ballroom dances.

Me: Yeah.

Steve: When they're up in that frame, they're going for the look of the dance, the waltz, foxtrot, everything with that classic night on the town, so that's the image that you'll want to put on the dance floor.

Salsa dancing - something you'd wear out to a club right? This is not just something for hanging up casually at home. It's usually a bit more loud and has some colour to it, has sexiness to it - it's clubwear basically.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Steve: West Coast Swing prides itself on being very casual, so people don't want to go too much in the department of putting on extra airs. The more chilled out you can look the better.

So it was very popular too, for example, with the the bow tie, put then on but leave them hanging down on either side. 

Me: Right. I sometimes feel like West Coast Swing is almost a reaction to ballroom.

Steve: From the other dances, absolutely. Ballroom in particular? Maybe. Yeah, it definitely prides itself on being different, and we don't have to put on these particular airs. We don't have to match someone's idea of what a dancer should look like.

You can be free to sort of express yourself and be chilled out and relax, and just go out and have a good time and that's what they want to see, even in competitions to a certain amount.

There are some West Coast Swing competitions that will say for example, "no jeans". The fact that you even have to say that...

Me: Oh goodness no! What are you doing here??

Steve: Haha.

Me: So when we're talking about, now just ballroom versus Latin or nightclub styles, why do why do skirts tend to be longer for your waltzes, your foxtrots, your tangos, versus your salsas, your Merengues, your cha chas.

Steve: Well two reasons - One, the look you're going for in the elegant evening wear and smooth and standard, so you want to have something that flows. You're flying around the dance floor while doing a Viennese Waltz, having a dress that flares looks fantastic.

In the Latin dances you want to see knee and hip movement, so a dress that covers your knees, you can't see as much what's going on with the legs. So there's a practical side to it.

And then there's the, of course, the culture. Latin dances typically come from more of a club environment, whereas our smooth and standard are inspired by this formal - more, I suppose the example of a European upper-class look. So the long skirt is that tradition. so thirsty

Me: Right, right. It's very grandiose in that way,  and I suppose that's why a lot of people - ladies can live out their Cinderella stories, with the glamorous gowns for example.

Steve: Yeah.

Me: And then you have your Mr. Rights with their tuxes.

Steve: Haha. Everybody loves a little Disney every now and then.

Me: I guess so, yeah. So, we know that ballroom dance shoes, the heels tend to be lower on ballroom, and taller in Latin.

Steve: Ah yes. I know what you're going to ask me.

Me: What the heck is with that? 

Steve: Yeah a lot of people wear the Cuban heels. A lot of people really don't like the look. It has practical purpose in that the higher heel brings you forward on the balls of the feet, it helps with the articulation of the ankles, and of the hip movement in your body.

Is it necessary to use them? No, it helps and again it's become part of a look. I personally don't wear them outside of the competition - if I'm competing in in Latin I'll wear them. If I'm doing a performance at the studio I'll tend not to wear the Latin heel.

I'm not as big a fan of walking in them. Bless the women who can wear heels - I don't, haha. Even a little Latin heel which a Cuban, I understand it's not as high, but it's got a bit of height to it, and that's enough.

Me: Yeah. I'll never forget my first Latin heels and after, I don't know, 15 minutes, I was starting to hurt. The ladies that I was teaching were just completely unsympathetic of course.

Steve: Yeah.

Me: They're like "you think that's bad?" Now we were talking a little bit about the practical versus the aesthetic side - we've talked about that quite a lot - but when we talk about competitions, is it really necessary for people to go super-glamorous with all the rhinestones and the glitter and the hair back and so on.

Steve: Good question. I'll start with ballroom and specifically in that there are some rules where you actually are discouraged from wearing - I think in some competitions you can't wear rhinestones at a lower level.

At lower entry levels, if you're starting as a new dancer: It's your first competition, you're doing a pre bronze heat for example -

Me: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: In pro-am you can't wear rhinestones, you can't wear these Swarovsky crystals in most comps, and I think that's to make it a little bit more accessible to first-time competition: "Okay you're telling me you have to learn all of this technique, fantastic. Now I'm committed to those lessons - that's a fair amount of money from me. And I'm gonna go compete, and okay, I have to get a dress that costs HOW much money? I have to get an outfit that costs HOW much money?"

That's a lot to ask. So to even the playing field they simply disallow it at the lower levels, allowing more people to to get into the dance without having to go to those extremes, because it is a bit much.

You know, those things are glued on individually, and that takes a lot of someone's time, and if you're not gonna do it yourself it's going to take a lot of money to pay someone else to do it. In addition to purchasing the crystals themselves and getting a dress designed or a tux designed or whatever you're gonna wear. So it's a fair commitment. So at the lower levels they don't expect that.

At the higher levels, if you're not doing that, I think it reflects on you that you're not as sort of committed to the culture of the dance. And that is those over-the-top costumes, which we love to criticize, but at the same times some of us really - some secretly some not so secretly - love to put on. Because they're so fabulous!

Me: It's the Cinderella thing.

Steve: So yeah, you kind of gotta go, if you're gonna go in, you go all in and if you've committed to the dance enough to get to those higher levels of competition, you usually have to show that in what you're wearing.

Me: Is that the same for performances would you say?

Steve: No, for performances I'II think about what's our audience, and what's our venue. Okay, for example, we've done at the studio, summer dresses and jeans parties, that was on top of the old Ontario place. We're outdoors on Sunday, this beautiful venue, but it had a casualness to it, sure. 

So I didn't go as extreme on my costuming that night. Something in house, in the studio, I might not be encouraging my students to wear crystallize costumes, but if you're going to go to an event, especially a ballroom event, then I would.

So the venue is, simply consider who is it for: "Are we in a casual scenario? Am I doing a performance at home for mom and dad?"

Me: Haha! Great stuff. Okay, so are there any final tips that you would give our listeners about, oh... whether they're competing, or they're social dancing, just general tips or just wise decisions when it comes to their costume, and that includes like hair, shoes, the whole getup.

Steve: Okay yeah, we've probably forgotten quite a few things then. This is not something you wear as a piece of clothing, but it is something you wear and that's perfumes - perfumes, colognes, any fragrances. I'm a big fan of deodorant - I think you should shower, wear your deodorant, especially when you're dancing socially.

Me: I need to jump in real quick about that one actually, because actually I've heard studies that's the number one, like absolute number one turnoff for ladies, when it comes to meeting any guy you know, regardless whether you are attracted to them romantically or not - number one thing is BO.

Steve: Absolutely, not just, yeah we're talking about not in the dating world, but in the dance world, nobody wants to dance with somebody who's odour they cannot handle, and that goes both ways.

So I'm saying yes put your deodorant o, shower, but don't slather yourself in perfumes and Cologne either to try to cover things up. Because that could be offensive in its own right, and there's allergies you have to take into account.

Some people physically, their eyes will water, they will have reactions to strong scents like that. So it's disrespectful to your fellow dancers to be walking into a room that's typically crowded and an enclosed space wearing that kind of perfume. So I'd say that's something you want to avoid.

Oh, jewelry and things like that yes. That's right generally, so bracelets, rings - even I've had issues with rings holding people's hand in advance, and the ring can be very uncomfortable in the hand if it's something that has a lot of gems on it or rough edges to it, and especially there's loose fitting it kind of flops around and ends up being on the wrong side of the finger.

I'm not suggesting anyone take off their wedding ring, if they're fine, smooth -

Me: But if you're going to buy your partner a wedding ring, be aware that if they might go out dancing, that might be part of your choices when you're getting that.

Steve: Well, you really are committed to dance if you're making your wedding ring choice based on dance considerations, well kudos to you.

I've had issues with cufflinks, my cufflinks sometimes getting caught - once in someone's hair, that was very awkward.

Me: Oooh..

Steve: Yeah. So I debate with them - I like them so much sometimes, but, and it depends on the dance, if you're doing a standard dance you're never gonna do an underarm turn, you're all good to go. But in a salsa club, when you're constantly spinning your partner, cufflinks might be a bad idea.

Me: All right, well thank you very much, this is great. We came up a lot of things that certainly never occurred to me, and I think you both went places that neither of us expected to go.

Steve: Haha! Sounds like a good day.

Me: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: I'm sure these, a lot of these are just my opinions right? Take them as you will.

Me: Well sure of course, everybody's gonna have their own own take on things. But I really appreciate your input on this, thank you very much for joining us Steve, and you know for those of you who want to contact Steve, and if you're interested in lessons and so on, you can always just get in touch with the Joy of Dance Centre and ask for him.

But thank you very much for listening in, and I look forward to going further with this on you... or with you on this.

Steve: Haha.

Me: That's better. See you next week, and until then, happy dancing!

Steve: Thank you very much it's been a pleasure.

Me: Cheers.

What A 5-Day Dance Camp Taught Me about Perseverance

dance camp

Every year, a 5-Day West Coast Swing (WCS) dance camp is held in Ancaster, Ontario. That’s 5 days of workshops, assessments, and coached practices, from morning to night. It’s quite the endurance run. And it’s often a painful process, as I discovered last year.

So this time, I kept a record of my journey, as a reminder to others who sometimes face doubts and negative thinking in their learning process; that they are not alone, and yes, it does get better.

Day One:

From the first dance, I can tell this year at dance camp is going to be a challenge - there’s a lot of talent in the room. Our coaches - Matt Auclair, Debbie Figueroa, and Cameo Cross - start us off by assessing our abilities to determine what classes are best for us.

dance camp

Musicality assessment starts with a blues song. I’m terrible at styling to blues, where the instruments seem to have a mind of their own, but I struggle through as best as I can. The next two songs are easier, and I my body starts to remember my training.

Watching a competitive-level student dance with Matt reminds me of how intimidated I felt when I first walked into a dance hall. How do they communicate so effortlessly with each other? I remind myself that, after all, I’ve been dancing ballroom and nightclub for a lot longer than WCS.

dance camp

No matter our ability level however, the love we all share for dance is so apparent it makes me smile: The flirtatious winks, the laughter and nods when a couple hits a sweet groove together, the sweaty breathing in the pause between songs. Already the room smells like hard work.

My personal challenge for the dance camp is to improve my interaction with my dance partners, by complimenting their styling with my own. So I’m surprised when Cameo asks me to remove my styling, all of it.

‘Why?’ I ask. ‘When you add your own embellishments constantly, your partner has no room for styling themselves.’ She explains. ‘You must create room for your partners to add their own expression.’ Sure enough, my partners begin to compliment me on my dancing, although it feels pedestrian to me.

dance camp

Already my body feels tired, but I know it’s a superficial tired, not the deep exhaustion that will settle in by day 5. In a slightly morbid way, I can’t wait for it to come: My best dancing happens when my brain finally shuts down.

Day Two:

Feeling bleary-eyed, and one of my toes has turned the colour of well-cooked lobster, but I can’t wait to start building on what I’ve learned the day before. Already my mind is starting to go numb, which I choose to interpret as a good sign.

dance camp

I manage to keep my styling down to a minimum, until one of my partners starts to really break out in her own moves. I figure ‘hey, I can dial it up a little’, until a familiar hand clamps down on my shoulder.


‘Ian, I love your styling, really’ Matt says, with that look in his eyes that indicates there’s an inevitable but coming. ‘You just need to keep it under control’. I sigh and nod, before turning back to my partner. ‘You’re a bad influence’ I grumble, but she just grins mischievously.

At times during the dance camp, I lose myself completely in the movement, aware only of the pressure of my partner’s hand, the flexing of my tired muscles, the power coming through my feet. The strain on my overtaxed brain is building, and I have to breathe through several frustrating moments.

dance camp

I do feel gratified when Matt merely asks me to rein in my left arm at the second coached practice. Limping back to the motel, I remind myself that this is just part of the process, that it has to get worse before it gets better.

I hope my thoughts from dance camp are helping you through your own dance journey. Turns out there was a lot more to say than I realized, so I’ll save the rest for next week. Happy dancing!

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

You Don’t Need to Start as a Child to Learn to Dance

learn to dance

There’s an assumption that’s made about ballroom dancing sometimes, that many opportunities are closed to you if you didn’t learn to dance from a very early age. And I confess, it’s an assumption that I believed as well, though I didn’t know it at first.

When I became a ballroom dance instructor with under 10 years of dance experience, I expected skepticism from the other instructors and students at the studio. Like many who read this blog, I felt I had my work cut out for me if I wanted seen as a true dancer.

learn to dance

What I didn’t anticipate however, was that the biggest skepticism would come from my own mind. My first years at the studio were threatened by debilitating self-doubt. Every aspect of my dancing seemed harder, more exhausting, more frustrating. My own mind rebelled against me, told me I was wasting my time. Sound familiar?

Transforming Self-Doubt into Self-Empowerment

When something you love as much as dancing becomes a chore, it’s time to figure out what’s sabotaging you. Here’s a few things I tried:

  1. Talking to friends.
  2. Writing down my thoughts in a journal.
  3. Practicing through the frustration.
  4. Reading about frustrating experiences other students and instructors had overcome.
  5. Visualizing myself as a more confident, capable person.

In doing so, I came to understand myself better, what pushed me forward and held me back. It’s important to recognize these limiting beliefs within yourself - only then can you replace it with something that empowers and motivates you.

learn to dance

One of the most important truths I ever embraced was to recognize that no matter who you are or what you are capable of, you have something to offer that no one else has seen before.

For example, I realized my later start in dance gave me a unique perspective on what it was like a beginner. Even my self-doubts helped me understand and support other dancers who faced the same feelings - hence this article.

learn to dance

Make Room for Desire. Leave No Room for Fear.

In my experiences and research, I’ve seen countless examples of people who choose to learn to dance, no matter the cost. I’ve seen 90-year old salsa dancers, wheelchair dancers, one and no-legged dancers, and one-armed dancers. I’ve seen them not only dance, but compete, and win.

These weren’t people born with some special gift - in fact, they had to fight against overwhelming odds. But they believed they had something special to give the world, and didn’t entertain possibilities that it was ‘too late’ for them. Likewise, I have taught hundreds of students, with many more reading the articles I publish weekly.

learn to dance

Living your passion rather than concealing it creates true confidence within yourself. When you learn to dance, true confidence isn’t about constantly proving yourself, or portraying yourself as some perfect specimen. It means accepting that sometimes you aren’t confident, and that is what makes you human.

True confidence means displaying yourself honestly for the world to see, without letting their opinions become your reality. As you learn to dance, remember this: Ability without confidence may satisfy the world, but only ability with confidence will satisfy yourself.

learn to dance

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

5 Reasons to Enjoy Ballroom Dancing Classes NOW, not Later

Every time I greet a new student, I like to take them out on the floor and move them to music right away, so they can get a taste of how much fun ballroom classes can be. It’s usually then that I hear the phrase ‘I wish I’d started dancing sooner.’

Why do we hold off on pursuing the things we enjoy? There’s a mentality that traps us, where we feel the things we really want can’t come to us without years of hard work and toil - as though we could somehow free ourselves of all responsibilities, if we just pushed hard enough.

ballroom dancing lessons

Many people want to dance when they are younger, but don’t act on their wishes because of perceived limitations they face in their life, and because it doesn’t appear to be worth the hard work required. Maybe this will change your mind.

1. Dance helps you live longer.

Canadians are blessed with subsidized medical expenses, but getting injured and sick is no picnic either. The older you get, the more prone to illness you are, and hundreds of people daily have their lives cut short by health issues.

Ballroom dancing classes can add years to your life - it’s perhaps the only activity that works both your body and your mind to the fullest, so they stay strong well into old age. Here’s the thing though - the longer you’ve been dancing, the more effective it is.

You can always tell when someone has been dancing their whole life - they’re still at it when their ninety.

2. Dance prepares you for that special someone.

It’s always in the moments before that first date, that job interview, that networking event, when you wish you could just swallow a magic pill to transform you into the confident savvy person you want to be.

Since those pills are a closely-kept government secret, the next best thing is to prepare in advance. Taking ballroom dancing classes automatically gives you a date option that’s sexy and different, all while getting closer with your beau.

For that matter, it also teaches you how to stand and move confidently in the business world, so you can make your money back in more clients and promotions.

ballroom dancing lessons
Welcome to the team! And may I say, your posture is fantastic.

3. Social dancing is cheaper than a movie.

A major objection for many potential dancers is the cost of lessons. People get worried about putting down a wad of cash now, because they don’t see how much it can save them in health and entertainment bills down the road.

For example, the price of a movie can be as much as $14 person or more. But learning through ballroom dancing classes gives you access to an evening of fun that rarely exceeds $10. And often includes a dance lesson as well. Talk about a good deal!

ballroom dancing lessons

4. There will always be reasons why you ‘can’t’.

Much as we might wish for it, there will never come a time, except maybe in our old age, when we will be free of responsibilities. And to work now so you can play sometime in the future is missing out on the best part of life.

What if you made some compromise between work and play? Maybe you can tape your favourite tv show, and watch it another day, while you take ballroom dancing classes instead. Maybe you only take one lesson a month to keep the cost down, and practice like crazy in between.

Everyone says they wished they’d started to dance sooner. Nobody says they wished they’d waited longer. Maybe it’s time we learned their lesson, and start making enjoyment of life the highest priority.

ballroom dancing lessons

5. The hardest part is beginning.

Odds are, you will never be as healthy, or as physically-mobile, as you are right now. There will never be a better time to try ballroom dancing lessons, or anything else you enjoy, because you are in the best shape you can be to enjoy it.

Learning anything new is hard at first, and I’m not going to pretend you won’t have periods of frustration. The pleasure of the accomplishment you braved your fears and grew as a person as a result. I wish you courage on your journey.

ballroom dancing lessons

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

5 Easy Tricks to Learn Dance Timing

dance timing

In the past, I’ve tried to explain how to improve dance timing in a variety of ways. In return, I’ve frequently met with frustration. I recall one reader brusquely replying, ‘I’m not a music major.’

I needed something simpler, some ideas that worked for anyone. And so, after hours of research, I’m finally ready with five new exercises. I recently used these in a group class, and they worked great! I hope they work for you too.

dance timing

1. Dance to your pulse.

We have a natural rhythm that goes on inside us all the time. In fact, some say this is why we like music in the first place! Even if the simplest music leaves you frustrated, your pulse will never let you down.

  1. Find a quiet space.
  2. Find your pulse. If you’re not sure how, watch the video below.
  3. Now, try snapping your fingers, tapping your foot, nodding your head, etc. to your pulse. Try to find something that still allows you to feel your pulse.

2. Use music with a clear beat.

Once you can move to your pulse, it’s time to find music with a clear beat you can switch over to. I’ve included a few of my favourites below:


Continue to tap, nod, or march to the timing you hear, whichever is easiest. Not sure what the beat is? I explain it here.

3. Count the beat.

Here’s a crazy statistic: Counting aloud gets dance timing into our bones three times faster than just stepping to the beat. Why? First, because we focus on saying the beat, and then we hear ourselves say it. How’s that for efficient learning?

Using your pulse, or one of the songs above, start counting from the first beat you hear (you might want to start the song a few times to make sure you’ve caught the first one). Count up to 8, then start over.

Next, try tapping or matching in place to your vocal count - without losing track of the beat in the music. This helps you connect what you hear to a movement in your body.

dance timing

4. Count the timing.

Most instructors don’t teach dance timing by the beat, but by the rhythm of the dance they are teaching. For instance, Rumba timing is ‘slow-quick-quick’.

We can connect the timing of the dance to the beat of the music by counting one beat as a quick, and two beats as a slow. On a chart, it would look like this:

Beat count 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Timing (Rumba) S Q Q S Q Q

Try to find the rumba timing in the music or your pulse. Remember that for a slow, there will be one beat where you do nothing, because it’s included in the slower movement. You can also use your 8-counts, pausing on count ‘2’ and ‘6’ (see the chart above).

Finally, you can actually try dancing a rumba box! If you’re not sure what that is, see below (ignore all that talk about hip action):

5. Finding the ‘1’.

After all you’ve accomplished, consider this a bonus round to prepare you for the next level.

The ‘1’ is the most important beat in dance timing, because it’s where the biggest emphasis in the music is. If you can’t find this however, the first beat of the songs above all start on the ‘1’.

Return to the 8-count as before. Now, on the ‘1’ add an extra action, like clapping your hands or stamping your feet.

When you feel inspired, try dancing the rumba box again, clapping or snapping on the ‘1’ as you go. Don’t forget to say the count loud and clear! With every step, you are tying the beat to your voice, and your voice to your dance timing. Good luck!

dance timing

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

How Ballroom Dance Lessons Gave My Life Direction

It occurs to me, dear reader, that I’ve been hiding myself from you. I’ve gone on about how fabulous ballroom dance lessons are for years now, yet I’ve never talked about what a transformative event it was for me.

In the interests of giving you new inspiration for your own progress then, here is the story of how ballroom dance lessons helped shape my own life.

Pre-Dance: Era 1997 - 1999 AD

ballroom dance lessons
We all had to start somewhere...

High school: A pretty bad time to be painfully shy, with an inconsistent attention span, making following even short conversations a challenge. I rarely made eye-contact, spoke infrequently to those I didn’t know well, and to girls, almost never.

Having an overactive imagination for as long as I can remember, I preferred to escape into fantasy realms of lightsabers and mythical magic, rather than deal with the frustrations of reality.

ballroom dance lessons
Case and point...

My love-affair with dance began suddenly, walking with my parents out on the sun-baked streets of the summer jazz festival. I was perhaps 15 at the time. Bouncy, upbeat music floated over to me through the crowds of people, and I peered hesitantly over the heads of onlookers to get a better view.

There in front of a restaurant patio, was a live band rocking out to some classic, and in front of them was 3 or 4 couples dancing what I would later know as East Coast Swing. Seeing their happy faces and how closely they held each other, something clicked inside my head.

ballroom dance lessons
The same jazz fest, years later, where my flash mob performed.

Early Dance Period: Era 1999 - 2002 AD

It didn’t take long for me to start urging my parents to allow me to take lessons. My parents, knowing that the likelihood of dance still holding my attention longer than a few months was close to nil, suggested I wait until next summer before they enrolled me.

That next year couldn’t go by quickly enough: I had found a secret, the secret to connecting with others that didn’t require my inadequate tongue. I guess mom and dad were surprised when I started pestering them as soon as the days turned warmer again.

My first ballroom dance lessons proved immediately that I did NOT have any natural talent, beyond a basic sense of footwork picked up from Tae Kwon Do lessons. I was wobbly and awkward, but absolutely determined to succeed. And, so slowly I barely noticed, I improved.

The Growing Period: 2002 AD - ?

ballroom dance lessons
One of my first competitions.

As my confidence grew, dancing became like a superpower for me: Ordinary shy Ian had difficulty being around girls, but dancing Ian could ask any girl he wanted. It didn’t even matter that I wasn’t taking any of them home - I was proving that I could be a part of something, that I could be ‘normal’.

My imagination, which had mostly seemed to cause problems up to this point, now helped me understand more complicated steps, as I visualized them before I danced them. I also found I didn’t need to ‘escape’ so often, as this new reality I was creating became more enjoyable.

And in the end, the river of confidence lifts all boats. The knowledge that I had finally found something positive to identify myself with helped me in social gatherings, class presentations and job interviews, which is how I eventually started teaching ballroom dance lessons myself.

ballroom dance lessons

I’m not pretending that the old Ian is dead and gone, and I don’t want him to be: he helps me remember how far I’ve come, and occasionally puts me in my place when confidence threatens to tip into arrogance.

For those of you on your own journey with ballroom dance lessons however, I hope this helps you realize how valuable dancing has or can be in your own life - and that maybe, you’ve come a lot further than you’ve realized. So keep pushing: The best is yet to come.

ballroom dance lessons

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

Any Party is Better if You Know How to Dance

how to dance

In the social jungle, making a good impression, or just having a good time can depend a lot on how well you make new connections. And of course, having a few tricks, like a sharp wit, dashing good looks, or ballroom dancing, can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, knowing how to dance with others is like a superpower in the social arena. Here’s just a few ways it can transform you from a wallflower into a social butterfly.

Dance puts you in the action.

Most of my students wanted to learn how to dance after they saw others doing it at a party. Let’s face it: most of us would rather be where the ‘life’ of the party is, rather then watching from the sidelines.

how to dance

Dance is an reason not to drink.

If you’re normally introverted in social situations, you may find yourself tempted to imbibe some liquid courage - sometimes more than is wise - in order to feel comfortable approaching and making conversation with others. A good alternative might be to start the evening off by hitting the dance floor. Others will admire your confidence, and you may find others start introducing themselves to you.

Dance provides a new way to socialize.

If you’re like me, conversations aren’t really your strong suit. I’m serious - it’s why I learned how to dance in the first place. Dancing gives you a whole new avenue for getting to know others, many of whom started dancing for the same reason.

You can make cool dance friends.

Fact: People who know how to dance are interesting people. Coming from every walk of life, these energetic souls love to share their artistic spirit with others. So much more fun to hang out with than Debbie Downer from the office.

how to dance
You're getting a steak? Enjoy your mad cow disease...

Cool dance friends tell you about cool dance parties.

Another awesome thing about having dance friends is they tend to know about all the other dance parties going on in your area, and can introduce you to even more people in the dance community. Many of the events I attend yearly in Toronto I would have no idea about if I hadn’t met someone who told me about it first.

It’s a fun challenge!

Maybe you don’t have a problem with being a wallflower. Maybe you’re the suavest, most charming and entertaining guy or gal around. In that case, why not challenge yourself? The dance world is just a new arena to meet others for fun, romance, and potential business clients. Learning how to dance just shows you can be fun and confident, no matter where you are.

how to dance

How to Set Some Dance Goals

dance goals

Our first dancing experiences, much like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, are usually filled with excitement and exhilaration. After a few months however, many people start to drop off. They ask themselves ‘what am I doing this for anyway? Is it really worth all this money just to have some fun once or twice a week?’ In short, they lost sight of their dance goals.

Our dance goals are like sign posts on our dancing journey, giving us direction and reminding us why we dance in the first place. ‘But Ian’, I hear you say ‘I don’t want to be a world champion. I just want to dance and have some fun.’ Really? Is ‘some fun’ why you spend between $20-200+ a week? Is that why you come in after a tiring work day, and sometimes practice between classes?

dance goals

Beyond simply having fun, you dance because some part of you gets something from that dance experience, whether it’s overcoming shyness, losing weight, or gaining respect from others. And although it might seem self-evident to you right now, a day may come when how clearly you see your dance goal will make the difference between sticking with it, and walking away. So, are you really ready to commit to dance? Then read on.

Step One: Meditate

The journey may be the important part, but you can’t have a journey without a destination. And if dancing is your journey, you need a dance goal that is worth working towards. Start by making a list of what you see, feel, or have learned in dancing that excites you. Do you love learning new steps? Connecting with your partner? Spinning your heart out? Then, start to ask yourself why you like these things.

dance goals

Step Two: Dream

As you look through your list, start to think of a long-term dance goal that encompasses all or most of what you’ve written down. If you often have trouble acting on goals in your life, consider using the SMART method:

Specific: ‘I want to score a job with performance group X’, is a lot more exact then ‘I want to become a better dancer’ - how will you know you’ve gotten there?
Measurable: Setting smaller goals (we’ll cover this later) helps you measure your progress and stay on track. For example, ‘I want to perform at a major festival.’
Attainable: Your dance goal should be realistic within your time frame: ‘I want to be world famous by the end of the year’ might be pushing it.
Rewarded: As you reach each benchmark, reward yourself! Let your body associate victory with some positive feedback, even if it’s just allowing yourself a little pride.
Timely: Set a date to achieve your dance goal. This might seem scary, but remind yourself that it’s meant to motivate you, not make you lose sleep.

dance goalsEventually you’ll arrive at a single sentence that sums up what makes dancing worth it for you. Write that down, and put it somewhere you’ll see every day.

Congratulations, you’ve figured out why you like dancing so much in the first place! Next week, we’ll continue with setting smaller goals that help move you in the direction of your dreams.

Inspire - Goal Setting For Dancers: How to Keep it Smart, and Keep it Positive
Rebecca Brightly - How to Nail Your Dance Goals in 2012
STEEZY - How to Set Up and Achieve Your Dance Goals

You Don’t Need a Dance Partner

Dance Partner

So you want to dance, but you don’t have a dance partner?  Fear not, fellow ballroom-lover, there’s hope to fulfill your dreams yet.  I knew that I wanted to ballroom dance after watching Johnny, the ultimate dance partner, and Baby in Dirty Dancing.  I was ten.  15 years later I still hadn’t taken a lesson, but my desire to ballroom dance was just as strong.  The thing is that ten-year-old boys, (and boys in my teens and early twenties) didn’t really seem that interested in ballroom dancing.  I felt I ‘couldn’t dance’ without a partner.  It wasn’t until my (life) partner gifted me with lessons twelve years ago that I was finally able to be Baby Houseman to my own Johnny Castle.

Dance Partner

In that first beginner group class, I looked around and realized there had been no need to wait.  Ballroom dance schools typically don’t require, or even prefer a dance partner to start classes.  Instructors can accommodate single students like rotating partners frequently or having dance assistants available.  A year later, my partner decided to hang up his dancing shoes, but I was hooked so I continued taking lessons. That’s when my education in ballroom dance really started.

dance partner

I realized how much I had depended on my partner.  I was completely comfortable with him and during those early lessons, spending time together was the main focus, not the dancing.  In fact, the reason he stopped taking lessons was because we’d joined a class where everyone was expected to rotate dance partners, and if we couldn’t dance together then dancing no longer held any appeal to him (Awww!).

I showed up to the next class on my own.  At first, I was so self conscious and worried that as a beginner, no one would want to dance with me.  However, in over a decade now of participating in ballroom classes at all levels, I’ve found an abundance of patience, support and respect.  Perhaps that’s because others were just as nervous as I was and hoping someone would still want to dance with them too and not suggest that they take up knitting instead.

dance partner

I didn’t go out looking for another dance partner, although sometimes I worried that not having one would prevent me from excelling.  I realized that teachers rotate partners, not to torture their students (as I was initially convinced), but to make them better dancers.  Having a committed dance partner is to many the ideal and it certainly offers a multitude of benefits.  A drawback however, is that it’s easy for both partners to sacrifice skill and technique to ‘help’ each other dance better, often without realizing it.  Dancing with multiple partners encourages us to connect more effectively; it motivates us to become skilled leaders and more receptive followers because with different partners, we just don’t know what to expect.  We prepare for anything and adapt to anyone!

dance partner

If your goals are to be a serious competitor or performer, finding a permanent partner will likely be required, but as someone who is not in a monogamous dance partnership, and prefers dancing socially, the most important partner on the dance floor is the person I’m dancing with in the moment.  When that two-and-a-half minute song is done though, I may find someone else to dance with, or go home to my life partner (who is still happily not dancing, by the way) and any potential for tension caused by being in two committed (though very different) relationships is avoided.

It’s okay not to have a dance partner.  In fact it’s great, so don’t let it hold you back! Your experience will be just as fulfilling, your skills just as impressive and your connections just as meaningful.  All you have to do is get on the dance floor.  Well, asking someone to dance might be helpful too.   😉

Dance Partner

Lisa Fender is College Dean at the Joy of Dance & Teacher's College in Toronto, ON. She passed her own teacher training 2 years ago, and continues to dance - with whoever is around.