How To Be One Of The Best Dances Of Your Partner’s Night

Saturday nights at Ocean Drive, Bilbao, Spain
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What does it take to be the best dance of your partner’s night? Incredible technique, advanced turn patterns, musicality? Years of lessons? Or simply a smile and eye contact?

I recently ran a poll in the Social Dance Community Facebook group (and if you’re not a member of this already, why not?) asking:

What, for you, makes for an excellent dance? Those kinds of dances that leave you on a dance high for the entire night?

And the results? Let’s take a look at them.

Some Quick Notes On The Poll…

The poll has run in the SDC Facebook group for just over a month. Respondents can select only one out of ten potential options (plus an “Other”). Only seven of these have actually received any votes.

There are limitations to the poll:

  • It’s a small sample size and most respondents seem to be from Europe (especially the UK) and North America.
  • Two people complained that it didn’t offer enough options for leads. I added both their suggestions and there was a roughly 50-50 gender split between respondents. However, it’s worth considering that leads may have felt they had fewer options to choose from than followers.
  • Respondents could only vote once. When dancing, some of us might expect multiple options. We could also consider something to be “standard” and so not select it, but would be disappointed if a dance didn’t feature it. For example, I expect dancers to smile at me when dancing with me; alone, it wouldn’t make a dance excellent, but a dance also couldn’t be excellent without it.
  • Some options may overlap or cover a broader spectrum than others (for example, “playfulness” and “musicality” often go hand-in-hand).

Want to help us get more accurate results? Go vote in the poll! (Note: you can’t vote unless you’re a member of the group.)

The Top Two Results Are All About Connection

The top two results make up 84% of responses. They’re also both about connecting with your partner. This is striking, but also makes sense: if we didn’t want to connect with other people, we would be doing solo dancing instead.

Here are the two options:

1: Great Personal Connection

Smiling, eye contact, laughing

56% of people chose this as the key to an excellent dance. (Interestingly, most of them were men.)

In other words, remember that you’re dancing with someone. You’re sharing a moment with them – so make sure you share it. Engage. Show that you’re enjoying yourself, that you appreciate that playful choreography, great musicality, or fun styling.

I believe that every dance is like exchanging gifts: both partners are choosing to create the most beautiful experience they can and present it to each other. And the best way to say “thank you” is to smile. Corny? Maybe. But worth doing? Definitely.

2: Great In-Dance Connection

Only the subtlest of leads either needed or used

The second-most popular option received 28% of votes (and this time, it was mostly women selecting it). Two people also commented on it being their second choice after a “great personal connection”.

So, how do you create an in-dance connection? Pay attention to the signals your dance partner is giving you.

Leads, try to use only the softest force possible; then, if you need more, increase it. Additionally, try following yourself, so that you understand what certain moves should feel like. Pay attention to technique: small amendments in your hold and frame have a large impact on what the follower feels.

Followers, try to be aware of everything that your body is feeling. When you do this, you’ll pick up on more signals from the lead and so respond to them better. Also, remember that when a move is led, you only know how it starts – not how it ends. Don’t get complacent: pay attention to how the lead changes throughout the move. You might find that the lead is suggesting a different move than the one you thought they were.

Additionally, work on having a good frame, balance, and overall technique so that you could do the move unsupported. In this way, your lead will only have to indicate the move to you, instead of carrying you through it. You will be light, rather than heavy, but still have a strong connection.

In-dance connection is delightful. It allows you to play with the moves, to challenge and surprise each other, and to create a beautiful moment between the two of you. For me, with a great in-dance connection, there is no-one else on the dance floor. I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel that way.

Creativity Is Appreciated (Just Not As Much As Connection)

There were four options that were all linked to creativity. Together, they received just over 15% of the votes, along with several mentions in the comments. (Since connection accounted for 84% of votes, we’re now on just over 99%.)

Here are the four options linked to creativity:

Great musicality (this received the most votes and comments out of the four)

Playfulness

Unique choreography it’s not necessarily about the moves but about how they’re combined

Moves you’ve never danced/seen before

These four are also arguably the most challenging of all the options; unlike the connection-based options, these normally mark out the advanced dancers.

They’re also hard to separate from other poll options. Can you have playfulness without musicality or a unique choreography? Yes, but it’s easier with them (and you’ll certainly need in-person connection). Great musicality also goes hand-in-hand with all the options focusing on technique. In-dance connection makes leading and following moves you’ve never danced/seen before easier.

In short, a certain proficiency with all aspects of dancing is helpful for achieving this level of dancing.

Technique: Important But Underappreciated?

Technique-based options received far fewer votes than the creativity- and connection-based ones. In fact, they received just one vote between them.

However, just because almost nobody voted solely for technique doesn’t mean technique doesn’t matter – even to the poll respondents.

Without technique, you would struggle to successfully be creative or lead moves that your follower has never seen before. You might want to create an in-dance connection but fail to give clear leads, recognise signals, or simply execute the required movements.

In fact, the only poll option you can create without technique is a great personal connection (which admittedly was also the most popular option). As such, you could say that the other 44% of respondents did vote for technique – they just wanted technique with something.

Technique is the foundation: it’s crucial. Yet it’s also rarely the thing you remember about a dance. And on its own, it’s often a little bland.

What Does This Mean For You?

There are three important takeaways from this poll:

  1. Being new to a dance doesn’t prevent us from being a great person to dance with. Make the effort to smile at your partner and engage with them and there’s still a high chance they’ll enjoy it (providing, of course, it’s safely and comfortably led).
  2. Technique is important, but technique alone isn’t enough. Have amazing technique? Fantastic. Now, go connect with your partner (and, if you’re able to, use that great technique to also be creative).
  3. The majority of us are left on an all-night-long dance high just because our partner smiles at us and makes an effort to genuinely connect. However, smiling is easy. Why, therefore, is it so special, so unique, to us? Shouldn’t it be standard in a dance? Is it possible that we’re guilty of the very thing that we’re disappointed about – not smiling at our partner? The solution is simple: let’s all make an effort to connect more.

Do you agree with these results? Think everyone’s wrong? Believe we’re missing an important option? The poll is still open. Go vote (remember you have to join the group first to do so) and add your comments to the discussion.

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