What are the Basic Ballroom Dance Positions?

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One-Hand Hold Position

One hand hold
One hand hold. Tracy Wicklund

Jumpstart your ballroom dance lessons by learning these nine basic partner positions. 

First, try the one-hand hold. 

In the one-hand hold, only one hand is held. Hence the name.

Try it with the partners facing each other. The other hand is relaxed at their sides. When partners face each other within arms reach, it is called the open facing position. 

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Two-Hand Hold

Two hand hold
Two hand hold. Tracy Wicklund

In the two-hand hold position, both hands are held. Both partners should stand apart, facing each other. The man ( or the person holding the traditionally male role) should hold both of the woman's hands.

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Outside Right Position

Outside right position
Outside right position. Tracy Wicklund

The closed position is another common position in ballroom dancing. In the closed position, the partners stand close enough to each other that their bodies touch, but slightly off to each dancer's left. Each dancer's right foot should be able to step in between the other person's feet. 

In the closed position, the man's right hand rests on the woman's back and he holds her right hand with his left. The woman places her left hand on his upper arm. 

The outside right position (or right parallel) is similar to the basic closed position.

With the outside right position, the feet are different. The woman's feet stand to the right on the man's. 

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Outside Left Position

Outside left
Left outside. Tracy Wicklund

The outside left (or left parallel) position is similar to the basic closed position. Again, the foot positioning is what's different. In this position, the woman places her feet to the left of the man's. 

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Promenade Position

Promenade position
Promenade position. Tracy Wicklund

In the promenade position, both partners face the same direction instead of facing each other. The bodies make a sort of V shape. 

Because the dancers are facing the same direction, they also move forward together. 

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Fallaway Position

Fallaway position
Fallaway position. Tracy Wicklund

The fallaway position is similar to the promenade position, except it moves backward instead of forward. Both partners take small steps backward.

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Shadow Position

Shadow position
Shadow position. Tracy Wicklund

In the shadow position, partners "shadow" each other's moves.

  • Both partners should face the same direction, with one partner either in front of the other or slightly to the left or right.
  • Partners should step with the same foot in the same direction. Their movements should act as a shadow to each other, per the name of the position. 
  • Partners can be closed (touching), semi-closed (slightly apart) or totally apart.
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Skater's Position

Skater's position
Skater's position. Tracy Wicklund

In the skater's position, partners join hands in front of their bodies. The right hands should be joined below and left hands joined above.

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Challenge Position

Challenge position
Challenge position. Tracy Wicklund

In the challenge position, the man and woman face each other but are apart and without contact.