My partner and I want to dance competitively. We often go out social dancing to get practice. Recently we had a huge argument concerning etiquette on the floor. I felt that she was pulling me up 1 or 2 steps before the next couple because I wanted to dance right up to the next couple. I did not want to unnecessarily anticipate collisions. I felt that her dancing was over cautious. She on the other hand thinks that my dancing is not appropriate for the social scene. That we should be more cautious and carefull in the social scene. My fear is that we may pick up bad habits because we do not dance out. Should we be using the social venues for practicing our social dancing? Should we change our approach to dancing if we do? Should the female dancer anticipate collisions or is it entirely the male dancers role to control the general direction of movement?
Hi, I am a competitive standard dancer and I think proper etiquette on a social floor is extremely important so that everyone has a good time. When my partner and I practice on the social floor, it is specifically to practice "driving." We are getting experience trying to fit our routines in when other people are getting in the way. I have to be able to follow any change in the routine that he has to make. It is very important as the follower that I keep my eye out and warn my partner if there is an impending collision. It does take some practice to warn him the right amount. By a simple sqeeze of the arm he can tell if I want him to slow down, stop completely, or just change direction. Leaders have to have good driving skills before you can really move out on a social dance floor.
I am only speaking from my personal observations and opinion. I have been to a large number of social dancing venues over the years. I have found that the rules on the dance floor vary, depending upon the owner/host and the rules they set. Often, the rules are unspoken, and you have to figure them out over time. But sometimes, the rules will be printed out.
As far as a partner anticipating a collision, well, it depends upon what type of dance you are doing. In some dances, like West Coast Swing, the follower has a choice when she is going down the slot as to how far she goes if she sees a collision. This usually doesn't impact the leader too much because they are dancing in an open position. With many ballroom dances, anything the follower does will have an impact on the leader. And certain actions on the part of the follower could throw the leader off balance and even cause a collision.
In my opinion, if a follower feels unsafe on the dance floor because of something that the leader is doing, she does have several recourses. If there is time, she can tell her partner she is uncomfortable and why. If there isn't time, she may just react instinctively to protect herself. If her partner is continually putting her in unsafe situations, she can also decide to leave the dance floor as politely as possible. The fact that a follower feels unsafe on the dance floor may or may not have anything to do with a leader's actions. Dancing with another person, especially in a follower's position, requires a certain amount of trust, skill and self confidence as well. One is somewhat vulnerable and sometimes in certain situations one may be more uncomfortable in certain situations than others.
Usually, I have found it best to deal with the immediate situation in as painless a way as possible for both parties and then later to talk your partner, in a non-stressful environment out of the public eye/ear. Then it is easier to discuss what happened and how both of you would like to handle the situation in the future. The first time it happens, it is hard to know what to do. But, as time and experience continue, it is easier to learn ways to deal with things. However, it is usually something you plan in advance after having done it the way you don't want to do it. It is hard to think and know what to do when an unexpected, never-before-encountered situation occurs. Hindsight is easier...
Certainly patience and forgiveness are helpful tools in any relationship, be it dance or any other kind.
I agree that competitors who may be more "turbo charged" should recognize that others may not be able to anticipate what they are doing. Even if the competitive dancer is able to break and reverse on a dime, the social dancer might not know that and overreact to what will seem to them like an impending collision, causing another one in the process. And competitors should realize that a social dancer might not know how to break and reverse at all! I had a case where a good friend of mine (a pro) waltzed his partner (advanced amateur) up to myself and my partner (both of us much less advanced), knowing exactly what we were and were not capable of, and still got his partner a serious jab in the ribs from the resulting collision.
It is frustrating to be constrained on a social dance floor if you are used to practice in wide open spaces, but we want this to be fun for everyone so there will be more dancers and therefore more places to dance, etc.
Concerning the relationship between leader and follower I totally agree with Karen! Concerning the transition from social to compeditive dancer I would like to supplement a little comment:
An effective training is not possible as long as you cannot just stop and do some exercises on your own in front of a mirror or practice one movement for a few minutes. As long as you are aware that you are "only social dancing" it is not detrimental at all but it is necessary to have a place where you can work things out with a mirror, maybe your own music, a lot of time and people around who know what you are doing.
My experience tells me that practicing compeditive dancing on social dancing events can cause trouble because it contains elements which are easily misunderstood and make others -partners and surrounding couples- feel uncomfortable.
During competitions you try to occupy as much space as you can to make yourself looking big and confident - on social dancing events -where the space on the floor is much more limited- this is a save way to loose other people´s sympathies. Normally compeditive dancers have a much higher speed and power than others tending to surprising movements which can be too fast to be reacted on. This causes emergency breakes and crashes with other couples disturbing the flow. A collision with a really fast spinning person also bears a danger of injuring. (experience) Compeditive dancing is much more extrovert than social dancing. Showing the character of a dance is like acting on stage. When you are still practising it might look quite arrogant (...keeping the nose up...) and affected to people who are not involved. They might take it seriously. When it is well done others especially beginners stop dancing and keep watching loosing their confidence. A success that lasts only for a short time. Social dancing requires adaption and caution to make everybody feel comfortable from compeditive dancers. (Though it sometimes it is great fun to switch on the turbo when there is enough space and somebody to impress...) Good luck!