There was a time when learning to ballroom dance was part of every gentleman’s education. You had to be able to show up to a formal ball, ready to lead some swell debutantes around the room and show off your fancy footwork. 

These days, more formal dances are few and far between, being primarily comprised of high school proms and weddings. Since almost no one takes lessons or gets much practice in this art, when dancing opportunities do arise, people just kind of improvise: with fast songs, they get their solo groove on by rhythmically (or not so rhythmically) churning their arms and legs; with slow songs, they pair up with another for a “dance” in which they shift their weight from one leg to the other while moving in a circle.

When it comes to the latter scenario, you can elevate the classiness of your slow dance a notch by trading the freeform sway-and-shuffle for the basic box step. It’s a simple beginner’s step that’s easy to do and makes your dancing feel, well, a little more dance-like. Once you and your partner have got it down, learn how to turn the box step, so you can move about in a graceful circle. 

Learning the box step is the foundation for learning the waltz, so maybe you’ll want to go on and get deeper into that dance. And maybe you’ll even get really into ballroom dancing as a hobby. So that at the next wedding you attend, you’ll fill the other guests with both bewilderment and admiration as you do the rumba to “Cold Heart.”

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

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