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Arm Styling Basics

One of the most common topics that people ask me about is arm styling. In teaching ballroom dance, we are pretty specific about what to do with your feet and the "steps" alone might be the simplest component of dance. Of course, as your dancing becomes more advanced you learn that there really is a ground up approach, as far as what each part of your body is doing within the dance.

But until you get to those more advanced levels of understanding and learning, you may be the unwilling victim of your own arms - moving about without order and without making sense with the rest of your movements.

This is the central idea to good arm styling. Your arm movements must be connected to your body and to the rest of the movements of your body. In addition, your arm movements should have purpose and direction.

The topic is quite complex and best explained in person, but basically, to begin to improve your arm styling and arm movements, you need to understand and focus on the origin of the movement.

Your arm is connected to your body at the shoulder, and this is the place of origin of the movement. Your elbow does not logically bend without being directed first by a movement from the shoulder. So I always tell my students to think of these movements in sequence beginning with the shoulder.

The thinking follows the old childhood song about the skeleton,

"Dem Bones" ...

The finger bone's connected to the hand bone, The hand bone's connected to the arm bone, The arm bone's connected to the shoulder bone, Now shake dem skeleton bones!

But in dance, the sequence begins in reverse. The movement begins at the shoulder, is followed by the elbow, then the wrist moves and then back to the elbow and back to the shoulder.

With arm movements, what goes out must come back in, following an order and with purpose. Which brings me to the second basic idea of arm styling. Arm movements should be directed and be finished. This means that if you extend your arm beautifully up in the air over your head, you cannot simply let it drop to your side. Your arm must glide back down your body, the same way that it was raised, with direction and purpose.

Arm styling and styling in general can be great fun and give your dancing a distinctive look and personality. This is one of my favorite topics to teach! If you would like to work on your arm styling in preparation for the spring competition season, I would love to work with you! Email me at and ...

I hope to see you soon on the dance floor,



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