Though I’ve not had many partners in my life, I feel that with the few I’ve had I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve also exchanged stories with many of my fellow dancers and gained insight from their trials and tribulations. Here are 6 commandments I currently operate under to ensure that my dance partnership is strong and healthy. Not to say we are perfect, we certainly have our off days, but I am always happy and excited to practice and more often than not leave rehearsal feeling inspired and accomplished.
- Respectful and Honest Communication: Any time that two people have to work together towards a common goal, there will be disagreements and misunderstandings. In order to persevere through these moments, the couple has to be patient with one another and with themselves, and communicate what they are feeling. This is especially true in dancing. Know that there are things that you will have to work on by yourself, and things you will need to work on together. Be aware of the fact that your partner is not a mind reader, if they are doing something that doesn’t work for you; tell them. Not by passive aggressively walking away and not by aggressively adjusting their body, but using direct and constructive words. Show them kindly what you mean and how it would feel better.
- Humor: Being able to laugh at oneself and at your partner (in good spirits) is a crucial aspect in a successful dance partnership. Yes, we are serious about what we do and yes, we both want t improve and prosper but who said that laughter would prevent that? I’ve found that my rehearsals in which I come in with a light heart and am able to play with my partner are always the most fruitful and enjoyable.
- Compatibility: Chemistry and compatibility on and off the floor are extremely important. This is the person you will likely be with more than anyone else in your life. You need to like each other. I have seen champion dancers look like a mess on the floor because of the dissonance in their personal relationship. I’ve experienced it first hand, when my partner and I are getting along, we dance better. When we are frustrated with one another, we find ourselves off-balance, disconnected, and unable to express. Ballroom dancing is about 2 people working together, creating a story, and moving in time with one another. It’s much easier to do this with somebody you enjoy being around.
- Trust: When dancing with somebody you are allowing them into a vulnerable space that few people will experience. Because of this, you must trust yur partner and they must be able to trust you; physically and mentally. When being touched and moving with someone, you need to feel safe. Not only will your partner do everthing they can to catch you if you fall, but they will not judge you or criticize you, or do anything else to make you feel unsafe mentally. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about your partner either refer to #1 on this list or focus on your own dancing. Also, there is no room for jealousy or possessiveness. Your partner is just that; a partner, not property. They are free to dance with other people and enjoy themselves. If you have trust within your dancing relationship, you will know that them dancing with others is not a threat to you, but rather an opportunity for them to learn or feel something that can be helpful to both of your dancing.
- Take Responsibility: The blame game is far too common in dance partnerships. If you made a mistake, own it, apologize, move on. If you feel it was something your partner did to cause your mistake, refer to #1 on this list. But in general, focusing on ones own dancing and how to make it better will always strengthen the partnership. If you find yourself reaching for reasons why your partner is responsible for your mistakes, take a step back and first make sure you are doing everything possible to do it right. Chances are you could improve upon something. If your partner is constantly blaming you for their mistakes, get a new one.
- Practice on your own: I have found that not only does practicing by myself make me feel 100 times better when I dance with my partner, but it shows my partner that I respect his time and effort. I use my own time to work on things I’m not sure about rather than our shared time. It also shows him that I am committed to the success of our partnership. I love the coming into rehearsal and being surprised by the fact that the part that wasn’t working before feels much better, looking at him with elation and having him tell me “I practiced at home.”