A lot of people have some idea that they would like to learn partner dancing once they have a partner to learn it with. Bad idea. Ladies have to learn how to follow, which is like learning how to ride a bike. It is learning how to react to feedback. It is learned by doing. It can be learned very quickly, but it can only be learned from someone who knows how to lead. Men, on the other hand, need to learn their steps, the lady's steps, and how to lead the lady's steps. If a lady tries to learn how to dance with a man who can't lead yet, she will have to execute her own steps on her own to make the patterns work, because he isn't leading them yet. This gives her every wrong habit: she thinks from her feet up, and she learns to interpret leads a cues for her to execute steps on her own. Instead of letting the leads move her, she is always initiating her own movements. This in turn will take away the resistance that the man needs her to have if he ever is to lead her, making it impossible for him ever to learn in time how to lead.
Good private lessons can steer a couple past these pitfalls, and couples who do want to learn to dance together need not be deterred, but it is a harder way to learn how to dance. Ideally (that is, if not for relationship concerns) should start dancing with men who can lead. That way they learn no bad habits and can quickly dance well (as in, the first night, if it comes naturally to them) wheras several months of trying to learn with someone who can't lead can make it so that a woman would have to dance for a month with a good dancer to get where she could have been in a day or two. I would say, if you are going to learn with another beginner, definitely get private lessons. The other imperative is that the man must work harder than the woman, and stay well ahead of her in his learning. Men must do homework. They must drill their steps on their own (whether they are trying to learn with a partner or not) until they know their steps cold and can concentrate on leading the lady's steps.
Obviously it is a difficult situation for a couple when every man on the dance-floor can show the woman a better time than her date can. If the man is committed to learning, a couple can get past that quickly, but if you are single now and hope to learn dancing someday, now is the time! Men, you especially. You are the ones who are going to be put in the really miserable position if you wait until you have a girlfriend to go dancing. What I see again and again is couples who go once to a dance party, the girl has a ball learning by doing, the guy is incredibly unhappy because he can't learn by doing and can only watch how much fun his date is having with other men, and they never go back. All he needed to do was go first, get a head start, be able to show his girl a little bit about how to follow, then stay ahead of her: take group classes together, learn patterns, then drill the patterns on his own, to the point where he can concentrate on leading. Even better, if you are single now, learn while you are still on your own. It is absolutely the most fun thing you can go out and do with a woman. It is athletic. You move as one, to beautiful music. Learn now, while there is no pressure on you. And ladies, if you go dancing now, while you are unattached, you don't have to worry about babysitting some guy who can't dance!
Date Last Modified: 8/27/99
Copyright Alec Rawls © 1998