Having a Dance Partner is a gift. Unfortunately, two humans working in tandem to do anything from moving a couch to ballroom dancing can put that partnership at risk.
Our goal is to give you a checklist that can act as a Guide for your Dance Partnership - whether you turn this into a legally binding agreement, or just tape it up where you dance the most is up to you.
31 Things Your Dance Partner Wants to See You Do
1. Show up on Time
Nothing will deteriorate a partnership sooner than someone that doesn't respect their partner's time. You've got enough challenging stuff with this hobby, and showing up on time isn't one of them.
2. Stretch Out
This isn't a quick side lunge, cracking your knuckles, and a Bruce Lee neck roll. Stretch for a minimum of 15-30 minutes before you begin practicing and you'll save on future physical therapy bills.
3. Have a Plan
There's an old saying, "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." Well, your practices need to stand for something. There needs to be an agenda that you consistently stick to, or you're doomed to suffer the consequences of an ad-lib in the moment train wreck practice waiting to happen.
4. Eliminate the Pop Shots
Making side comments, negative assessments, or snide remarks is the partnership equivalent of poking a sleeping bear. Just because they haven't reacted right away, doesn't eliminate you from danger.
5. Set the Pace
Ever see tired kids at the mall or a theme park? That should never look like you at practice. As a great partner you've got to be willing to challenge the current pace, to stay energized, and to not let things like physical or mental fatigue slow you down.
6. Make Eye Contact
Unfortunately, you may be making more eye contact with yourself looking in the mirror than you do with your partner. Even out the attention or you may only be left with that mirror as your partner.
7. Limit the Breaks
Making yourself a coffee to recharge is a perfectly acceptable type of break during a dance practice. Hand picking the coffee beans or experimenting with Latte Art is a blatant abuse of the term "break". 5-10 minutes should be your maximum - and yes, this also applies to bathroom breaks.
8. Have a Calendar
It's impossible to have urgency if you never have a deadline. Having your Dance Calendar - analog or digital - will keep your partnership, and agenda, in perfect harmony.
9. Be Open Minded
As humans, we see what we are prepared to see and hear what we want to hear. As dancers this means that you may completely block out everything your partner said after the words "you need to improve....". Stay open minded. Your partner knows how you feel better than you do.
10. Apply Your Training
After lessons with your Dance Coach your number one job is to Apply the Training immediately. Do not pass go, do not take a 72 minute bathroom break. Anything less than applying the training is just an excuse for maintaining the status quo.
11. Focus on Your Own Side
When in doubt, always focus on your side of the dance frame. This way, if you are always focusing on you, then you're less likely to find fault with them.
12. Leave Excess Baggage
Treat your dance practice space as a high security, drama free, clean room environment. Leave all excess baggage at the door.
13. Smell Nice
This may be uncharted territory for some, and a no brainer for others. You will perspire when you dance. You will also be in close proximity to your partner during this activity. If perspiring causes your pits to smell like a spicy burrito made with gym socks - you may cause unintended damage to your partnership.
Here's a crazy idea - Smile. As weird as it sounds considering how incredibly serious things can be while you're, you know, dancing - smiling will help break the tension and remind your partner that, regardless of the high stakes environment, you enjoy being there.
It's okay to walk things through, but if your Jive routine looks like the dance version of power walking - then you need to get moving. Start to consider a great practice by the amount of perspiration soaked into your shirt, and save the walk-through for your next warm up.
16. Stay Off the Clock
Staring at the clock like you're sitting in your last class before you leave for Spring Break is a no-no. It's safe to say that looking eager to practice more is a much better look for your future success.
17. Take Consistent Coaching
If you're an amateur, you need regular instruction. This is not negotiable. Unfortunately, the same goes for professionals. Even if your dance coach is based in another country, you still need to set up appointments as consistently as possible. Although that scenario may be less convenient, marathon weekends can be a way to offset the lack of consistency in the calendar.
18. Allow for Awkward
No matter what you know, no matter how far you've come, any new process will start out looking less sexy than the finished product - we call it the Awkward Use Stage. If you can recognize it, then it won't surprise you or obliterate your confidence or expectations.
19. Ditch All Conspiracy Theories
Not only is this a downer for your partner to hear, it's also a way to self-sabotage your own progress. Don't be that crazy person in the corner sulking over results and blaming everything from the judges to the music director - ditch all conspiracy theories and focus on how you're dancing.
20. Buy Coffee
Making deposits with your partner, like buying the coffee, go a long way in the event you make a withdrawal - like freaking out before you walk out to perform a solo routine, or dropping a #19 on them.
21. Push the Limits
More. You think your box step is big? It can be bigger. Think you're moving your hips already? You can move them more. Your partner wants you to push your limits and dial up the intensity. The worst thing that will happen is your dancing will get better, and you'll need a change of clothes afterwards.
22. Take Accountability
Plants consume carbon dioxide and repurose it into oxygen - people who take accountability take potential arguments and excuses and turn them into learning opportunities and development. Whether it's in your fault, their fault, or just how you make the coffee - take accountability.
23. Expand Your Knowledge
Push yourself outside your comfort zone mentally and physically. A great way to do this is to take dance lessons in other disciplines like Ballet, Modern, or Hip Hop. In addition, integrating Yoga or Pilates can help settle your mind and add flexibility to your body.
24. Keep Disagreements Confined
Disagreements will happen in a partnership. This is part of the process and is just one way to start a dialogue on how to improve. What is not part of the process is another subject outside of the dance floor. If you transition from a disagreement about a dance frame and it turns into a smear campaign against someone's mother, that's breaking outside of your dance universe and must be avoided.
25. Be Consistent
No one likes surprises unless it's a perfectly executed surprise party. But your mood or attitude will never be mistaken for a surprise party - so keep a level head, do some deep breathing, and you won't have a surprise exodus of partners on the dance floor.
26. Hold Up Your Own Frame
This can be a struggle for the Leader or Follower, and it's important that it's the Leader or Follower struggling that makes the adjustment. As frustrating as it might be to dance with someone who's frame is sagging, it's equally frustrating to have someone nit-pick about it.
If partners stopped dancing anytime they felt a bad dance frame, then Dancing with the Stars would have been cancelled eleven years ago.
27. Be Off the Grid When You're On the Floor
You know how annoying it is when a hotel clerk, hostess, or receptionist takes a phone call without acknowledging you, or even has the nerve to hold a finger in the air? Well, multiply that feeling by 100 and that's what it's like if you decide to take calls, check your social feed, or text in front of your partner during your dance practice.
28. Move On
If anything in your practice is enough of a problem to cause you to stop practicing, then stop practicing whatever it was that you were practicing and move on. (repeat this as necessary)
No matter what your inner monologue is saying, your outer dialogue should contain words of encouragement.
30. Bring Snacks
"Hangry" is a term that combines "Hungry" and "Angry". Without snacks, you or your partner have a high likelihood of becoming "Hangry" - so bring food.
For every single thing you could tell your partner, asking them makes you more pleasant to be around. Ask them to dance, don't tell them. Ask them for feedback, don't tell them you've got it all figured out. Ask them how you can improve your next practice, don't tell them everything they did wrong.
If there's one thing you should Tell, it's how grateful you are to have them as a Dance Partner. They could have easily declined the request, or backed out of the partnership for a variety of reasons, but they didn't. Tell them that, but for everything else... Ask.
There are ideas on this list that take longer than others. While some may involve setting your alarm clock earlier, or investing in some ballet classes, others include deep levels of honesty about how you solve problems and communicate.
The great thing about all of it is that it's not restricted to the dance floor.
Dancing, and ballroom dancing in particular, seems to reveal a lot about who we are - what motivates us, how we respond to adversity, and how much we are willing to trust the person on the other side of our dance frame.
Sure, there will be challenges, but hopefully this article raises your awareness, begins a process, and equips you to become the dance partner you are truly capable of being.
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