Novices Should Practice Footwork

After chatting to people about their raw novice phase of dancing I’ve found myself saying something again and again: Practice your footwork by yourself.


  • When you’re in the raw novice stage, there are two mysterious things about dancing, the footwork rhythms and lead-and-follow.  You need a partner to practice lead and follow.  You don’t need one to practice footwork rhythms.
  • You’re maximizing the value of your instructor-led class time, whether that’s private lesson time or group class time.  You can focus on the things you can only learn in person (how the lead and follow should feel, how your body position should be, dance frame).
  • You need to know the footwork well enough to be able to do it without much thought.  That takes time and repetition.  Make that time and repetition work for you, not against you.


If you know the footwork rhythm that you’re going to practice, you’re fine.  But if you don’t feel you quite have it solidly in your head, it’s worth asking the instructor to demonstrate the footwork for you while you video it.  Make sure you video the feet!  Ask the instructor to demo the rhythm at slow to medium tempo a few times with numerical counts and a few times with words.  And make sure you get the name of the rhythm that’s being demo’d at the top of the recording.


  1. Play whatever music you have handy, though mid-tempo swing will help other aspects of your dancing.
  2. Do your footwork rhythms to the music.  In place, without moving.
  3. You can stop after 5 minutes.
  4. Repeat every day for at least two weeks.

When you’re in class or on the social dance floor and you don’t have to worry about your footwork rhythm, you can work on other important things.  That will speed up your improvement a lot.

And don’t forget this exercise as you climb the skill ladder.  You can use it with every new footwork variation you pick up along your journey.

Have you ever had a problem learning footwork?  What process did you use to get through that block?

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