Sunday, July 17, 2011
Dealing With Different Partners in Ballroom Dance
In a group ballroom dancing class, the instructor will ask dancers to change partners on a fairly regular basis. Although some students may find this practice of trading partners intimidating or objectionable (perhaps for good reason), it is an excellent teaching technique and an important part of learning to dance.
Benefits of Exchanging Dance Partners
Ballroom dance studios and instructors are aware of the many benefits to switching partners, which is why it is such a common instructional technique. Some studios such as Houston's SSQQ even insist on a policy of switching partners during group lessons; their experience has shown that couples who remain together tend to fall behind in a group situation.
When you change partners in your ballroom dance class, you are likely to find that you will learn to dance faster. This is because there is usually a range in the ability level of the dancers in class. Some will be raw beginners who can barely figure out which foot to move when, but others will be more experienced and can help you figure out each step more quickly. If you stick with only your partner and you are both struggling, it will be much harder to progress. However, change partners and you are likely to each understand the pattern better, and when you get back together, your practice will be much more productive.
A beginner or weaker dancer struggling with a pattern or concept will benefit from dancing with a stronger partner on an occasional basis.
Changing partners can help break developing bad habits.
Couples who always dance together develop "shortcuts", leading to subtler and often incorrect or inadequate leads, or to the woman leading the man.
Women improve their ability to follow by adapting to the different styles of movement and lead from a variety of partners.
Men develop better lead skills by recognizing that some women require more precise timing, clearer signals, a firmer or gentler lead than others.
Learn to Lead and Follow Better
Part of the fun of ballroom dancing is that, except in certain situations, it is an impromptu expression of music through dance. Even though there are prescribed patterns the dancers perform, the order of these patterns is at the discretion of the leader. Therefore, in most cases, the follower doesn't know exactly what he is going to do until he does it. This means, the leader needs to be very clear with his leads, and his partner needs to pay attention and be sensitive and responsive to those leads.
When two dancers learn to dance with each other and only each other, they do not get the depth of understanding of leading and following that they would get if they changed partners in ballroom dance class. This may seem fine if they only plan to dance together for the rest of their lives, but chances are they will want to dance with someone else eventually. Also, their ability to lead and follow each other will be diminished because they did not learn properly. They are likely to eventually become frustrated with each other and with the dance.
Changing Partners Keeps Things Fun and Interesting
By changing partners in your ballroom dance class, you will meet new people and will probably have more fun than if you just stick with the partner you brought to class. Ballroom dancing is a wonderfully social activity that is meant to be shared with other people. Take advantage of that, and you are likely to enjoy it more.
Changing partners in ballroom dance class is rewarding and an important part of the learning process. Try it, and you are likely to find you learn faster, better, and have more fun.
Considerations Against Switching Dance Partners
Although switching dance partners is a good idea from an instructional and learning viewpoint, there are nonetheless some good reasons why couples may prefer to dance together exclusively.
Extremely shy individuals may find changing partners difficult or threatening (though this usually diminishes with the increasing confidence brought by practice)
Some people join a dance class to spend time with a significant other, and may find that switching partners, especially in larger classes, defeats this goal.
Some people join a dance class for a specific need—such as an engaged couple taking lessons to prepare for their wedding reception—that may not be met by changing partners
In some religious or cultural groups, dancing with anyone but the marital partner may not be permitted.
If for one reason or another an established couple insists on always dancing together, the couple should not ignore the instructor or request "an exception" but instead should withdraw from the class. Private lessons should be the preferred choice.