It Just Figures – by Chris Bruce

Chris with his wife and competitive partner Monika.

"It Just Figures"


DK Ballroom Instructor Chris Bruce writes about the best way to remember dance steps.


"It Just Figures…

As a beginning ballroom dancer, how can I learn my routines faster?

When we start learning a routine it seems there are a million things to remember – step on this foot, step in that direction, step on the toe or the ball or the heel, etc. What we often overlook (though I can pretty much guarantee the teacher will tell us) is that the routine is made up of several named figures, each comprising a few steps. After all, will knowing that that step to the side is part of a Natural Turn help us to execute it better? Probably not.

So why should we take notice? Let me give you 2 reasons – one which helps us immediately, and one longer term.

To illustrate the first reason, let’s take a simple Waltz routine I found on the internet. The first side of this routine is made up of 34 steps. Are we going to easily remember all of these? Unlikely. And this is just the first side!

Think for a moment how you would go about learning a new mobile phone number. Would you remember it as XXXXXXXXXX? Or would you remember it as XXXX XXX XXX? By breaking it into groups of digits we make it easier to remember. The same applies to our Waltz routine. The 34 steps can be grouped into 9 figures, each containing a handful of steps, which are much easier to remember.

Now let me explain the longer-term advantage. Sooner or later we are going to learn a new Waltz routine. Chances are that our new routine will contain some of, maybe even many of, the same figures as the routine we are learning right now. If the new routine has 8 figures in the first side, and we learn 4 of them in our first routine, we’re already halfway there!

So really, it just figures…. that we should learn our figures, not just our steps!"