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How to Dance with a Partner

The safest, easiest and most natural way to dance with a partner

The only way to communicate every step in every social dance unambiguously

Advanced Dancers

The more advanced you are as a dancer, the harder it is to find something that can dramatically improve your dancing. Everyone can improve, but usually the better you are, the smaller the improvements.

To get to a new level, you have to find something that alters your dancing in a significant way.

Partnership Dancing SM has the power to transform how you communicate with a partner and take your dancing to a new level.

I was at a west coast swing dance in Chicago. I asked one of the women behind the sign-in table to dance. She said later, when her shift ended. I did not know it then, but she was a professional. Afterwards, I found a video of her performing a routine that came in fifth at a national championship. I do not know if she needed time to see if I measured up, but later she came and got me.

She was an incredible dancer and we had a great dance.

Her friend must have thought so too, because her friend asked me to dance. Her friend was pretty, tiny and also a tremendous dancer.

The music was uninspiring, the sun got in my eyes, there was a pebble in my shoe, and I pulled a muscle in my back, so the dance I had with her did not go well.

I am kidding about the excuses, but she did not follow through with what I signaled her and got confused. I could see she got every signal. She started each movement, but then she stopped, waiting for me to do more.

She was so small, men had been man-handling her. She was used to men pushing and pulling her through her movements. I could not bring myself to do the same, and so our dance was less than what it could have been.

This type of problem is common among advanced dancers. Advanced followers understand there are different possibilities in each situation. They try to to leave themselves open to anything that might come.

However, each woman is used to her regular partners dancing with her in a particular way. Her body subconsciously responds to the way she is used to responding. If your way is different enough from what she is used to, confusion can be the result. This is pronounced when dancing with someone who uses a significantly different amount of force, also know as tension and pressure.

I was at a west coast swing weekend workshop taught by numerous professional dancers. At the beginning of the day I had gone to a session with a famous guy who used a lot of tension. Later I went to a session with a championship, married couple who used no tension. You could see the husband barely touched his wife, leading her around gently with two fingers.

After the second session, I was watching a video of the prior year's Jack and Jill competition, where the professionals get randomly paired with one another. In this video, the famous guy from the first session was dancing with the wife from the later session.

Their dance was a mess. She could barely follow anything he was doing. I was not surprised. Since her husband does not use any tension, she is used to following with her balance. The famous guy used a lot of tension and had her off balance the entire time. The same thing has happened to me many times when I dance the followers part.

Tension and pressure slows you down, restricts your freedom of movement and limits your ability to improvise.

There are a number of women in my area that are excellent dancers and that I like dancing with that use tension and pressure.

I do not try anything with them that they do not already know, because their freedom of movement is so restricted they are not be able to follow something they do not expect.

Many advanced dancers are not great followers. As women become better dancers, while they improve many of their skills, they do not necessarily improve their following skills. This depends on the individual.

Often many intermediate dancers can follow new moves better than many advanced dancers. Intermediate dancers know they are going to get a lot of moves they have never seen before, so they are often open to anything that comes their way.

Many advanced dancers rely on their eyes and their extensive experience to follow, rather than basic principles. When they meet someone who gives them something outside their experience, often they do not know what to do.

I was dancing with a woman who is a great performer. Everyone watches her when she dances. She dances light, so pushing and pulling is not a problem with her.

I was dancing a Latin dance with her and gave her a signal for a cross body lead, where she simply walks straight across from one side of me to the other, only in this case I gave the move to her while I was doing something she had not seen before. She froze.

Another time, I was dancing east coast swing with her in a ballroom. I usually dance Lindy, not the ballroom version of east coast swing, which has a limited syllabus of moves. Where I dance Lindy, at the UF Swing Club, it is all about improvisation, and that ends up in my east coast swing. The UF swing dancers can follow all my craziness, even though they do not have anywhere near her physical skills, but she can not follow my improvisations. So, on this occasion, I decided to only do moves she was familiar with.

After the dance she said, "That was the best dance you have ever led." I was not leading. I was just giving her patterns she already knew. It was like a performance. We were not expressing ourselves to the music at all.

The problem is, each woman has developed her own internal set of rules of how to follow, usually matching how her regular partners dance.

This type of problem is common among advanced dancers. It is no one's fault, because aside from Partnership Dancing, there is no clearly defined method for communicating.

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