Often viewed as an artsy subset of freestyling, dancing involves walking and cross stepping on a moving longboard, performing elegant and stylish body spinning movements and even actual dancing, all while keeping the board rolling and carving on flat surface. Learning to dance on a longboard requires patience and skills, but results in a beautiful riding style where agility, balance, coordination, and grace of motion all combine.
You may already know that this riding style has its roots in old-school skateboarding and longboard surfing, when riders were doing a lot of footwork (boardwalking), stepping up and down large boards and riding on the nose.
Like the surfers and skaters of the 80s, longboard dancers thrive to combine their stepping and turning moves in a flowing and creative way, while continuously carving on their longboard – typically on flat ground.
Why is longboard dancing so popular?
The popularity of dancing has been growing fast in the US, but also in Europe, Latin America and South East Asia.
It’s quite easy to imagine why: longboard dancers look so elegant, skillful and creative! They often have a beautiful and artistic style which many newcomers want to learn.
Also, longboard dancing is an accessible discipline for many new riders. It’s a natural evolution from cruising, not as extreme as freeriding or downhill. It’s actually a good and mellow way to build your balance and carving skills before moving on to more radical styles.
Dancing is not as “stunty” as normal freestyle: you don’t have to master radical ollies and shuvits to dance (unless you want to). The tricks you do are typically less aggressive as you try to integrate them into a smooth, fluid, continuous movement.
Dancing is often performed on flat ground so it’s generally less intimidating than riding downhill. All you need for longboard dancing is a quiet car park or a nice wide boardwalk.
What gear is needed for longboard dancing?
As is the case for most longboarding disciplines, you can learn to dance on any kind of longboard. There is however an increasing number of boards specially designed for dancing.
UPDATE: since I published this article, I wrote a more detailed post on choosing the best dancing board.
If you want to learn more about dancing technique, however, go to the next section of this post. Also check out the section about safety gear.
Dancing deck size and flex
Dancing decks are larger than other styles (including freestyle), typically running 42″ to 48″ long – quite long ! – and up to 12″ wide – quite wide. This is because you’ll need a lot of space to move around and cross feet while your longboard is moving.
Flex: a strong deck with some flex is desirable for some pop. However, newer dancing decks have less flex than earlier ones to allow for more technical and radical freestyle tricks as well, a stiffer board works better for these.
Regardless, a deck 42″ and up in length will always have some amount of flex. Note that some manufacturers let you choose between several flex options based on your weight and preference. The heavier you are, the stiffer a deck you’ll want (see example chart below).
Flex chart for the Loaded Bhangra dancer longboard :
|FLEX RATING||WEIGHT (LBS)||WEIGHT (KG)|
|FLEX 1||150 – 270+||68 – 122+|
|FLEX 2||90 – 190||40 – 86+|
If you also plan to use your board for cruising on a regular basis, you may want a flexier deck for a more all-around kind of setup.
Dancing deck shapes
Dancer longboards usually have a symmetrical cutaway shape with kicktails at both ends. The cutaways provide the wheel clearance you’ll need (less wheelbite) for the heavy carving and weight shifting you’ll be doing.
The kicktails will allow you to kick the nose or tail for manuals, ghost rides, shove-its and more – see the section on tricks further below.
Like pure freestyle longboards, most dancer boards are top mounted, providing more leverage over the trucks, control, and responsiveness. Top mount deck are also stronger and better withstand the continuous jumping and stepping.
Dancing boards typically have relatively flat decks (kicktails aside) with subtle concave to keep your feet freely moving around the deck. Unlike when freeriding and downhill racing, you don’t want deep deck pockets locking in your feet when longboard dancing.
In addition to mellow concave, many dancer boards also have some rocker (lengthwise curvature with a low point in the middle) or even a micro-drop (the whole standing platform is lowered relative to the mount points) for comfort while moving.
Trucks and wheels for dancing
For longboard dancing, you typically want reverse kingpin trucks that are more turnable than your typical cruising trucks for more nimble carving. Higher angles (50º+)and open bushing seats are desirable, allowing the dancer board to turn faster despite the long wheelbase (30″+).
Wheels in the 70-74mm range with a square lip will provide a nice amount of traction for carving while hot stepping. You can either go with relatively soft wheels around the 80A mark if you plan to also cruise on the board, or firmer wheels (86A) if you also plan to do some sliding and street-like trickery.
Note that if you aim to mix some serious sliding into your dancing style as some riders do, you may instead choose smaller wheels with a smaller patch, which are more slideable and less subject to wheelbite.
Popular dancing longboards
A longtime popular dancing longboard is the Loaded Bhangra 48″ (Amazon page), a relatively narrow board for its length, as well as the newer Loaded Tarab 47″, an even higher-end (and pricier), high-performance evolution of the Bhangra.
Helmet and protection pads
If you’re a beginner and dying to get into longboard dancing, you should really wear appropriate protective gear before attempting to walk around on your board while moving.
While you’ll likely dance on a flat surface, chances are you’ll fall a number of times while you learn to cross step and spin on your deck, until you get it right. At the minimum get yourself a good helmet and some knee pads, and maybe some wrist guards as well. See this section of my post on safety for some recommended gear.
Now that you have a better idea of the kind of gear you need for longboard dancing, let’s turn our attention to a short longboard dancing tutorial to help you get started in the discipline. In the next few sections, I’ll go through a few essential techniques involved dancing. Ready?
Longboard dancing technique: cross step
Cross stepping is the most fundamental move of longboard dancing. The goal is to carve, that is make successive S-turns while walking up and down on your deck, impulsing turns as you step back and forth. This is REALLY cool!
Watch this 7-second excerpt :
In the following sections, I’ll use the term “front foot/leg” to designate the foot/leg you put forward when in your normal riding stance, and “back foot/left” to refer to the foot/leg that goes in the back. So if you’re regular, “front foot” means your left foot, “back foot” your right foot.
As you can see, the rider gets his board to carve left and right through continuous stepping. Let’s break down the move.
- Start in normal riding stance with a little bit of speed
- Bring your front foot back, right in front of to your rear foot, with your front toes pointing forward. Thus your feet are close to each other and about perpendicular to one another. Turn your shoulders to face forward.
- Cross over with your back foot, placing it in front of your front foot and close to the heelside edge of your board. Turn your back foot to also point it forward. Both your feet are sitting near the heelside rail, and you shift your weight on it to make the board carve heelside (to the left if you’re a regular).
- Now cross again, this time with your front foot. Place it in front of your back foot, pressing your toes into the toeside rail of your board to initiate a frontside carve (right turn if you’re riding regular).
- Bring your back foot to the rear, bending your knees and pushing the toes of both your feet into the front rail to continue your frontside turn.
- Then start over with step one, getting ready for your next heelside carve.
Longboard dancing technique: Peter Pan
Watch the following 9 seconds :
The Peter Pan is similar to a basic cross step, but instead of stepping UP the deck by putting one foot in front of the other and then go back to your normal stance, you cross and put one foot parallel to the other, alternating between both feet.
For a close up of the foot crossing, go back to the above video and watch the 6 seconds from t=6:31 to t=6:37.
Here are the steps (literally) to follow :
- Start in normal riding stance with a bit of momentum.
- Like in our cross step, start by bringing your front foot close (and perpendicular) to your back foot, around the middle of the deck. In this move, however, you place your front font along the toeside rail (vs. heelside rail). That’s because you start by initiating a toeside carve – a right turn for a regular footer / left turn for a goofy.
- Lift your back foot off the board and cross you back leg over your front leg (around the front). With your legs crossed, place your back foot right next to your front foot, and close to the heelside rail.
- Shift your weight onto your back foot (now sitting next to your front foot) pushing into the heelside rail with the ball of your feet, to initiate a heelside turn.
- Once the board is carving heelside, repeat the previous step with your other foot: lift your “front” foot off the deck and cross your “front” leg across your back leg, this time around the back (you don’t have a choice here).
- Like in 4, shift your weight onto your “front” foot and push onto the toeside rail to start a new toeside carve.
For a more impressive dance, make sure to shift your weight significantly into each rail when you put your next each foot down. Also, swing your leg around as you cross it over your other leg, as the swing motion will accentuate the carve.
Longboard dancing technique: Ghost Ride
Watch this 18-second video excerpt :
The Ghost Ride involves crossing your back leg over your front leg, stepping off your board with your back foot, then jumping back on it with your front foot. The maneuver is stylish and looks much more complex than it really is !
Here’s how you do it :
- Start by riding in your normal stance.
- Move your back foot towards the back of your deck, and pull your front foot close to your back foot (heels almost touching), with your toes pointing forward. Your feet are positioned closer to the tail. Your front foot is roughly centered widthwise (at equal distance between both rails).
- Lift your back foot off the deck,
- Swing your back leg across your front leg, moving your back foot past your front foot and the heelside edge of your board, and down onto the ground. As your legs cross, you hit the ground with your back foot and your front foot starts lifting off from the board.
- As your back foot is stepping on the ground, you cross your “front” leg around your back leg and jump back on the board with your front foot.
- Finally, you bring your back foot to its initial position.
With a little bit of practice you’ll be able to pull this one off quite easily, I know I did!
Longboard dancing technique: Pirouette
Watch the following 9-second excerpt :
The Pirouette is a 360º spin around your own axis on your longboard while rolling. The technique is quite simple in theory, but it does take some practice.
- Starting in normal riding stance, pull your back foot towards the board tail and your front foot close to the middle of the board, with the ball of your foot above the center.
- Prepare to spin by winding up your shoulders backward like a clock or a spring,
- Then throw your shoulders around in the direction of movement, creating a spinning momentum around yourself, drawing your hips and knees into the spin.
- Do a full 360º spin on the ball of your front foot, landing in your initial stance.
If you’re riding regular, you’ll spin towards your left, and if goofy, towards your right.
In order to pull this dancing maneuver, you’ll need to really wind up before letting your body spin around all the way – you can’t stop halfway in the spin or you’ll fall off the board. Start by practicing with your board on grass, sand, or some other non-rolling surface.
Longboard dancing technique: Chop the Wood
Take a look at this 6-second excerpt :
Chop the wood is yet another fun way of carving turns in a stylish dancing fashion : to do heelside turns, instead of just pressing your heels into the heelside rail of your board like a normal person, you put your front foot close to and parallel to the rail, you lean backward, squat on your front leg and lift your back leg up.
The steps :
- Start by rolling on your board in normal stance but with your feet at an angle closer to 90º with the board (for easier carving).
- In one single fluid movement :
- Turn your front foot alongside the heelside rail and pointing forward, with the ball of your foot pressing onto the rail (this will initiate a heelside turn).
- Squat down on your front leg, turning your shoulders forward and pushing your hips. Lift your arms and lean slightly forward to help maintain your balance.
- Extend your back leg pushing your back foot away from the board (out in the air)
- Come back to the normal stance in toeside carving position: the balls of your feet pressing into the toeside rail, your knees bent, your weight shifted onto the front edge of the board to initiate a frontside carve.
The Chop the Wood is both a neat dancing AND carving maneuver, but it’s a bit more advanced than the previous ones we saw as it requires strong balancing skills.
Aside from looking great, the front foot rail squat with the back leg off the board provides stronger than usual leverage over the front trucks, resulting in much deeper carves! Practice with patience, the reward will be great.
Longboard dancing technique: Ghostride Kickflip
Watch this 3-second video excerpt :
This version of the Ghost Ride adds a simple kickflip to it. This trick looks more “freestyley” than the previous ones, but I thought I’d include it here because it can sometimes add a nice flashy touch to an otherwise dancy style.
- While riding in normal stance, you jump off your board heelside onto your front foot, stepping forward slightly so that your back foot lands by the middle of your board.
- With your back foot on the ground, and your toes edging underneath the board, flip the board 360º around its horizontal axis by lifting it with the top of your foot. More than just a simple foot kick, you actually pull the board up by jumping with your hips and knees bent 90º.
- At the same time as the board completes its full rotation, you land from your jump on top of your board with both feet.
This is obviously more advanced than a simple Ghost Ride, the trickiest part being the flipping and landing on the board. Practice flipping your board first while standing still next to it, before integrating the flip with the stepping.
Longboard dancing technique: Casanova
We’ll finish this list with an advanced combined trick, the Casanova, which is built from the Cross Step, the Peter Pan, and the Ghost Ride Kickflip.
Here’s a 11-second excerpt showing the Casanova in action :
This is a brief recap of the steps involved – I won’t go into much detail here since we already took a close look at each of the components of this combined dancing trick :
- Start in your normal stance
- Bring your feet to the back, with your front foot about perpendicular to your back foot
- Cross your back foot over your front foot, bringing it in front (Cross Step)
- Cross your front foot over your back foot, placing it parallel (Peter Pan)
- Repeat foot crossing now with your back foot over your front (Peter Pan), but instead of placing it parallel, move your back foot over the edge of the board, stepping onto the ground.
- With your back foot slightly under your board, flip the board 360º and jump onto the board all in one motion (kickflip)
Hopefully, this post has provided you with a good taste of what longboard dancing is and how to get started with it. It’s a trendy, attractive looking style that continues to attract riders all over the world.
If you’re newer to longboarding, whether you’re male or female, younger or older, lightweight or heavier, fit or not, dancing is one of the best ways to get started, begin a stylish and less injury prone discipline.