Dancing with a Partner

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Even simple Salsa and Latin moves can make you feel great dancing on your own. But there is a tendency for people to rush through the initial phase of learning because they want to be dancing with a partner.

Sadly, the end result is a dance that has very little relationship with the music; the dancer seems to be going through the motions rather than dancing to the rhythm.

So make very sure that you are dancing with feeling and confidence before progressing to dancing with a partner.

But what if you feel you are truly ready for dancing with a partner?

At the early beginner stage, it is just a matter of taking both their hands in yours and doing exactly the same steps, but facing each other.

OK, that's easy. But what about finding a dance partner to begin with? That can be a little more tricky...

As the whirling and twirling action of the seasoned dancers out on the dance floor of most clubs can be quite daunting, you might think it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for other beginners so you'll feel comfortable with them while you’re still learning the basics.

And if you've done the beginners class that most clubs offer before the dancing kicks off, you will have a good idea of which people are at your level.

TAXI!

However, a lot of classes and clubs offer what are known as Taxi Dancers.

These are more experienced dancers who partner newbies to give them support, encouragement and the right lead to follow.

It's great to be able to dance with someone who is experienced and patient, and good taxi dancers will help you dance to your very best level possible - which will feel great.

And when you're enjoying your dancing, you'll more easily become familiar with the sensation of dancing with a partner, whether it's simply holding their hands or dancing in their arms.

Take your Partner...

Here's something to consider too.

Even if you have gone to your dance class with your partner or a friend, don't expect to dance with them all night.

If your teacher is teaching you the partner dances (called dancing in hold), you'll probably start off by pairing with the person you know.

But then you will probably find that the teacher 'rotates' the class.

This means that once you've danced with your partner / friend / whatever, the teacher will split up each couple so you'll dance with somebody else from the group.

A teacher could do this several times, so you can end up dancing with many different partners in a single lesson.

The point of this is to improve your dancing. If you only ever dance with the same person, your dancing ability just won't progress.

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Think of it like this... If you only ever drive the same car, you get used to it and can drive it almost without thinking. But after ages of driving the same car, if you unexpectedly have to drive a different one, you might struggle to get used to it and all of a sudden, you aren't so confident of your basic driving skills.

Well, it's the same with dancing. If you only ever dance with the same person, you'll get too used to them, and them to you.

You need to be able to dance with any partner in order to confidently take to the dance floor.

We can appreciate that this can seem a little daunting at first.

If you aren't used to being touched or don't consider yourself tactile, it can make you a bit self-conscious to start with.

But dancing with people is the whole point of social dances such as Salsa and trust us, your dancing really will improve if you experience dancing with others as much as you can.

You lead, I'll follow...

Traditionally when dancing with a partner, it's the man who leads the dance, so he will choreograph the dance and the woman will follow his lead.

Holding onto both hands is often called an open hold but you can also do many of the steps in a closed or close hold.

That is the man's left hand holding the woman's right hand, while woman's left hand rests on mans right shoulder and his right hand is on or just under her left shoulder blade.

It really does feel quite natural, once you get used to it.

In the clip below, you'll see a beginner's Cha Cha class - another of the really popular Latin dances.

You'll see the teacher demonstrate both the open and closed hold. Have a go!

A Few Salsa Specifics...

Here's a few things to try once you are comfortable with both your dancing and with partnering somebody else.

Men, you can let go of the woman's hands for a while, allowing you both to do a turn or to do some of the footwork on your own (called 'shines').

You'll often see couples break away from each other during the dance and do their shines before coming back together again.

Salsa can also be done by two people facing but not touching, and as a formation dance, where three or more people are doing the same footwork.

Sometimes one person will challenge another person or a group of people to try to copy their footwork – he or she will do a series of steps, then the other person or people in the group will try to copy the sequence.

But that's some way in the future for the beginner. For now, just concentrate on your steps and dancing with a partner with ease and feeling.  You can read more about Salsa in this special section.

› Dancing with a partner