Give and Take on the Dance Floor - 060221

It takes two to Tango, but Andango is better. ~ Andrew Weitzen
Communication requires two people. One to say something and the other to figure out what the first person meant. ~ Andrew Weitzen

If we are going to benefit from the feedback of our partners, we need to have a good attitude, both in the giving and receiving of the information. Correcting others can be delicate.

First, only give correction and feedback during class time and practise sessions. During social dance, dance to the level of your partner and only offer praise, no critiques or suggestions. Leave teaching for teaching time.

If your partner asks you to show them something, suggest that you avoid showing them anything that takes more than a few seconds during the social dance. Offer to pick a time to set aside for teaching, possibly during the break, after the social dance or before the next session.

When in class, expect and welcome correction from the instructor. That is why you are in class.

You can learn as much or more from your partners as from your instructor. Your partners are the ones dancing with you and can give you personal attention. You should welcome correction from them.

I was in a West Coast swing class, dancing with a woman new to the class. In West Coast swing, the woman dances on a line, but my partner was drifting to the side. We were supposed to be working on a pass through turn. Since this woman was not on the line, we could not do the pass through turn correctly.

She wanted to know why I was not doing the turn. I nicely told her that she needed to stay on the line, and we needed to do the basic step correctly first.

I tried to take her other hand and use a two-hand hold to help keep her stay on the line, but she kept taking her hand away. She asked, "Why are you taking my other hand? I am trying to do what the instructor told us to do.""

Having been in the class for a year, I was more aware of all the things the instructor had said. The instructor had emphasized the primary importance of (a) following the lead and (b) staying on the line. The instructor had told the women not to go floating all over the dance floor, to go where the man leads them and that the steps do not matter.

Being new to the class, my partner missed all that and was only focusing on the choreography, a mistake many newcomers make. She thought what was important was doing the pass through turn.

So, I told her that the woman needs to follow the man. That she needed to keep her hand out so the man could take it, and if the man put his hand out, she needed to put her hand in his.

Anyway, she got mad and walked off the floor.

Now I do not know if I should have corrected her or not, and I do not know if you should correct someone you are dancing with, but here are somethings that I do know work.

  1. Be Good Natured and Welcome Feedback - if you want to learn, encourage your partner to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you can do it better. Leave your hyper-sensitivities at home. Take what people tell you as information, not criticism, and put the information to good use.

  2. Do Not Correct Others Unless They Ask - eventually your partner will learn, or not. You may want to help them, but they may not want your help. The best way you can help them, is by doing your part correctly. Let them worry about their part.

    In one Swing Class I took, the instructors said you could ask your partner, "would you like some feedback," and if you got a yes, you could offer your opnion. You could try that.

  3. Work On Your Technique - think about what you can do better. If you are having a problem with your partner, try to understand what you can do differently to accomadate your partner.

    Remember, you will be dancing with many different partners and you will not be able to get all of them to conform to your way of doing things. You have to adapt and adjust to each person.

Above all, be nice.

By Andrew Weitzen 2/21/2006

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