14 Tips for being a great dance partner
and most of them don't have anything to do with skill and apply to all geners and dance roles.
1. Make it your priority that your partners look and feel great.
Every dancer needs something else to be the greatest version of themselves. Some may need a tight lead to feel safe. So give it to them. Some may need you to marvel at them while they do fancy stuff. Give them that freedom.
To quickly figure out what your dance partner wants and needs and to give it to them without hesitation is one of the greatest and most rewarding things you can do as a dance partner and everyone will love you for it and be happy to dance with you again.
And if you need something from them, they will be very open to it, if they got what they needed from you first.
2. Ask for the dance
In most dance communities, it's become more and more common that everyone, regardless of gender is "allowed" to ask for dances. If you are the one asking for the dance, you will immediately be appreciated by your dance partner, because they didn't have to go through the struggle of asking you.
3. Deal with sweat
Most dancers prefere if their partner doesn't feel like a wet sponge. But we can't completely remove the sweat, so the best way to deal with it is: Show that you know about it and are taking measures to make it as comfortable for them as possible. There are many ways to deal with sweatyness and the Dance Towels are one of the better ways to show you know that you sweat and you are taking measures for your partners sake. Just showing that you are trying makes a huge difference. If you want to know more ways of dealing with sweat as a dancer, here's a few tips and tricks.
4. Dress for dancing
No, this doesn't mean you should put on suit and tie or wear a dress every time you dance, but it means that you should look like someone that others would like to be seen with in close embrace. Every Dance scene has their own unique styles and by wearing matching clothing you will look and feel like you are part of the scene.
Also by looking at what others wear you will quickly find out what works best for the dance that you do. e.G. Open backs for dresses are rarely seen while partner dancing, or many pro dancers wear jackets while dancing to deal with sweat and so on....
5. Shower before dancing
The reason why you should shower before dancing is because you need to get rid of the old sweat from the day. Dancing sweat often doesn't smell at all, but the old smell from the day has already had some time to interact with smell causing bacteria, so you want to get rid of that before dancing.
6. Put on fresh clothes before dancing
Basically the same reason why you should shower before dancing, but there is also an additional reason. Some dancers are allergic to dust. So when dancing you should try to put on something that has been washed not too long ago. I once had a dancer that literally had to stop dancing with me because I was wearing a vintage outfit that had been in the closet for a few years. I changed into a fresh shirt and everything was fine.
7. Manicure your hands
In most partnered dances you touch hands, so the hands are very important for dancers. Be sure to have your finger nails cut short, and even if you are someone who likes their finger nails long, I would recommend to trim them short for dancing.
Also make sure your hands are washed and clean when going dancing. If you know that your hands are "rough" from work or climbing or so, try to put on some cream to make them a little softer to the touch. Your partners will feel it immediately.
8. Dance to the abilities of your partner
Especially when you become a more experienced dancer you often have to resort to easier moves because your dance partner isn't at that level, jet. Please resist the temptation to show off the moves you learned at your last workshop.
9. Don't teach on the dancefloor
This is a tricky one. It can be fun to explore and learn new moves at a dance evening, but only if both partners are into it and really want to try something. But please only do it, if you know that partner well and know they are into that, or when they are clearly there for the first time and you see them desperately trying to learn. In most cases it is best to just dance and have a great time on the dancefloor. If they want to learn something from you, they will ask. Learning and teaching is reserved for the classes where the learning and teaching roles are clearer defined.
10. Check your breath
Smelly breath can be very uncomfortable when dancing in close position. There are basically four things you can do to prevent it:
- Brush your teeth before dancing
- Eat something before dancing ( about 1h before should be fine)
- No "Döner" or McDonalds before dancing
- Don't smoke ... I know it might be hard so at least do the others
- Have a chewing gum or mint with you
11. Know or ask about the do's and dont's of your scene
This is something that can be quite tricky to learn, but often, when you are new to a scene, it's a great conversation starter, too.
Here's an example. In many dance scenes, leading and following are more or less gendered. Men lead, Women follow. In Lindy Hop it's becoming more and more common for everyone to want to and be able to dance both roles or even switch during the dance. If you invite someone to dance by saying: "Hey, would you like to dance?" "Yes." "Would you like to lead or follow?" - You show that you are up to date and considerate of the fact that in Lindy Hop you cannot assume the preferred dance role by looking at the external gender indicators.
12. Know about the history of the dance, but don't force it on others
Every dance has a rich history and it's really helpful to know about it for your dancing and also for nice conversations with other dancers. But sometimes people don't know as much about it as you do and sometimes they don't want to talk about those topics. As it is in dancing, it is the same in conversations. You want to make sure your partners are comfortable being around you. The dance party is the place to dance, not the place to teach or to argue. If someone disagrees, just leave them be, free yourself from that burden and dance.
13. Keep your word and be honest
If you say: "I will dance with you after a short break," search and find them to dance with them. If you don't want to dance with someone, politely tell them why. It's harder, but in the long run, better for you and for them than trying to avoid them every event.
14. Choose to be happy
Not allways things go as you wish. There will be days when all moves fail, the dj's taste will differ from yours, the band will not be to your liking and the floor will be slippery or sticky and everything will suck. But it's how you deal with situations like that that will decide what kind of dance partner you are. Choose to be happy despite the situation. Thoose to make the best of it and let people know. If the floor is too sticky, make fun of it in your dancing, play around with it. If the music is too cheesy, go all in. Your partners will be happy to have found you to spend their time with and you might be surprised how great an evening can turn out if you allow it to.
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Written by Benedikt Jockenhöfer
Benedikt has been a dancer for over 20 years. He grew up in Burkina Faso, lives in Germany and is the founder of BJ Dance Towels. He dances and teaches Lindy Hop and dances Shag, (lindyfied) Boogie Woogie, Tango Argentino and Standard and Latin dances.
If you have any suggestions for this text or any other, please just write us, we would be happy to include your thoughts.