Stittsville (Ontario) and district; 613.831.4924

welcoming dancers from Kanata, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Perth, downtown Ottawa, or wherever!

Richard W. Macmillan, Eng.D., B.A. (Honours Psych)

Accredited ("Grande Distinction") by the Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa)

Teaching in the Stittsville/Goulbourn area since 1998!

"As I have experienced it, ballroom dancing is the total immersion of a couple in the precision and grace of musical expression. Owing to its contribution to good health through pleasurable exercise and the relief of stress, it is surely a key to longevity; and through the ever-expanding circle of good friends and acquaintances it is a constant source of well-being and social development."

Health & Wellness Private Instruction Software & CD's
Venues Dance Technique Dance Descriptions
Dance Rhythms Bibliography My Résumé


Please check your Goulbourn, Stittsville & West Carleton Activity Guide, published and sent to your home by the City of Ottawa, for ballroom and Latin-American dance courses taught at the Stittsville & District Community Centre. Although I will be teaching these courses, registration for them must be done through the City of Ottawa.

PRIVATE INSTRUCTION (to Silver level):

In your own home (or mine), at your convenience! 613.831.4924

Touch me with your cursor!

Cha-Cha, Swing, Rumba, Samba, Mambo, Merengue, Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Bolero, Salsa, Bachata, Paso Doble, Argentine Tango and Slow Dance

Think about it ...
- You'll have my attention 100% of the time!
- You'll learn 2 to 3 times as much per hour as in a class - and with style!
- You choose the day and the hour (if not already booked).
- Couples, singles, or minigroups welcome!
- You choose the dances in which you are really interested!
- Dance in a pleasant, comfortable environment.
- Need to cancel/reschedule an hour? OK with 24 hours' notice.
- Getting married?? I'll get you ready!

Rates per hour (singles, couples or minigroups):

At my home: $30 (1½ hours: $45; two hours: $55);
at your home, within a 20-km radius of Munster: $40 (1½ hours: $55; two hours: $65);
at your home, within a 40-km radius of Munster: $50 (1½ hours: $65; two hours: $75).

Where else could you find this?

... a six-hour package of private lessons for only $160 per couple!

Why not start a minigroup with some of your friends?

Think about it: two couples = $7.50/hour per person; three couples = $5/hour per person!


Never forget a dance step again!

DanceStepper PC screen
Touch picture with your cursor!


NOW AVAILABLE: A Windows program for PC's which demonstrates the man's and the lady's steps for more than 400 commonly taught dance steps of 17 ballroom and Latin dances as well as a number of line dances. A PC with a sound card (for spoken counting of the beats) is required. (Microsoft Vista & Windows 7 not recommended) Steps may be observed at 50% to 100% (selectable) of actual dance tempo or in single-step mode, using any keystroke to advance from step to step. The animated feet slide from one step to another. The man's and lady's feet may be studied together or separately. Messages at the bottom of the screen indicate changes of partner position or other important technical details at the steps where they occur. Available on pre-paid personalized CD.

DEMO PROGRAM: A demonstration program has been prepared which permits the user to observe a moderately complex Rumba step consisting of a spiral, fans, left and right underarm spot turns, and back breaks. The dance step title and file menus of the complete program have been intentionally disabled.

dance step demo package

(Run the above to put the demo package on your desktop (blue icon with 'RWM & A'))

PRICES: Preparation of the dance step files is a difficult and time-consuming activity (the dance step shown in the demo program required four hours to program - beyond the ca. 200 hours required for the basic software). Pricing is therefore structured in accordance with the number and complexity of the dance files included.

PRELIMINARY: basic PC program + 74 easy steps of the Foxtrot, Rumba, Waltz, Triple Swing, Cha-Cha, Samba, Tango and Mambo: Cdn $25

CLUB DANCES: basic PC program + 111 steps of Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Slow Dance and Argentine Tango, as well as a selection of line and group dances: Cdn $25

COMPLETE: enhanced PC program + all currently available steps in the above dances + Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble, Argentine Tango, Bolero and Salsa; in total, more than 440 steps: Cdn $95 (my students: $60)

To order, please call me at 613.831.4924. Not recommended for use with Windows 7.


(It's repetitive and boring... And it might even make you sleepy... sleepy... sleepy... as it goes deep into the furthest reaches of your brain...)

Now with musical background!

I have been teaching since 1998, and in every Level 1 (Beginners’) Class I find that more than half of my students have serious trouble with timing. Without proper timing it is impossible to dance any dance correctly; therefore, timing is the very first thing you must learn. No, you cannot learn the steps first and the timing later – this will only create a bad habit which later may be impossible to fix.

For this reason I have created a special CD with my voice rhythmically and stereophonically reciting the beats of the basic steps for twelve ballroom and Latin dances. Each of the twelve rhythms is repeated for a duration of three minutes - the length of an average piece of music - then begins to fade out (two minutes). I often use my Dance Beats in my classes when first explaining the rhythm of a dance, and it is not unusual for dancers to find the effect hypnotic! Those who have done meditation might describe these rhythmic recitations as mantras.

When using your Dance Beat CD, find a comfortable chair or couch, select the band for the dance you are studying, close your eyes and let it run for its five minutes. If you have headphones, put them on, because the accented beats alternate between the left and right channels – just as your feet will alternate when dancing. The five minutes will be very boring – intentionally so – but surely you can tolerate five minutes of boredom, can’t you? Believe me, it’s well worth it, because the dance beats will go deep inside your brain - and stay there!

The CD is inexpensive - only $5 - and provides the basic rhythms for Foxtrot, Rumba, Triple Swing, Waltz, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Jive, Tango, Samba, Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. The new improved version synchronizes the spoken beats with a generic musical phrase in the style of the dance.


Every Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. Admission: $4.10 per person (including snacks/coffee!)
Parking privileges free to participants. Music (computer controlled) much improved! 613.564.1050

Every Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Admission: $5. Ample parking on the street. Good quality music (hen hao de yinyuè). And don't forget their Chinese New Years bash! 613.232.8403.

SMITHS FALLS, at the Orange Hall on William Street, typically on the last Friday of each month. 8:00 to 10:30 p.m.; $5 per person, refreshments included; Contact Suzanne Rebetez for further details: 613.253.2172

LET'S DANCE, 60 Colonnade Road N., Nepean. 613.723.6592
Every Friday, 9:00 p.m. Admission: $7 per person. L.L.B.O. licensed.

GLEBE COMMUNITY CENTRE, 690 Lyon Street S., Ottawa.
Sundays, 8:00 to 11.00 p.m. Admission: $10 per person; 613.564.1058.


Human Brain


Although there is still a great deal that is not yet known about the human brain, it is clear that dance steps are first communicated to us verbally and visually. The verbal part involves our understanding of what is being said, and together with the movements that we see, we attempt to translate this information into motions of our own (sometimes not very successfully!).

Initially, therefore, we have to talk to ourselves, both during the lesson and while practicing. This self-talk and comprehension involves the speech areas (on the left side of the head) and the reasoning area (the frontal lobe) of the head. But after we have practiced the steps for a while, the sequence of steps and movements become a motor routine. This allows us to perform the movements on "autopilot", simply by thinking briefly about what step you want to do, then letting the brain execute the sequence automatically, with little or no active thought during its execution. Those familiar with computer programming will note the similarity of this to calling a procedure or subroutine.

Motor routines are known to be stored in the cerebellum, (Restak, The Brain, pp. 87-91) which is located in the lower rear of the head. Encoding the verbal and visual information for a dance step in the cerebellum takes time - hours, days or weeks, depending upon how much you practice. As a result, when learning a new variation you must continue to talk to yourself about the steps throughout the programming process, and you should avoid social conversation or distracting thoughts until the steps become completely automatic and technically correct. Once you have done this, you can relax and really enjoy your dancing.

Finding the beat:

MEN: When starting a dance, first make sure you can distinctly hear the rhythm of the dance in the music which is being played; then start! Your partner will wait until you have done this. If the music contains a vocal part, try to avoid listening to the singers, who often deviate considerably from the beat of the music for the sake of their artistry, and instead listen to the accompaniment - the drums or double bass, if any - which, in a good piece of dance music, will provide a strong, steady beat throughout.

Dances like the Samba, Merengue and Paso Doble should start at the beginning of an eight-beat musical phrase. A musical phrase is difficult to explain in words, but it is like a poetic line in a song, with the final beat of a phrase usually unstated (as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,(8),1,2,3,4,5,6,7,(8)), similar to a pause in speech. Using suitable pieces of music for these dances, try to divide its beat patterns into logical, even eight-beat groups, repeatedly counting to eight.

If you are having trouble keeping on the beat, it is probably a good idea to purchase a few CD's or tapes of approved ballroom dance music and to practice finding the strong beats in musical bars for each of the pieces, first clapping or tapping out the beats with a pencil, then executing the steps on the floor. I strongly recommend my Dance Beat CD, which uses a hypnotic-like technique for anchoring the dance beat in the brain. A secure knowledge of the beat patterns for each dance is absolutely essential, and I take the necessary time to emphasize these in my teaching.

Leading and following:

MEN: Although the ladies sometimes have more difficult and artistic steps than you do, your job is in many ways more difficult. You are the on-the-spot choreographer, determining at each moment of the dance which step to do next in order to make the dance as interesting as possible for your partner and yourself. I strongly recommend avoiding lengthy fixed routines, and believe that your dancing will be much more interesting if the order in which you put your steps is varied each time you dance. If you know approximately 15 steps of each dance, you will find that you will probably only be able to use each one of those steps once in a three-minute piece of music. If you know more than 15 steps, you will only be able to use part of your repertoire in any single piece of music, and if you are a good dancer, you will select a different group of those steps each time you dance.

At the same time you are attempting to be a good choreographer, you must keep a careful eye on traffic on the dance floor, and use whatever steps are necessary to avoid collisions with other couples or stationary objects. This is floorcraft, and, considering the number of collisions found on a dance floor on an average evening (and often caused by more experienced dancers), it probably needs to be taught more often in dance courses than it currently is!

To have proper control of your dancing you must learn to lead well. To do this, you must keep your arms firm and avoid moving the upper part of the body unnecessarily. Collapsed left arms and swaying of the upper body are common errors among inexperienced male dancers. Your movements, when made, are to serve as signals to the lady, and such movements as raising or lowering of arms or shifting torso position must be carefully observed and incorporated when learning a new step. You will not be able to lead well if you have not securely programmed your steps in your cerebellum (see Learning, above); insecurity leads to false movements, and these will cause your parter to misinterpret your actions.

LADIES: Following is not an easy task, either! You must know your dance steps well so that once a dance step has been initiated by your partner you can execute it properly to completion. There is unfortunately little you can do if your partner does not know how to lead: It is not possible to know what variation will be danced next unless you receive the proper cue(s), and you must avoid guessing or taking over the lead. But in order to follow properly, you absolutely must know the standard cues for each step, remain alert to these cues, and also, in many cases, keep a firm right arm.

Cuban Movement:

Many of the Latin dances (e.g., the Rumba, Cha-Cha and Mambo) have Afro-Cuban origins. Steps in these dances are never initiated with the heel! Instead, we employ a stepping technique known as "Cuban Movement". It uses a delayed shift of body weight, executed by first moving the ball of a foot to its next position (forward, backward, to the side or in place) with a bent knee, then later transferring the body weight to that foot, bringing the heel down and straightening the knee. While transferring the weight to this foot, we typically bend the other knee and lift the other heel from the floor in preparation for the next step. Thus we have an alternate bending and straightening of the knees, somewhat similar to "marking time" when marching, or walking down a flight of stairs.


Dances vary considerably from one another in their character. This includes posture. Surely, a Swing or Jive, with its abandon and free expression, does not require as upright a posture as should be applied to the elegant Slow Waltz and Viennese Waltz. A too upright posture in Swing would appear stiff and unnatural, and in the Argentine Tango (but not in the standard Tango) the norm is to look downward with an intense, absorbed facial expression. Students must be taught at an early stage about the distinct characteristics of each dance they learn, and must be corrected when they attempt to apply techniques of one dance inappropriately to another.

Spot turns:

I have found that many beginners - particularly ladies - have difficulty with the spot turn, which is introduced to them when learning the Cha-Cha-Cha in Level 1. Perhaps the reason that men tend to have less difficuly with this turn is that it is used in military marching (although to their right instead of their left), and is actually called a "military turn" by some dance teachers. This turn is extremely important in the Latin dances, as it is used extensively in the Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, Mambo, Samba, Bolero and Salsa, both as an underarm turn for the lady and as simultaneous spot turns for both partners.

Spot Turn

Before attempting the spot turn in the Cha-Cha-Cha, the beginner is introduced to the forward crossovers (international: the "New York"). Dancers turn on these to their left or right, hand-in-hand, and execute a forward rock step in place on Counts 2 and 3. Beginners usually do not have much trouble with these. The lady, when executing a spot turn, begins exactly as she would for a forward crossover to her right, turning right on Count 1 and stepping forward for Count 2. On Count 2, using the ball of her left foot, she swivels 1/2 turn to her right, transferring her weight to her right foot, which must be kept in place. By now bringing her left foot forward and turning further to her right, she faces her partner once again, and the left foot steps down for Count 1, which is the first step of the three-step chassé ("cha-cha-cha"). The man, turning to his left, does the exact opposite, swiveling on his right foot, then transferring his weight to his left foot, which is kept in place. The errors that beginners typically make are failing to keep the unweighted (lady's right or man's left) foot in place while turning and not transferring weight to that foot during the half-turn swivel.

Pass to the Right (Triple Swing):

A Pass is a Swing variation in which the partners usually exchange places. There are several kinds of Passes in Swing, and they are a very prominent feature of the dance. The first of theses Passes, the Pass to the Right, is taught in our beginners' course immediately after student has learned the basic step of the Triple Swing. It uses the same rhythm and steps as the basic step, i.e., back rock: 1,2; chassé: 1-a-2; chassé: 1-a-2, but turns 90° (a quarter-turn) on each of the two chassés - the man to his right, the lady to her left.

Pass to the Right

As shown in the above diagram, the man raises his left arm on the back rock to signal his intention to pass the lady. After the man has turned 1/4 to his right and the lady has turned 1/4 to her left on the first chassé, the lady will have her back to the man's chest, and he will have his arm raised over her head to allow her to pass under. Then, moving her left foot back and to the left, the lady again turns 1/4 to her left for her second chassé, moving strongly to her left side to directly face the man. At the same time, the man steps back and to the right with his right foot, turning 1/4 right for his second chassé and lowering his arm.

Contra-Body Movement (CBM) and CBMP:

Dancers first encounter contra-body movement in Level 2 when introduced to the Promenade in the Foxtrot. Here, when the man steps forward with his right foot, his left shoulder is leading, i.e., held in front; in contrast, the lady has her right shoulder leading while stepping forward with her left foot. This movement, stepping with the opposite shoulder leading, may seem somewhat unnatural, but is found frequently in ballroom dancing - so frequently, in fact, that dancers refer to it as "CBM", and its position as "CBMP" ("Contra-Body Movement Position"). This designation is also found in books and is required when explaining steps on professional examinations.

Quarter-turns and level of maturity (optional reading):

The first dance step that a beginner learns is usually the Progressive Basic in the Foxtrot. In attempting to teach this step correctly, i.e., as one would explain and execute it on an examination, we run the risk of totally confusing the beginner with an overdose of terminology and hair-splitting. After s/he learns the meaning of "slow" and "quick", "Line of Dance" and "facing/backing diagonal to wall/centre", there is the problem of executing the quarter-turns needed go from the "zig" to the "zag" and back to the "zig" (Paul Bottomer) of the zigzag. I admit that until I studied for my professional examination I did not know that the turn made from "facing diagonal to wall" to "backing diagonal to centre" consisted of two 1/8-turns rather than a single quarter, and it took me a while before I could comfortably express it that way. To complicate matters even further, while one partner is executing two 1/8-turns the other partner is performing a single 1/4-turn, "pointing diagonal to wall/centre; body turns less", and later, "body completes turn".

There is, of course, a rationale for this complexity. Human beings can execute spread-eagle turns (toes pointed outward) much easier than pigeon-toed turns. If a human can even stretch enough to do a pigeon-toed quarter-turn, it is, by most people's aesthetics, extremely awkward and ugly.

In the first beginners' course I ever taught, I tried to avoid the issue altogether, not mentioning how one was supposed go from one alignment to the other. The result was that the beginning students, for the most part, made only 1/8-turns, which led to a total disregard for the alignment! Encouraging them to swivel on pigeon-toed turns led to the free foot being held out in front of the swiveling foot, rather than closing.

I know for a fact that, even today, a beginning student in chemistry first learns to visualise electrons in concentric circular orbits around the nuclei of atoms long before s/he learns quantum theory - in which one learns that the orbits do not follow this simple circular scheme. But, due to its complexity, teaching quantum theory to someone first learning about the structure of atoms is probably not a good idea. Similarly, it may be necessary to withhold certain details of dance technique at the beginners' level, in the hope that the student will be able to absorb these details later on. So for now, to be better assured of a good alignment on the Foxtrot basic, I teach my beginning students to perform their side-closes facing the wall (men) or centre (ladies), realizing, of course, that this is true only for the first step of those chassés.


Argentine Tango Bachata Bolero Cha-Cha
Foxtrot Mambo Merengue Paso Doble
Quickstep Rumba Samba Salsa
(Modern) Tango Swing / Jive Viennese Waltz Slow Waltz

... or possibly Slow Dance as your wedding dance?

Social vs. International:

The dance courses which I teach as part of the Goulbourn Township Recreational Program include the Foxtrot, Rumba, Triple Swing, (Slow) Waltz, Cha-Cha-Cha, Merengue, Samba and Tango. The dance variations taught in these courses are known as "social steps", and are commonly performed by dancers in Canada and the United States. It must be admitted that much of the ballroom dancing that we know in North America today has been heavily influenced by the late Arthur and Kathryn Murray, and their book How to Become a Good Dancer first appeared in 1938. The steps diagrammed in my copy from 1959 are pleasant, easy and well explained, and includes the Cha-Cha-Cha, which was first danced in the U.S. (probably New York) only a few years before (Ernst Fern; see Bibliography), as well as the Merengue, also very new at that time.

In Europe, however, ballroom dancing became dominated by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) in London. The first edition of its best-known publication The Ballroom Technique was published in 1948, i.e., ten years later than Arthur and Kathryn Murray's book. The Ballroom Technique consists of step charts (no diagrams) for typically 25 variations each of the (Slow) Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango and Quickstep, with many of these variations common to two or more of these dances. The coding scheme incorporated in the charts is attributed to the late Alex Moore, MBE, and he served on the ISTD committee responsible for the variations included in the book. This book and its companion, The Revised Technique of Latin-American Dancing, have become worldwide standards, and the ISTD is now the de facto governing body for international competitions and teacher certification tests.

Despite the current influence of the ISTD on ballroom dance teaching throughout the world, the Murray-inspired social dance steps continue to be used as much as ever in North America. In many cases these steps are more interesting than those defined by the ISTD. In addition, most dances performed today originated in the Western Hemisphere, with the Foxtrot and Swing (and to a major extent, also the Cha-Cha-Cha) created in the U.S. The only dance of British origin, the Quickstep, was put together by the ISTD committee and is derived from the American (social or Rhythmic) Foxtrot and, to some extent, the Charleston - also American. The Foxtrot defined in the ISTD book is the Slow Foxtrot of international competitions, and, with its many heel-turns and continuous movement, is considered by most dance teachers to be far too difficult for beginners - even in Europe, as may be seen in the books by Paul Bottomer (U.K.) and Ernst Fern, ADTV Germany (see Bibliography). The American social Foxtrot, with its chassés and slow-slow-quick,quick rhythm is, in fact, included in those books as the "Rhythmic Foxtrot" (Fern: "der rhythmische Foxtrott"), with no mention of the international Slow Foxtrot in Fern's book except for remarking that it requires a very large floor upon which one can move freely.

The international Rumba deviates strongly from the social Rumba taught in North America. In contrast to the American basic step - a common box-step -, the international Rumba basic is essentially the same as the Mambo basic, and many of its variations are identical to those in the Mambo. Fern describes both types of Rumba, designating these as the "American System" (but showing a reversed box-step) and the "System Cubano". The only major problem for beginners in the international Rumba is starting the basic step on the second beat of the bar (there is a weight-transfer step straddling the counts 4,1), but it may be argued that the similarity of its variations to those in the Mambo results in a lack of variety when both are danced in the same evening.

Aside from the above concerns about the Foxtrot and Rumba, there is a fair degree of commonality between the North American social dances and their international counterparts. The international Jive is really the social Triple Swing danced to somewhat faster music, and the American Jive, done to fast music, is a Single Swing (single steps instead of chassés).

Conventions of the Standard ballroom dances:

The Standard ballroom dances include the Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Tango, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz. These dances follow the "Line of Dance (LOD)" - a path moving counterclockwise around the perimeter of the room. With the possible exception of the Tango, the dance steps for the Standard dances are oriented with respect to the walls of the room and the Line of Dance. This orientation is known as "alignment", and should be adhered to whenever possible. Exceptions may have to be made for a small dance floor in a club or restaurant, where one typically finds crowds of untrained dancers remaining virtually stationary. Understanding that a dancer with his/her right shoulder close to a wall is facing the LOD, the alignments most commonly used are:
Facing LOD: "facing LOD"
Back to LOD: "backing LOD"
Facing 45° to right of LOD: "(facing) diagonal to wall"
Back 45° to right of LOD: "backing diagonal to wall"
Facing 45° to left of LOD: "(facing) diagonal to centre"
Back 45° to left of LOD: "backing diagonal to centre"
Facing 90° to right of LOD: "facing wall" or "backing centre"
Facing 90° to left of LOD: "facing centre" or "backing wall"

This may be a lot of terminology for a beginner, but it is well worth the few minutes required to learn it. Try facing as indicated, and these alignments will soon make sense.

Although I expressed the angles above in degrees, turns in ballroom dancing are normally expressed as fractions of a circle, i.e., 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8 or 1/1 (= full turn) left or right. This applies to the Latin dances as well.

The man and lady usually dance very closely together in the Standard dances, typically with body contact below the waist. The man's body is slightly offset to his left (but more in Tango). Heads and shoulders of both partners are kept erect, with the each partner facing slightly to his or her left when in closed position. In promenade position or fallaway position (the same as promenade position, but moving backwards), i.e., when both partners are facing in the same direction, the partners will face slightly toward each other. The lady's left hand usually rests on the man's right upper arm; the one exception is the Tango, where her left hand is behind the the man's right shoulder, with the palm held parallel to the floor.

The five following sections, in alphabetical order, describe the distinct characteristics of the Standard ballroom dances:

(Social) Foxtrot:

The social or rhythmic Foxtrot is the dance usually first taught to beginners. When the basic rhythm of slow-slow-quick,quick (6 beats of music) is used, the movement on the slow-slow forward and backward steps is similar to normal walking, with no rise and fall. The chassés, executed as quick-quick, are small side steps, using only the ball of the foot for the first of the two steps. The dance also borrows many steps from the Waltz, with the rhythm of these steps converted to slow-quick,quick. The converted Waltz steps use as strong downward movement immediately prior to the first step (slow), as is done in the Waltz, and by this downward movement the lady is made aware that the follow variation is a Waltz step rather than a slow-slow-quick,quick Foxtrot step. As dancers become more proficient in the Foxtrot, they learn steps with more complex rhythms, often including a series of quick steps.

(Modern) Tango:

This European Tango was created during the 1930's in reaction to the "lewd" hooks, flicks and other intimate gestures of the original Tango, which came from Argentina (see Argentine Tango, below). These movements were eliminated, with the new dance (as in the other Standard dances) moving along the Line of Dance and using a heel-onset for its forward steps. A good upright posture is maintained (in stark contrast to the downcast looks in the Argentine Tango), with the man offset further to his left in closed position than in the other Standard dances. The lady's left hand is placed behind the man's right shoulder, with her palm parallel to the floor. The knees are slightly bent, and there is no rise and fall. The man's forward movements are smooth and stealthy, often punctuated by abrupt closes and position changes, somewhat like a fox sneaking up and then pouncing upon its prey. In closed position his left shoulder is often kept back, moving in Contra-Body Movement Position (see CBMP above). The rhythm varies, with the beginner first learning to dance slow-slow-quick,quick,slow (using an unweighted foot on the final slow), later slow-quick,quick,slow and multiples of quick,quick,slow. Pauses may also be added - normally after an abrupt transition to promenade position (the Promenade Link) - to heighten the dramatic effect of the dance.


The Quickstep was derived by an ISTD committee from the rhythmic Foxtrot and some elements of the 1920's Charleston (seldom danced today). There is no social form of the dance, and it is therefore not taught in the social syllabus. Dancers familiar with the social Foxtrot can easily recognise its similarity to the Quickstep, with its long forward and backward steps, chassés and converted Waltz steps. As its name implies, the Quickstep is quite fast, and its steps must usually be perfected at a slow tempo before they will work properly at dance tempo. Rise and fall are used throughout, with quick steps typically executed on the toes. A prominent characteristic of the Quickstep is its lock steps, which are forward or backward cross steps outside partner in Contra-Body Movement Position (CBMP).

(Slow) Waltz:

Compared to its Germanic origins, relatively little turning is found in the modern Slow Waltz. It is an elegant dance, and excellent upright posture is expected. Although forward and backward steps are unusually long (made possible by the down-movement immediately prior to these steps), it is important to avoid jerkiness in the down-up-up movement normally corresponding to the Waltz's 1-2-3 count. In closing the chassés, which are moderately wide, the closing toe is dragged, lengthening the second count slightly at the expense of Count 3.

Viennese Waltz:

Derived from the Austrian and Bavarian Ländler - a peasant dance still danced at Volksfeste in Bavaria and Austria today -, the very elegant Viennese Waltz probably dates from about 1830, made popular in Vienna by the Strauss family (Johann Sr., Johann Jr. and brothers Josef and Eduard). Internationally only a few variations are defined: the left turn, the right turn, the closed changes from one to the other, and the Fleckerls (Austrian German: "little spots"; very quick double turns, difficult and rarely seen). The steps of the six-count left and right full turns are identical for both partners, with one partner dancing the three forward-to-backward steps while the other is dancing the three backward-to-forward steps. Critical to their successful execution is keeping the backward-to-forward steps very small as the other partner goes around with much larger steps. On the third count of the left turn the left foot is slid across in front of the right while turning backwards; this helps to keep the partners properly aligned with each other. The imperial elegance of the dance is enhanced by an exaggerated upright posture and lean toward the centre of the ballroom.

Slow Dance - an ideal wedding dance:

There is a dance, known simply as "Slow Dance", which is not a part of the normal ballroom and Latin dance scene. Probably derived from the very simple side-to-side rocking movement that many people who have not taken dance courses commonly use, it has a somewhat more demanding basic step incorporating a Tango-like Corté and a slight turn to the right. It consists of four steps, one count each, and is ideal for beginning dancers. A number of rather good variations have been built upon this basic step, and these include walking outside partner, moving in promenade position, easy pivots, inside turns, and dips. Slow Dance may be danced in a relatively small area, and does not follow the Line of Dance.

The very romantic and intimate closed position used for Slow Dance has the Man's left hand (and Lady's right) clasped against the Man's chest, and his right arm far around the Lady's back, just above her waist, with the partners gazing deeply into each other's eyes - all very much in contrast to "good" ballroom closed position. Firm body contact - right thighs overlapping - is an absolute must. This degree of intimacy makes the dance ideal for a wedding couple's solo at their reception, and I strongly recommend it as such - particularly if the couple has no prior dance experience. They only need to be reminded, if they ever should decide to learn regular ballroom dancing, that the closed position in Slow Dance does deviate markedly for the normal closed position. The variations include enough interesting moves to motivate couples to learn the regular ballroom and Latin dances, and - if and when they do - they will find many moves in these dances that they have already encountered in Slow Dance.

Music for this dance is a slow, ballad-like beat which may be counted in 2/4 time, but the accompaniment may include a gentle 6/8 beat, to which the partners will typically dance 3/8 per step. The ball of the free foot should be in contact with the floor when moving, creating a soft, gliding action.

Conventions of the Latin and Club dances:

The Latin and club dances are very much more free-spirited than the Standard dances, and for this this reason it is much more difficult to define a set of general characteristics for them. Most of these dances require Cuban Movement throughout, being very careful never to use heel-steps except where required in the Paso Doble. Most Latin and club dances are performed in place, but the Samba, Paso Doble, and Merengue usually follow the Line of Dance. The dancers frequently execute turns and other independent movements, typically requiring about 10 to 20 cm of separation between the partners in closed position.

The following sections, in alphabetical order, describe the distinct characteristics of the Latin and club dances:

Argentine Tango:

First appearing in the bars and cafés on the back streets of Buenos Aires over a hundred years ago, the Tango was branded "a glorification of an immoral life-style" when introduced in Europe during the 1930's, and this led to the creation of the Standard or Modern Tango, described above. In recent years, however, there has been a major revival of the original Argentine Tango, with audiences fascinated by the many hooks, flicks and other erotic movements in combination with the uniquely sensuous, brooding sounds of the authentic Tango music.

Although the eight-step basic is well-established, the timing on its steps - as well as in all other steps of the dance - may vary with the dancers' musical interpretation. Beyond the basic step, all moves are improvised, provided that they remain in accordance with the established Argentine style. The most common stylistic elements include forward and backward half-turns (ochos), flicking the leg (boleadas), hooking the partner's leg (ganchos), complex turns (giros), and even the lady raising or wrapping her leg around the man's thighs or gracefully falling against him. One partner often remains stationary while the other moves, allowing the partner to complete his or her complex move in whatever time may be required. The man must provide an extraorinarily good lead in this dance, and this can only be achieved with considerable practice. Most dancers have learned the Standard Tango before attempting the Argentine Tango, and must clearly understand that the two dances are very different. The Argentine movement more closely resembles that of the Rumba than of the Standard Tango. Imitating the (perhaps poor) habits of the Argentine dancers, the partners tend to look down at the floor, often watching the partner's movements in intense concentration. The lady's head is usually turned to the right in closed position, and at tense moments the partners may stare defiantly into each other's eyes.


The Bachata has been a recent addition to dance evenings in Ottawa. Like the Merengue, it has come to us from the Dominican Republic. Sometimes referred to as the "Latin Blues", it often deals with the less pleasant side of life in that country - crime, poverty, and the like. Much of the music imported for this dance, however, has a bouncy, happy tone. Its basic rhythm is 1-2-3-tap (usually with a hip lift), 5-6-7-tap, with the man typically moving to the left (or possibly forward) on the 1-2-3-tap and to the right (or backward) on the 5-6-7-tap.

A considerable amount of Cuban Movement is recommended for both partners. Common partner positions are Latin Closed (directly facing with 15 to 20 cm of separation), Ballroom Closed (close body contact with man offset to left), the Two-Hand position (ca. 60 cm of separation), and occasionally Promenade, Shadow, Cradle, Hammerlock, Open Facing and Solo positions, as required for the various moves. If the social gathering (and partner!) permits, the man may use an extremely close semi-squatting ("dirty dancing") position with his right knee far between his partner's legs, often with both partners writhing on the spot. Dips are also quite common - either with the man turning 1/4 left, the lady fully supported on her right leg. or with the lady leaning far backward and swinging from her right to her left (this second type of dip only recommended for younger ladies with no back problems!). Many turns are used - closed, underarm or solo, for either partner or both partners together -, and on the underarm turns the man may use either arm, switching arms as desired.


The Bolero (American style) is not danced very often in the Ottawa area, and this is unfortunate; it is a very beautiful dance. At dance evenings in this area, however, there are typically several pieces of Rumba music played which are uncomfortably slow for dancing the Rumba described below, and these present an ideal opportunity to dance the Bolero.

Like the Rumba, the rhythm of the Bolero is a very strict slow-quick,quick, with some minor exceptions in the more complex steps. Side steps on the slow count are enormously wide, with a body lean opposite to the direction of movement (oversway). The wide steps and oversway provide the essential character of the dance. The basic step is wide variant of the Mambo or international Rumba basic, and on the second repetition it concludes with a hip-lift - as do all Bolero variations. In this movement, used instead of a forward or backward rock-step, the knee of the leg which has just closed (slow) is momentarily straightened, then bent again (quick,quick). The first four variations defined for the Bolero are not difficult, and use separations, underarm turns, passes and cross-leads similar to those found in the Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha. On the intermediate level, however, the steps are very much more difficult, with a level of sophistication - and beauty - found in the Silver-level steps of other dances.

I strongly recommend the Bolero as a wedding dance if the couple is already able to dance well at the intermediate level.


The Cha-Cha-Cha is actually a triple Mambo, and was originally designated as such, replacing the weight-change side step in the Mambo basic by a three-step chassé - a modification made possible by the Cha-Cha-Cha's slower music. As noted below in the description of the Mambo, there are many similar steps in these two dances, usually differing only as described in the basic step. The count of the Cha-Cha-Cha is 2-3-4&1, where Counts 4 and '&' are half-beats. Counts 2 and 3 are typically a rock-step; Counts 4-&-1 correspond to the triple chassé. Many dancers count the basic step as "2--3--cha-cha-cha", and it is from this that the dance derives its name.

The dance is lively, and it may sometimes be difficult to apply Cuban Movement (see above) on the chassé steps. In practicing the basic step, therefore, dancers should take particular care to have the ball of the foot make contact with the floor first on all steps. The beginner should also see the item on spot turns (above).


The strong similarities of the Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha have been noted above. The Mambo, however, is very much faster than the Cha-Cha-Cha, and for that reason a single weight-change step (Counts 4,1) must be substituted for the Cha-Cha-Cha's characteristic three-step chassé. Although the Mambo historically preceded the Cha-Cha-Cha, dancers usually learn the latter first, and, if they have not been exposed to the International Rumba (the basic step of which is virtually identical to the Mambo basic), they will probably have difficulty starting the dance on Count 2 - which, in theory, one should do, considering that the corresponding step in the Cha-Cha-Cha (the man's forward rock-step) is also on Count 2. Paul Bottomer (see Bibliography), however, notes that the Cubans - the originators of the dance - typically begin on Count 1, and for this reason the timing is often given simply as quick,quick,slow (beats undefined) rather than 2-3-(4,1). The Mambo is best danced with abandon, but, as with the Cha-Cha-Cha, care must be taken to use Cuban Movement and avoid flat-footed stepping.


One story about the origins of the Merengue is told by Arthur Murray (see Bibliography). In this version, a Dominican sailor with a broken leg heard some music that appealed to him and, limping, attempted to dance to it. Those who saw him found his motion amusing but also fascinating, and they imitated it. The basic step of the Merengue usually consists of side-steps, placing only the ball of foot (with a bent knee) on one beat of music, and then waiting until the next beat to actually put the weight on that foot. This extreme case of Cuban Movement does result in something of a broken-leg action. Characteristic variations include underarm turns moving along the floor, the partners turning around each other, and separations of the partners, moving either backward or sideways ("Sliding Door") from one another. The closed position used in Merengue is very unusual: The man keeps his left forearm vertical, his elbow in contact with the lady's, and the lady extends her left arm, draping her wrist over the man's right shoulder.

Although previously taught to be danced around the room following the Line of Dance, it is usually danced more or less in place when found in clubs. Our syllabus now deals primarily with the Nightclub style, which involves a wide variety of arm-twisting turns and a more relaxed Cuban Movement than in the ballroom style.

Paso Doble:

Like the Bolero, the Paso Doble is seldom danced in the Ottawa area, and is seen primarily in exhibitions and competitions. It is a very beautiful and exciting dance, and many of its steps may be easily performed by the average dancer. The dance simulates the movements of the bullfighter and his cape (the lady).

The Paso Doble originated in Spain, and in several respects have more in common with the Standard dances than with the Latin dances. Approximately twenty-five of its steps are internationally defined, and alignments (see Standard Dances, above) are specified for them. The dance usually travels along the LOD, and rather than simple Cuban Motion, there is a wide variety in the footwork, including flats and heel-steps. The most striking features, however, are probably the arm and head motions, very Flamenco in style, and these are best included when learning the steps. There are, for example, sudden transitions from one arm raised, with a defiant look (I am always tempted to call this the "Olé!"-Position), to a wide-armed stance, the man's left arm stretched outward and downward, palm outward (possibly simulating the matador's final stroke with his sword), and then back again. In the "Huit" and the "Sixteen" the man remains stationary while moving the lady from one side to the other as the matador would move his cape. There are marching and prancing steps, steps which are stamped (Appels), legs snapping suddenly to the side, and dramatic turns and twists. Although one usually hears only one particular piece of music for this dance ("España Cani"), there are many excellent pieces of Paso Doble music from which to choose - including some with the shouts of the bullring spectators.


The Rumba, which originated in Cuba, has been called "the dance of love", or in German, "der Tanz der Verführung" ("the dance of seduction"). Cuban Movement, described earlier, is absolutely essential to this dance, with the partners maintaining a soft, graceful movement at all times. I often urge my students to imagine the swaying of palm trees while dragging their feet through the sand of a beach. Remember: No Cuban Movement - no Rumba!

There are virtually no exceptions to the Rumba's slow-quick,quick timing. Posture should be upright, and there should be enough space between partners to allow them to execute solo turns easily.


Salsa may well be the most popular of the nightclub dances at the present time, but there is very little standardisation of steps, with several types of basic step currently in use. Most Salsa music is played at a very fast 60 bars/minute, maintaining a quick,quick,slow(+tap) rhythm. There are many complex arm-twisting turns and also many similarities with the Mambo. It may be that the toe-tap executed on the second beat of the slow step is primarily done to keep beginners in time with the music; it is sometimes also seen as a tipping upward of the free foot or as a small kick, and on complex variations this extra movement often disappears. Rhythmic arm movements are frequently used, and on solo steps the hands are often turned upward at the wrists "for a cocky New York/Miami nightclub style".

Best counted 1-2-3-(pause)-5-6-7-(pause), the most common basic step resembles the Mambo basic, often danced as a crossbody lead, possibly with taps, toe-lifts or small kicks on the pauses. Another common basic is the bilateral back step; when danced with forward crosses it is known as the Cumbia Basic. There are also bilateral back breaks and bilateral Cucurachas (stepping to the side and then back), using taps on the pauses as desired. As previously noted, many of the Salsa's variations are borrowed from the Mambo, often using passes found in Swing. The dance is also characterized by many arm twists and spins.


The Samba originated in Brazil, and is often associated with the lively Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps in imitation of the parade on Rio's Copacabana, the Samba moves along the LOD with frequent in-place movements. Its music is fast, with a syncopated 1-a-2 (3/4,1/4,1) beat. On the short 'a'-beat the ball of the free foot is jabbed into the floor, causing the standing foot to momentarily lift, somewhat like a pole-vault.

Many of the Samba's more complex variations make use of a combination of three different elements: These are the Balance Steps (small underturned back breaks); uncrossed or crossed chassés (called Compassos or Voltas), executed straight or turned; and Bota Fogos (wide 1-a-2 steps, turned 1/4 or sometimes 1/2).

Triple Swing (East Coast & West Coast) and Jive:

Although grouped among the Latin dances, Swing or Jive is, of course, North American in origin and closely associated with the various American Jazz idioms. The Triple Swing (basic rhythm: 1, 2, 1-a-2, 1-a-2) is taught in our social dance syllabus, but most of its may be very easily converted to the simpler but faster Single Swing (corresponding rhythm: quick,quick,slow-slow-) by replacing the syncopated three-step chassés (1-a-2) by two-beat 'slow' steps. Many of the intermediate and advanced steps use a modification of the basic rhythm known as Lindy timing, simply 1, 2, 1-a-2, without the second chassé.

The most common dance position is the Open Facing Position (man's left hand to the lady's right hand, but the (Swing) Closed Position (resembling Promenade) and two-hand holds are also frequently used, being required in some variations. Most forms of Swing are danced with considerable abandon (West Coast Swing - see below - is an exception), and, due to its teenager-style informality, posture is not critical. Major characteristics of the dance are its many underarm turns, passes, pushes, spins, kicks and rock-steps. The form of Triple Swing most commonly danced in our area is known (mostly elsewhere) as East Coast Swing.

West Coast Swing has gained some degree of popularity in our region - both in downtown Ottawa groups and west of the city. It uses a slow Blues-like Triple Swing rhythm (recommended tempo: 100 to 135 beats per minute), both standard and Lindy (see above). The lady typically has the more interesting part in this dance, usually moving backward and forward in a straight line known as a "slot", while the man moves only a relatively short distance, either within the slot or to either side of it in order to lead the lady through her Passes and Whips. Whips - of which there are many varieties - typically require an eight-count Lindy rhythm, with the man usually turning clockwise around the lady, often in Ballroom Closed Position, then returning to Open Facing Position.


Legend: high dots = Man's left foot, Lady's right foot

4/4 time:

Waltz steps in Foxtrot: like Rumba timing (below)


(wo/w) = without weight; *extensions to SSQQS Tango steps are frequently QQS




^ = tap or hip lift
2/4 time:

Lindy timing:

Lindy timing:

Compasso timing:


PASO DOBLE: same as Merengue, but Man starts with right foot

3/4 time:

Timing same for Viennese Waltz


Dancing Step-by-Step, Claire and Rhéal Perron,
Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa),
Centurion Publishing & Marketing (Ottawa), 1993

How to Become a Good Dancer, Arthur Murray,
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959

How to Dance!, Paul Bottomer,
Lorenz Books (London), 1998

Modern Ballroom Dancing, Victor Silvester,
Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd. (London), 1993

The Ballroom Technique,
The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (London), 1994

The Brain, Richard Restak, M.D.,
Bantam Books (Toronto), 1984

The Revised Technique of Latin-American Dancing,
The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (London), 1983

Wir lernen tanzen - Standard- und lateinamerikanische Tänze,
Ernst Fern, Falken-Verlag GmbH (Niedernhausen/Ts., Germany), 1980

RICHARD W. MACMILLAN - brief résumé:

Born in New York, 14 July 1941

Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering,
Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (New York), 1964

Master of Science, Electrical Engineering,
Columbia University (New York), 1969

Doctor of Engineering, Computer Science (Informatik),
Technische Universität Berlin (West Berlin), 1980

Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Psychology - Magna cum Laude,
University of Ottawa, 1993

--- Retired: 1998 ---

Intermediate Professional Examination, Ballroom Dancing,
Perron School of Dancing (Ottawa), July 1998
passed with "grande distinction".

October 1998: began teaching ballroom dancing for Goulbourn Township, now Rideau/Goulbourn Ward of the City of Ottawa.
September 2002: organized first dance courses in the Carleton Place area.
December 2010: concluded teaching for the City of Ottawa.

03 February 2000; updated 18 April 2011