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.
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.
Social Dance Etiquette Requires Changing Partners
In social dancing situations, it is expected that dancers trade partners frequently, so the skills learned on the classroom floor will apply in real life.
In some areas, the etiquette is that a gentleman should dance at least once with each lady seated at his table (while never leaving a woman to sit alone).
Elements of Dance Etiquette strongly encourages everyone to dance with many different partners in order to "ensure a diversity of partnerships on the floor, and to give everyone a chance to dance.
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 will obviously be the preferred choice.