Dance Partnering: Everyone Is Different

We celebrate the diversity of people, as a part of the beauty of being human.  We come from different backgrounds and experiences, with different ages, genders and ethnicities.  Interacting with the diversity of others enriches our lives.  We learn and grow from these interactions.

Thus each dance partner is different as well, in a wide variety of ways: different shapes and sizes, different ways of moving, different levels of dance experience, different paces of learning, each having learned from different teachers, or from no teacher - just picking it up on the fly from their friends.

Social dancing is for enjoyment, so we respect and even admire that each of their different backgrounds and dancing styles is valid.  And we enjoy adapting to the differences in their dancing.

We also benefit from these interactions.  We learn new ways of moving, we grow to become better dancers, and in the process of adapting to others who are different from ourselves, we become a more flexible and adaptable person, increasing our ability to successfully navigate through life.

However there are some ballroom dancers and teachers who will disagree with the validity of individuality and personal preference.  They feel strongly that theirs is the one and only "correct" way to dance, and that all of the other versions are wrong.  They will force their partners to dance in exactly their own preferred style, or they'll criticize their dancing as "incorrect."  (Read the page on "Sketchy Guys")

Why do some dancers and ballroom studios do that?  Do they just want to feel superior to others?  Or is it to make their dancing easier?  Ah, that second one is true.  We acknowledge that it would indeed be easier to dance if all of our partners danced in exactly the same style and knew the same steps and figures.  If that were possible.

This leads to two questions:

    1) Is uniformity really better than a wide range of different experiences that we could gain from others?

Most of us believe that the answer is no, and we could write a book on the many benefits of adapting to a wide range of partnering styles, steps and figures.

    2) Is the quest for uniformity realistic?  Is it even possible?

The second question has an even clearer answer:  No, a quest for uniformity in social dancing is neither realistic nor possible.

Everyone is different, whether we like it or not.  People are going to be who they are.  We can accept this, or we can resist it.  But fighting this essential fact of life is a recipe for lifelong disappointment and frustration.  How can a one-way-only approach, to an interpersonal dynamic that isn't one-way-only, possibly be true?

Importantly, our adapting to others' styles is also friendlier than insisting that our partners conform to our own rules.  And it shows our respect for others.  This generous attitude is what makes social dancing social.

A large part of dance partnering is the art and skill of adapting to the many differences that we encounter when dancing with others.  And as you may already know, this process becomes one of the greatest joys of social dancing.

Richard Powers
Partnering Part 2: Great Partnering

More thoughts and musings

Photo by Paul Csonka