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Directional Movements

In ballroom dancing, steps are normally described in terms of the placement of the feet in a specified direction. Thirteen of the most common directional movements are illustrated in the diagram below. They have been divided into groups based on their level of complexity: Primary directions (forward, side and back), diagonals, hybrid diagonals, and CBMP. The solid line indicates the direction of the moving foot; The dashed line shows the path of the standing foot in order to illustrate CBMP.

To view a directional movement, hover your mouse pointer over one of the footprints. Click on the radio buttons to select the types of movements shown.

Primary Directions
Hybrid Diagonals
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Primary Directions

The primary directions require very little explanation. Forward, side, and back(ward) are movements with which we are all familiar. It should be noted, however, that forward and backward movements should be distinguished from those taken "in CBMP" by the fact that they are taken on separate, albeit narrow tracks.


Each foot can move in one of two diagonal directions: Diagonally forward, and diagonally back. When a step is described as diagonal, it should be taken at roughly 45 degrees from the alignment of both the body and feet. Because our bodies are so well acquainted with primary directional movements, it is very common for novice dancers to turn their feet to point along the diagonal direction of travel. However, when the toe points in this direction, the step is no longer described as diagonal. It has simply become a forward (or back) step taken on a diagonal alignment. A movement only qualifies as "diagonally forward" or "diagonally back" when the foot and body are turned approximately 1/8 away from the direction of travel.

Hybrid Diagonals

Hybrid diagonals are those movements which incorporate the phrase "...and slightly" in their description. The direction is diagonal, but, as the descriptions imply, only slightly. There are a total of four hybrid diagonals: (1) Side & slightly forward, (2) Side & slightly back, (3) Forward & slightly leftward/rightward, and (4) Back and slightly leftward/rightward.


CBMP stands for Contra Body Movement Position. It is the foot position whereby one foot is placed along or across the track of the other. In the diagram, the dotted line represents the path of the supporting foot. A step is described as "Forward or Back in CBMP" when it is placed along the track of the supporting foot. When placed across the track of the supporting foot, it is described as "Forward and Across in CBMP".

Non-Directional Foot Positions

Not all steps or foot positions fall under the heading of "directional movements". The following is a partial list of non-directional foot placements and positions:

  • One foot closes to the other.
  • One foot brushes to or toward the other foot.
  • One foot crosses in front of or behind the other.
  • A tap, kick, or pointing of the free foot.
  • "Position Held" (Usually referring to the feet only).
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