Who Do You Dance With? Learning from every dance

The more dancers we see develop their skills, the more we’ve been noticing a pattern: a lot of dancers tend to stick to dancing with partners around their same level. While this might seem like a natural progression, it can make for a segmented dance community, and it also limits not just your social circle, but also your ability to learn.

I believe we can all learn something from every person we dance with, regardless of their relative level. Dancing with someone more advanced challenges you to get better. Dancing with someone around the same level and whom you know well lets you enjoy the comfort of a familiar dance. Dancing with someone less experienced tests your leading/following and makes you more adaptable. I’m a firm believer in making sure every social dance night has a bit of all 3.

Challenge Yourself
No doubt about it: dancing with someone who is (or who you THINK is) a better dancer than you can be intimidating. “What if he tries to make me do some crazy move I can’t follow?” “What if she gets bored after 20 seconds?”. We’ve all been there, and it’s not an easy thing to deal with, but once you break that barrier, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you will progress.

DO:
Ask more advanced dancers to dance
. I don’t care that you just learned how to do one turn and they’re spinning like a top. There are no prerequisites to asking someone to dance.

Try your best. No one learned to dance overnight, and even if your moves are limited, the effort to do them as well as you can will be appreciated.
Smile and have fun. So long as you’re pleasant to dance with, no one will care that you’re not nailing quintuple spins.

DON’T:
Apologize for small mistakes
. Odds are, most of your mistakes will go unnoticed. And if your partner does notice, they will likely instantly forget it; apologizing for a small mistake will make them dwell on it far more than they might otherwise. A smile is usually the best way to say “oops, sorry” and move on.

(That being said, if you step on your partner’s foot, swing them into someone else, or otherwise hurt them, then apologize like your life depends on it. And this applies to dancers of all levels).

 

Dance with a Beginner
Once you get past “beginner” status, it’s easy to stick to dancing with people you already know. All of a sudden we forget our first few dance outings when everyone seemed to know each other and we felt like the odd ones out.

Asking beginners to dance will not only make their night, it will put your leading/following to the test as well. It tests your ability to adapt, and to find pleasure in the basics again.

DO:
Ask beginners to dance
. They might get the deer-in-the-headlights look, but be nice and accommodating and they’ll thank you for it.

Adapt to their level. Every dancer can tell what their partner’s skill level is, in the first few moves. Adapt to their level, make them comfortable, and challenge them little by little.
Smile and have fun. As a beginner, I was terrified that everyone I dance with will have a lousy time – a little encouragement goes a long way!

DON’T:
Turn down a beginner who’s asking you to dance
. You are never “too good” to dance with beginners.

Coach them on the dance floor. Class is for learning, social dancing is for fun. Even teachers refrain from coaching their students out at socials. Unless you are specifically asked for help, keep it to yourself.

Comfort Dancing
Once we’ve been dancing for a while, we all have our preferred partners – the ones we’ve danced with a hundred times, whose moves we know well, who lead/follow the way we like to be led/followed, and with whom we always have a great time. These are often your best dances of the night, the people you run to every time you see them out dancing, and the ones you look forward to seeing whenever you go out.

DO:
Cultivate those relationships
. Dancing with someone you’re comfortable with is a guaranteed great time – make sure those people know you appreciate them!

Experiment. A partner you know well and are comfortable with is a great partner for experimentation – try out the move that you just learned, or some new styling, and make sure they’re comfortable to do the same.

DON’T:
Make them your only dances of the night. It’s tempting to stay in that comfort zone. It’s nice there! But if everyone did the same, we’d run out of dance partners in a hurry, and we’d have a very, very fragmented dance scene.

How many people do you typically dance with when you go out? Do you go out of your way to dance with different people, or do you stick to the same crowd? Let us know in the comments!

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