10 Basic Ballroom Dance Positions

Essential partnering moves that every ballroom dancer needs to know

ballroom dancing couple
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Jumpstart your ballroom dance lessons by learning these basic partner positions. Once you've mastered them, you and your partner will be gliding across the floor in no time.

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One-Hand Hold Position

One hand hold
Tracy Wicklund

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

Begin in the open facing position (facing your partner within arm’s reach). To enter the one-hand hold position, grasp your partner’s hand and leave the other hand relaxed at your side. 

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Two-Hand Hold

Two hand hold
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Regardless of dancers' gender, ballroom couples have a designated dominant/leading and subordinate/following partner. Traditionally, a male partner leads and a female partner follows.

In the two-hand hold position, both hands are held. Partners should stand apart, facing one another. The male partner holds the female partner's hands, while the female partner places her hands in the male partner's grasp.

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Closed Position

The closed position is another position common in ballroom dancing. In this position, the partners stand close enough to each other so that their bodies touch, but slightly off to the left. This enables each dancer's right foot to step between their partner's feet. 

In the closed position, the male partner rests his right hand on the female partner's back while holding her right hand with his left hand. The female partner places her left hand on the male partner's upper arm. 

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Outside Right Position

Outside right position
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The outside right position (or right parallel) is similar to the basic closed position, with the exception of the placement of the feet.

In the outside right position, the female partner's feet should be to the right of the male partner's. 

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Outside Left Position

Outside left
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The outside left (or left parallel) position is also similar to the basic closed position. Again, the only difference is the placement of the feet.

In outside left position, the female partner places her feet to the left of the male partner's feet. 

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Promenade Position

Promenade position
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In the promenade position, both partners face the same direction instead of facing one another. Their bodies form a sort of "V" shape. 

The promenade is a forward movement. Since the dancers are facing in the same direction, both move forward at the same time. 

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Fallaway Position

Fallaway position
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The fallaway position is similar to the promenade position, except the dancers move backward instead of forward. In the fallaway position, both partners take small steps backward at the same time.

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Shadow Position

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

Working from either a closed position (touching), semi-closed (slightly apart) or totally apart, partners should face the same direction, with one partner either in front of the other or slightly to their left or right.

Partners should step with the same foot in the same direction. Their movements should act as a shadow to each other, as the name of the position suggests. 

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Skater's Position

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

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Challenge Position

Challenge position
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In the challenge position, the male and female partners face one another but stand apart and without making contact.