What is Contra Body Movement and why is it so important to your Ballroom dancing?

contra body movement ballroom dancing

Once you've mastered the basic steps of Ballroom lets's say a Modern Waltz Left Foot and Right Foot Closed Changes, then a very interesting thing happens.  As you relax and feel more confident to dance the steps, your natural body movement starts to return.  The natural body movement I'm referring to is your body's natural opposition, that is, you walk or run by swinging our left arm (and side) forward as you take a step with your right foot, and swing your right arm forward as you step with your left foot.

This natural opposition is called "Contra Body Movement", and everyone does it naturally, without thinking, as they walk.  Mostly the body does it for balance.  If you don't believe me try holding you arms by your side as you walk, or swinging the same arm forward as leg you are stepping on.  It feels really awkward.

When you first learn Ballroom, you concentrate on the step pattern, and this can make your body feel a little stiff.  Here's what I'd like you to try.

Gents: take up hold with your partner and prepare to step forward on your left foot into a Left Closed Change (Modern Waltz) by lowering into your right knee. As you commence to take the step, allow your right side to come forward slightly and notice the feel of the action.  As you take the side step and close your feet, leave the right side forward.  Then flex into your knees to take your left foot forward and allow your right side to move forward.

Ladies: take up hold and prepare to step backward on your right foot into a Left Closed Change (Modern Waltz) by lowering into your left knee. As you commence to take the step backward on your right foot, allow your right side to come forward and notice the feel of the action. Maintain the right side as you step side and close.  Then as you lower to take the Left Foot back, feel your left side rotate slightly forward.

Try to sense what's happening than force it.  This opposite side forward to moving foot is called Contra Body Movement, or CBM in Ballroom dancing.  It sounds complicated, but it's simply the natural way we walk and run.

Once mastered, CBM feels free, natural and relaxed.  Easy and not stiff at all.  This is the sort of dancing you want to aspire to.

If you don't know CBM, or haven't felt it, ask your teacher to show and allow you to feel it, and your dancing will be transformed.


Monica Fincham is a former Professional Ballroom dancer and now competition adjudicator and owner of Dancesport Kingdom in Lilydale.  

"Most beginners to Ballroom dance consider learning to Ballroom and Latin American dance simply learning the step pattern.  Whilst this is an important aspect of the first stages, true joy comes from mastering the steps and then relaxing your body and using it's natural co-ordination (which everyone has!) to make the experience truly exhilarating"















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