Stage One: Awareness of Basic Elements (1/3)

Hello and welcome back to Social Graces Ballroom Dance Studios teaching methodology. In these pages I am going to explain how we teach our students, using our signature process with the main steps of:

  • Awareness of the Elements
  • Awareness of Others
  • Awareness of Self.

My name is Freddie Ciampi, and I have owned and operated Social Graces since 2001 in Berryville VA.  I have performed all over the US and Europe, and I have taken many opportunities to enhance my teaching skills and abilities to create a comfortable learning environment.

My staff is always trained in dance, but also in teaching and creating that fun social environment.

Foot Description

Learning Foot Positions takes you:
-From fear and awkward
-To “this might be fun”

It’s difficult to learn something, especially if you don’t know about that thing.  This can make new students feel awkward, foolish, or maybe even fearful. After learning about where your feet go (foot positions), you will start to feel much better about your ability to learn this wonderful sport.  When you start putting foot positions together on your first lesson, the fun starts to take over.  You will have learned a layer on which you can now build.

Our instructors are trained in how to teach dance in a fun entertaining way, which makes the fun stages come that much sooner.

Timing and Rythm

Timing and Rhythm takes you:
-From naive
-To “learn dance in layers”

Many people are naive about the fact that timing and rhythm can be taught.  It is one layer of many that we teach our students.  We teach in layers.  A group of information at a time.

With every new layer, we teach you what it is how to use it, and most importantly, how to learn it.  We shape your thinking so you can process each new layer.

Instructors at Social Graces are trained in how to teach you to learn.  This is a wonderful realization for students, “I can learn dance in layers.”

Dance Positions

Dance Positions take you:
-From Separate parts
-To “tying pieces together”

The third step in our Signature system teaches how to hold someone and use your arms and body to signal your partner.

This largely goes unseen, which makes the dance look a bit magical.

Although you will learn a simplified dance position in your first lesson, learning a more advanced one means your partner will have an easier time leading/following you.

This knowledge then gets stacked with timing and rhythm.  Not only are you dancing to music, you are dancing well with another person! That is something to be excited about.

“I so look forward to my dance lessons every week, it’s my hour that helps me exercise and somehow energizes me at the same time. I lived nearby for five years before coming for my first lesson. I wish I had started sooner.”

— Lindsey

Stage Two: Awareness of Others (2/3)

Stage Two is where we get students to change their focus from learning parts of dance to learning how to apply that knowledge with a partner.  We teach you how to think more about your partner than yourself, and how that enhances your ability to dance. It also makes you a delightful person to dance with.

Learning Leading/Following takes you:

-From social awkwardness

-To “how to read others”

Learning about leading or following in dance is just like learning to communicate in everyday life.

If you learn the language, it’s much easier to learn how to communicate with another.

In this case, we are communicating by touch.

Leading means pre-thinking a pattern (and much more) and communicating each piece of that pattern one step at a time.

Following means constantly reacting in a split second while executing the last piece of information.

Leading and following require a different set of skills and a very different mindset. One is not better than the other. This system is designed to “show off” the follower.  A good leader will dance with their follower in mind and not themselves.

We can teach you how to do this.

We asked a husband and wife individually:

“What’s one thing learning dance at Social Graces done for you”.

“Dance has given me a better connection with my wife.”


It has brought me closer to my husband


(Great minds think alike.)

Learning Variety and Blending helps take you:

-From Dance is like blocks

-To “interconnecting those blocks”

Simply put, it means you understand enough moves, to mix them together in interesting ways.

This starts to turn our students from robots executing patterns to artists creating dance.

Take your time with this process, it’s fun but requires commitment.

“After only two months of lessons, I feel I can follow anyone in a group class, from the most advanced to the newest, I can adapt to their leads.”


Learning Poise and Posture helps take you:

-From social awareness

-To “self-awareness”

When dance instructors start teaching about posture many students think the teacher is getting into the realm of professionalism, or turning them into more than social dancers.  That is far from the truth.

Posture enhances how you stand, which affects every aspect of dance and even your everyday life.  It’s also hard to measure, so it can feel elusive.

When people stand with better alignment many things become awkward while your body learns how to readjust. This can make one feel socially awkward, but we teach you how to change that focus from the outside world to yourself, so you can become the master of your own body.

“Good order is the foundation of all things.”

-Edmund Burke

Stage Three: Awareness of Self (3/3)

Self Awareness

Stage Three of the Social Graces Signature System

In the third stage of learning, students start to become aware of taking those dance elements and how they will feel to a partner and look to the onlookers, and put themself in the middle of the mix.  When you better understand the race track it’s easier to direct the car!  At this point, Social Graces students start to gain an appreciation for the finer things in dance and create opinions.  Learning dance is not all about memorizing rules- it’s about learning rules to reach your own likes and avoid your own dislikes.

Learning Balance helps take you from:

-From hitting the target

-To “hitting the bullseye”

Social Graces instructors teach our students to keep their center over their foot, “balance”.  We also teach you how to learn in a balanced way.  Students often ask questions that might be all over the map, and we help keep them on track and teach them what aspects to focus on and when!

We are quite good at our job and our student’s happiness reflects that.

“When asked about balance, I realized learning dance has increased my self-confidence and helps me make friends easier, my social life is more balanced.”


Learning Music Interpretation helps take you:


-To “show off”

This is a fun artistic category.  We will show you how to tell what songs go with what dances, and we will show you how to adapt a dance to fit your favorite music, be it country, rap, heavy metal, big band, and more. We help you, be you.

“I am always trying to put myself into things I’m learning and doing, from pottery to music.  It drives my teachers nuts but I’m always asking myself, that’s how they do it, how am I going to do it? I love that they teach that at Social Graces.”


Learning Person Style helps take you:

-From copying

-To “creating”

After learning some rules about this exciting, rich artistic sport, you can choose what to emphasize, when you dance.  During your lessons, you can even choose what you focus on, such as:

The art: is called the “characteristic style” of a dance.

Timing and rhythm:  In time, we will teach you a few rhythms for each dance that you can choose between.

Dancing with strangers: Some students wish to learn to dance with new people at the next wedding or dance they attend.  We will teach you great leads/follows that most anyone can quickly adapt to when dancing the basics.

We’ve got you covered in all things social as it relates to dance.  Come join us.

How do we track all of this?

We have a simple way of tracking the progress that you will be making in all these different areas.

We track dance concepts using a STEPS acronym. Designed by our studio owner, Freddie Ciampi, this method aims to simplify the tracking process of what you are learning, save you time and money, and make dance lessons more enjoyable and well-structured. Our trained staff utilize the S.T.E.P.S. acronym when teaching and tracking, which represents the five essential aspects of ballroom dance, to guide your learning journey.

Understand that learning is not linear. Sometimes you’ll learn a little bit in one area and a little bit more in another. Different people have different desires, so they focus more on one area and sometimes you’ll have different strengths and grow quickly in another. That is why tracking your growth is so important.

The S.T.E.P.S. Methods of Teaching Dance include:

1. Step: Learn the choreography of the pattern, including foot positions and movements. This component covers the timing of the pattern, fitting the steps to the music, and is often taught alongside Partnership, which involves leading and following.

2. Technique: Focus on balance, control, and understanding muscle movement to achieve fluid or swift motion in your dance.

3. Expression: Personalize your dance by incorporating your unique artistic flair while adhering to the dance’s overall nature.

4. Partnership: Develop a balanced leading and following dynamic, where the leader offers invitations, and the follower plays an equal role in the dance. Both partners contribute to the dance’s visual appeal and success.

5. Style: Embody the distinct style of each dance, expressing the human emotion intended by the creators through body movement and communication. For instance, sultry tango movements are achieved by bending the knees and incorporating staccato steps to create tension between dancers.

This will also help you think like a dancer, enabling faster learning in the future. Both our teaching method and tracking system work together to ensure that we have the best teaching staff around.

“I was born in Indonesia but grew up in Minnesota, my dad did Saman and I have always enjoyed the teamwork needed to execute the routines. I realize that ballroom dance is like a little team working together, and I like to think I’m bringing a little bit of myself when I dance.”



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