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Partner Rotation Verses Steady Partner - 060118

Practice is the best of all instructors. ~ Publilius Syrus, 85-43 BCE, Roman Writer
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ~ George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish Dramatist and Nobel Peace Prïze Winner

We started talking about this the other week in class.

In Israeli partner dancing, in some groups, people have the same partner the entire evening, every week. In some groups, people change partners each set, but tend to dance with the same few partners each week. Mostly there are more women than men, but sometimes there are more men. The extra people tend to get left out and often sit out all the partner dances, or go home early when long partner sets end the evening.

Many small groups avoid partner dancing altogether, because they might have twice as many women as men, and they do not want half their group sitting out.

This is very different from many other forms of social partner dancing, where changing partners is the norm. At my ballroom and swing classes, during the teaching session, they change partners very frequently. The method is to show the first sequence of a pattern, say 4 beats, walk through it, and then change partners. Typically, one will go through every person in the group while one dance pattern is taught.

During the open dance session, the etiquette is to change partners after each dance. The etiquette is for one to try to dance with most everyone there, and especially with those that were sitting out, before dancing with the same person a second time.

Importantly, the most experienced dancers take on the responsibility of dancing with the least experienced dancers to help them along.

Israeli dancing might benefit by adopting the partner etiquette of other dance forms. It would be more sociable, allow everyone to participate, give everyone a chance to dance with everyone else, and help the less experienced dancers to learn faster.

Before groups can move to a more frequent method of changing partners, they are going to need to teach common "Lead and Follow" techniques, so everyone is on the same page, and understands how to communicate on the dance floor.

The lack of "Lead and Follow" teaching, may be the primary reason why people rarely change partners at Israeli dancing. Without a set of fundamental rules, dancing with people who are not used to dancing with each other, is frequently a literal struggle, and one finds themselves literally wrestling with the other person, which is extremely unpleasant.

Here are the some guidelines, that we have been using, for changing partners.

  1. Participating in the partner rotation is optional, but we strongly recommend everyone participate, unless they are with their spouse and just want to dance together.

  2. Everyone is taught "Lead and Follow" techniques.

  3. During teaching of partner dancing, rotate partners every 8 or 16 counts, and every time the music is played for practise.

  4. During regular dancing sessions, rotate partners each dance, so everyone dances with everyone else.

  5. Play each dance a second time, if needed, so that everyone gets to do each dance. This was a great idea from Tim.

Since Israeli dancing is done in a circle, the partner rotation is quite simple. Each man can walk forward to the next woman after each dance. There is no need for people to run around and look for partners.

Of course you cannot please everyone all the time, but this seems the fairest way, and gives everyone a chance to participate.

By Andrew Weitzen 1/18/2006

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