Exactly what is an "In-Place Step"? An "In-Place Step" is a complete weight change where the weight on the first foot is shifted to the second foot, but the first foot stays on its original physical location. The first foot remains "In-Place" as the weight is moved from the first foot to the second foot. The weight from the second foot is then returned to the first (In-Place) foot. The "In-Place Step" is common when executing a "Rock Step" or a "Break Step" type of action in Ballroom Dancing.
The terms "Rock Step" and "Break Step" are often used interchangeably; however, they have different definitions and uses. A "Break Step" is used to change directions. A Waltz "Chair" dance element would be an example. A "Rock Step" is a weight change between two feet opposite each other. A Cha Cha "Side Basic" pattern has a "Backward Rock Step" and a "Forward Rock Step" dance element. American Style Rumba has an "Open Break" dance element ("Rock Step") and a "Crossover Break" dance element ("Break Step"). In some instances, a "Rock Step" could also be a "Break Step". An example would be the "Rock Step" at both ends of an American Style Cha Cha "Progressive Basic" dance pattern.
Why is the "In-Place Step" missed? In reality, it is just executed so fast that it just seems as if it is missed. The "In-Placed Step" doesn't feel like a normal step because the foot doesn't physically travel as in a regular step. It is easy to dance it too fast because there is no physical foot movement. When the dancer moves faster, the "In-Place Step" is an easy place to gain speed. It is easy to pass through this step and take almost no time when a full beat or more is required. This results in the loss of synchronization between the partners and the lady is typically left behind. The leader may speed up because he is not familiar with the dance, the music, the pattern, the proper lead, his partner, etc., etc. This is another "GUY THING" that is hard to specifically pin down. The lady may speed up too, if the lead is not clear and she starts guessing what to do.
How does a dancer fix the "Missing In-Place Step"? It has been my experience that when a "GUY" feels unsure, he gets a little spooked and starts to dance faster. Most often he thinks he is dancing too slowly, when in fact he isn't. Missing the "In-Place Step" makes you feel out of sync and you try to catch up and you get out of control. I call this speed change "getting happy feet". The trick is to slow down, not speed up when you experience this situation.
This problem is very prevalent in Cha Cha. There is something about the Cha Cha rhythm that seems to invoke this action. It is more important to be in sync with your partner than to be with the music. You can always catch up to the music but it is a little more difficult to re-sync with your partner.Now that you are aware of this problem, slowly dance through various patterns and observe the "In-Place Steps" and see that they feel different and slower than a normal step. It feels slower because there is less physical action going on than in a regular step. Once you are aware of the problem, it will get fixed. Your dancing will now feel more under control and slower because you aren't taking any short cuts.