For simplicity, this article will be limited to describing only three "forward" step movements (such as the "Running Step" dance element) of a specific dance. The rest of the step movements in a particular dance follow the same general movement concepts. These types of technical specifics are not generally taught in Group Classes but are a key part of Private Lessons and a very important part of Ballroom Dancing.
Waltz has the feeling of a Swooping Rising and Falling action with the body Hovering (suspended) on top of Rise. It has a 3 / 4 time signature and is danced is 1, 2, 3 (Quick, Quick, Quick). The dancer's body lowers and travels on the 1st step, Rises and Hovers on the 2nd step and falls on the 3rd step. The 1st step is a power Heel step, the 2nd step is a Ball step lifting with the ankle and knee at the same time (Hovering) and the 3rd step is a Ball Flat step lowering through the ankle only.
Foxtrot has the feeling of being very level, smooth, gliding and continuous. It has a 4 /4 time signature and is danced 1-2, 3, 4 (Slow, Quick, Quick). The dancer travels level on the 1st step, staying level and slightly Hovering on the 2nd step and continues to maintain level on the 3rd step. The 1st step is a level power Heel step, the 2nd step is a Ball step lifting through the ankle slightly with the knee absorbing the Rise so it doesn't reach the body, at the same time Hovering slightly. The 3rd step is Ball Flat lowering through the ankle only with the knee adjusting to maintain level. I think that Foxtrot at the Silver and above levels is the most difficult of all the Smooth/Standard dances to dance correctly..
Tango (American and International style) has the feeling of powerful staccato steps with level movements. It has a 4 /4 time signature and is danced 1-2, 3- 4, 5, 6, 7-8 (Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow). The dancer is low and travels level on the 1st step, travels staying low and level on the 2nd step and continues to travel and remain low and level on the 3rd step. The 1st step is a low level power Heel step, the 2nd step is a low level power Heel step. The 3rd step is a low level power Heel step. Tango is danced in a bent knee position to eliminate any possibility of Rise and Fall. A forward step is taken by extending the free leg with a Heel step forward beyond the body. The body is then powered forward over the extended leg. This action sequence of "leg then body" gives Tango that unique staccato movement.
The Latin/Rhythm dances have the feeling of body power, rotating hip action (Latin/Cuban Motion) and a strong connection. All the Latin/Rhythm dances have basically the same step movements because they are created by using Latin/Cuban motion. However, there are two different types of Latin/Cuban motion; American Style and International Style. These two different styles create two different forward steps.
In American Style Latin/Cuban Motion, there is (fundamentally) always a straight leg and a bent leg. The hip above the moving leg rotates forward pulling the bent leg forward with the toe seemingly being dragged (like a lazy foot). The weight is placed on the foot in a Ball Flat manner. The weight of the body is moved by lifting the ankle of the supporting foot. The next two forward step movements are executed in the same manner.
International Style Latin/Cuban Motion is slightly different in that American Style. International Style moves forward with a straight leg instead of a bent leg. Other than that it is quite similar.
I am presenting a pretty simplistic description of step movements. There is a whole lot more to it. Understanding step movements will enhance dramatically the feeling of your Ballroom Dancing. Take the time to learn it. It is well worth the effort.