A successful ballroom dance partnership can never be taken for granted. It also takes more than just avoiding arguments. The risks and the power of a dancesport partnership is like few other partnerships. The relationship is focused on growth and success like a business partnership. It involves personal investment and emotion like a life partnership. It also requires you to play your role, while assisting and compensating for each other when needed, like key players in every sports team. With this, there are many levels of satisfaction but also many levels of risk.
Your partner is 50% of your success!
1. Invest in your partner as well as you invest in yourself.
- Never take your partner for granted. Since your partner is 50% of your success, you really need to make sure that you invest in each other in addition to taking care of your own needs.
- If your partner feels demoralized, not valued or fearful, their energy and focus will be on those feelings, and not on dancing.
- Do not say things to your partner that would be distracting to you, and not be helpful to you, if someone said the same things to you.
2. If you want to correct a step, and keep your partner, focus your comments on the step, not on your partner
- “How could you be so stupid again!” won’t help the step, but will build resentment in your partner.
- “I really think it works better this way because it gives us more power” helps you both to keep focused on your dancing, and not whether to stay in the partnership.
- You should not avoid disagreements. They are sometimes necessary to move forward. It is also important not to hold back on opinions that are important to you just to avoid an argument. Arguments are only really harmful when they stop being about different opinions, and start being about wanting your partner to become a different person.
3. A great partnership makes each of you better by looking to the other as a teacher.
- Each partner has skills, experience and passion that may be similar, but is almost always is a bit different. Any difference is an amazing opportunity for pro, amateur and student couples to look to each other as additional teachers. Your partnership can get stronger and better very quickly when you seek the information and ideas of the other to support your own learning.
- Even the pro in a pro-am couple can learn from the student. Some pro-am students have experience in other forms of dance, sport or performance. All students help their teachers become clearer in their own knowledge, when the teacher responds to the responses of the student. Teaching requires you to be clear, and to understand everything well enough to adjust your explanations to different situations if needed. Teaching well makes the teacher more knowledgeable.
A great performance needs to show the power of your couple, not just you.
4. Champions show their personal style as a couple, as well as individually
- You each could be great in your roles on the floor, but the look of the couple needs to be a focus as well.
- Think of the couples that are memorable as champions. You can often recognize them by their dancing without seeing their faces.
- To get to this level, there needs to be a lot of communication to find a common approach between partners, and a feeling of safety to experiment as a couple. If you shut each other down too quickly, the potential of couple will never happen.
5. When the connection of the couple on the floor is real, it reinforces the best of their dancing
- Lack of connection in partner dancing is unpleasant to watch, so the attention goes to even small weakness.
- Interestingly, being a couple off the floor may sometimes help, but is neither necessary, nor enough to make this happen.
- Many things are important, but a big thing is whether you understand and are responding to the feeling and energy of your partner, or just focusing on the perfect solo execution of your own steps and style.
Your practice needs solo time, couple time, focus time, creative time and feedback.
6. Just like working your muscles from different angles gives you faster muscle growth, having different kinds of practice brings faster development.
- You need to practice both together, and apart to grow as a couple.
- Practice together is essential for you to be connected on the floor.
- Practice alone is essential for your own skill development, especially in the areas that are most challenging for you personally.
- For both together and solo practice, there are also two types.
- Structured practice is focused on specific goals such as timing, choreography, technique or a coaches’ feedback.
- Creative practice is where you can explore your range and style of movement and musicality, which will ultimately keep your dancing from looking boring to others, and feeling boring to you.
7. Give and seek constructive feedback in the partnership and outside
- Video tape your practice as well as your competitions. Have others comment to get different views of your strengths and weaknesses.
- All this information will help you both find consistent themes, which will then help you prioritize the focus of your development.
- When giving comments to each other, or reflecting on your partnership overall, remember to start by commenting on things that are great and you want to keep.
- Only focusing on the things to change puts you at risk of loosing your strengths due to lack of attention.
Goals are critical, so is the approach to getting there.
8. Goals do not need to be big, and should really never be related to things that are outside of your control
- Goals are important to keeping you from becoming stagnant.
- Even if you are not a competition couple, achieving small goals or doing things together that you both set out to do, is very satisfying and can keep your motivation to stay together as a couple.
- Talking honestly early in the partnership about your goals and the way you want to achieve them, will help you understand whether the partnership makes sense, and will prevent heartache later.
- If one partner wants to be improve all aspects of dancing and get to another level of dancing and recognition in no more than 5 months, and the other is more interested in the travel and exposure of competitions, you might appear on the same path for a while but frustration will soon begin.
9. Keep checking to see if your are goals are still the same
- A change in goals is a major reason for splits. In many cases this is not avoidable but if you wait to long to be honest, resentment will build.
- Always be clear about both the common ground and differences in your goals, since true motivations will always come out in behaviour.
10. Each type of partnership has its benefits and risks
- Pro partnerships are often more stable than others, and can be life changing, but are challenged with the distraction of work and other responsibilities that are outside of your dancing as a couple. It can be especially difficult if one partner has more distraction than the other. It is very important to talk about this and find a solution or adjust your expectations.
- Amateur and student partnerships can accelerate the development of each partner quickly, but there is a great risk that the goals and development of each partner will go in different directions over time. Make the most out of every moment with your partner and be considerate and understanding if you need to take different paths at some point.
- Pro-am partnerships can provide deep satisfaction and a new dimension of personal or professional success to each partner, but the structure in the roles has a risk that each party may take each other for granted over time. Make sure you keep listening to each other, maintain the pleasure of dancing, and keep setting up the challenges that make many pro-am couples so successful.
- Without question, the benefits of each type of partnership far outweighs the risks. It is just good to be aware so you each get the amazing benefits of sharing your passion with your partner.