Melanie Spanko and partner performing (Lori Bush, courtesy Spanko)

If you've ever noticed the flirty curl of a wrist in a cha-cha or the elegant swoop of an arm in a waltz, then you know how arm styling can elevate ballroom dance, bringing nuanced character to every step. But dancers new to ballroom—especially those already trained in ballet's classical port de bras—might find it surprisingly tricky to master the details of hand and arm styling. Here's how to use your upper body like a ballroom pro.

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Ballroom
Champion ballroom dancers Katia Hrstkova Bartunek and Lukas Bartunek (courtesy Dance With Me USA, LLC)

When you think "improvisational dance," the image that comes to mind probably doesn't involve satin heels and a ballgown. But in the ballroom dance world, knowing how to improv is key to success as a social and competitive dancer.

Why? Because tons of unpredictable obstacles arise on the ballroom floor, where multiple couples dance at the same time. Knowing how to improvise helps ballroom dancers navigate traffic by changing direction, increasing or decreasing the length of their steps, or slowing down the speed of a dip until the next couple moves out of the way. Improvising alone is one thing, though; improvising with a partner is another entirely.

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Ballroom

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