We custom design our ballroom dance lessons to match each student’s needs.


Ballroom Dance Lessons in Oakland, California

With emphasis on social, and not competitive dancing, at Steps on Toes our number one strategy is  to give our students the confidence to navigate the dance floor. We train our students to feel at ease when dancing ballroom.

At Steps on Toes you’ll have the opportunity to learn a variety of Ballroom Dances, including Latin Ballroom Dance. Below are the Ballroom Dances we teach.




Waltz Dance Lessons

There are many different styles of waltz.

They are all in ¾ time ( three beats to the measure) and all are progressive, in that they travel around the room in the line of direction.

Basic ballroom waltz is based on the box step and is danced to medium/slow music with a consistent tempo .

Viennese waltz is danced to music that speeds up and slows down. It’s very fast and full of spinning turns with a lot of centrifugal force.

If you go to the Gaskills dances, from the Elizabethan era, you’ll see a lot of rotary and cross step waltz.

Rotary waltz is fast and spinning, but less complex than Viennese. Cross step is danced to slow music and as you might imagine is characterized by lots of crossing steps.

Country Western waltz resembles Viennese in it’s footwork, with the complicated arm movements of swing.

Cajun waltz zig zags around the floor similar to the Cajun Two Step.

There are other styles as well, and even I am occasionally introduced to a completely new one.

Waltz is unique. In that, it is the only dance that is never boring, even with only its basic steps. As dance historian Richard Powers pointed out in his “The Zen of Waltz” lecture, advanced dancers often prefer to simplify the waltz down to one or two simple movements. I think this is because, having no pauses, there is a hypnotic quality to the waltz, like riding a merry-go-round, that gives a trance like quality to the dance. Mesmerizing though it may be for the dancers, it’s not very interesting to watch countless turning boxes, however, so if you’re planning a waltz for your wedding you might want to add a few more steps to your routine.


Foxtrot Dance Lessons

Originally a fast bouncy dance created by vaudevillian Harry Fox, morphed into a slow romantic dance under the influence of Arthur Murry.

It’s a combination of slow and quick steps put together in different ways, but most of them fall into one of two categories: slow-quick-quick or slow- slow-quick-quick. (quick steps step on every beat, slow steps move on every other beat).

It’s a smooth dance, moving around the floor in the line of direction, counter clockwise. Competitive ballroom dancers consider the slow foxtrot to be the ultimate challenge, because stepping on every other beat when the music is slow is difficult to manage with grace and balance. From a social dance perspective, however, this is because it’s the wrong dance for the music.

Foxtrots can work to any music that is smooth and in 4/4 time, with a fairly wide range of speeds, but if the music is too slow to comfortably take slow steps, in our opinion there are other dances that are more appropriate.

Putting the different rhythms together is the most challenging part of Foxtrot, but beginners can choose to use only the patterns of one rhythm at a time as they hone their leading and following skills.

It’s a popular dance for wedding first dances because of it’s musical flexibility and because it’s fairly easy to learn. Most popular music is in 4/4 time, and most of it will work for Foxtrot in a pinch.


Tango Dance Lessons

Like Waltz there are a lot of styles of Tango.
Argentine Tango, the original one, is in my opinion the most difficult partner dance there is, and I no longer offer it.

Ballroom Tango is not really any more difficult than Foxtrot, and for sheer drama can’t be beat.

There is more than one rhythm in Tango, but the basic one is: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. The most common alternate rhythm is slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, slow.

It is the only Ballroom dance that doesn’t change weight on the closing step. The last three counts of most of the steps, known as a Tan-go-close, involve a step (quick) followed by a side close (quick slow) but the slow closing step is a slow draw with no weight change. Every new step begins with the same foot. The music is in two/four time which gives it it’s driving dramatic beat.

There are fewer opportunities to dance Tango even though it’s one of the most fun dances. You can’t dance Ballroom Tango at a Milonga (a Tango dance party) because the music for Argentine Tango is different. Argentine Tangos have an inconsistent beat, speeding up and slowing down, changing moods and rhythms, because Argentine Tangeros change the cadence of the steps as the music inspires them.

Ballroom Tango patterns each have their own set cadence. You do them the same way every time. Like most of the other Ballroom dances, you have to learn several other dances in order to dance Tango, unless you want to spend most of the evening waiting for a Tango to be played. But then, variety is part of the fun of Ballroom dancing.

Cha Cha

Cha Cha Dance Lessons

Cha Cha is generally considered to be a latin dance, although it wasn’t originally. It’s very similar to Salsa with many of the same basics, like crossover breaks and cross body leads, but it’s slower and with a slightly different rhythm.

Cha Cha goes: one, two, cha cha cha. Or one two three and 4. Salsa goes quick quick slow. If you did a triple step instead of a slow step, you’d have Cha Cha.

Many steps are identical in both dances, but because the speed is different, there are steps that work when done slowly that don’t work at fast speeds and vice versa, there are also steps that are unique to each dance. Just as there are two schools of thought on which part of the music to begin the dance in Salsa, so are there two ways to apply Cha Cha to the music.

For reasons I can’t explain, while Salsa dancers accept a regional difference, Cha Cha dancers tend to believe that the way they were taught is the right way and the other way is wrong.

Street dancers break on 1, the first beat of the measure, and they count it one, two, cha cha cha. Ballroom dancers break on two, but instead of just waiting for the first beat to go by and then starting, like Salsa dancers, they start on the last “cha” one the first beat of the music and count it “one, two, three, cha cha one. An unnecessary complication in my opinion, but then I’m primarily a street dancer.

Cha Cha is one of my favorite dances to teach because it’s so versatile. It not only shows up at latin dances and ballroom dances, but it fits a great deal of contemporary music as well. If you want a dance to do instead of freestyle at clubs or parties where most people are not doing partner dance, Cha Cha is a good solution. West Coast Swing is a good choice, too, but Cha Cha is far easier. I often teach it to couples who want to partner dance to popular music.


Merengue Dance Lessons

This is without a doubt the simplest of the Latin dances.

The only difficult part of Merengue is the Cuban hip action. You have to master the hips to do this dance because if you don’t, it will look like you’re just walking around in circles.

In Cuba, Merengue is danced in a very close hold and is a sort of Latin blues dance, but here in California it’s basically swing moves in a one step rhythm.

Many advanced dancers find Merengue to be a boring dance because it is so simple, but if you do it the Cuban way, it’s not boring at all! Even the open style of Merengue affords a lot of variations, making it a great dance for beginners to get the feel of Latin dance, and for more advanced dancers to be creative without having to think too much.

You step on every beat in Merengue, and the music is slower than Salsa. There is no trick to the timing. You just walk through the moves taking as many steps as you want to get through them.

As with most dances, if you enjoy the music, you’ll enjoy the dance.


Ballroom Samba Dance Lessons

Although this dance share elements from Brazilian Samba; this International Ballroom version of samba is a lively, rhythmical dance.

Ballroom Samba is a partner dance. It’s considered a Latin dance, but its styling is completely different from other Latin Ballroom Dances.

It’s based on a one and a two and a one and a two rythm. The hips go forward and back or side to side in opposition to the rest of the body, with much more full body motion than the Caribbean dances.

The Cuban hip action is characterized by a very proud, upright posture with all of the movement happening below the waist.

In Samba, there is a full body sway. The hip movement is unique and it’s what characterizes the dance. It’s much less common than the other Latin dances, but it’s fun to have it in your repertoire. There is a light hearted, playful attitude to Samba. You have to be willing to look a little silly. That’s a character trait worth acquiring!


Rumba Dance Lessons

Rumba, also known as Ballroom Rumba(Rhumba) is the slow romantic part of Latin dance.

It’s rhythm is Quick Quick Slow, like Salsa, but it’s slow and sensual. There are some moves common to both dances, but many that are unique to Rhumba because they are too slow for Salsa and too smooth for Cha Cha.

Sometimes the follower is just walking around in circles, but because of the slow steps, it has a completely different look and feel from Merengue. It’s as if the point of Rhumba is for the follower to show off her hips.

She can shine in a slow sensuous movement. The music is romantic and pretty. We do box steps in Rhumba, which are not usually done in Salsa, making it feel a little like a Latin Foxtrot. If you’re used to doing the box step in Foxtrot and Waltz, the transitions can be tricky because the box in Rhumba starts on the side step (quick), as opposed to the forward step (slow). Those transitions are (aside from the hips) usually the most challenging part for my students.