Learning to dance is hard enough when you are learning on your own...but when you learn with a partner there are some other issues that will come up that you may not be aware of. Here are some of the things that couples have to deal with and if you can get through some of these items your enjoyment of the lessons and each other will be increased!
1. Getting Started is the Hardest Part: When I say "getting started" I'm not just referring to the act of actually walking into a dance studio for your first lesson, but once you enroll on a program the hardest part of learning is usually at the beginning. At the start of your dance education you really are just trying to learn a couple of basic patterns so that you can start to move together as a couple. Sounds easy right? For the most part it is...but think of it like learning to drive a car. Remember when you first started learning? I remember when I started learning and my dad took me to the mall parking lot at 7 am in the morning. I could bearly check my side and rear view mirrors without feeling like I would miss something out the front window while I had two hands gripping the wheel tightly at exactly10 and 2 o'clock. Remember that feeling? Now you can probably steer with your knees as you turn the radio on with one hand and eat a hamburger with the other. (I've seen it!) You go through the same process in the beginning of your dance education too. Men are afraid to move because there is a lady in front of them. Ladies aren't used to walking backward in high heels...there are a lot of new concepts to master so give it some time and RELAX! Everyone learns at a different pace so don't get frustrated in the beginning. Rember...dancing should be fun!
2. You Will Need to Communicate!: Most communication on the dance floor is non-verbal...and again...this is going to take some time to master. Here is when you are learning how to LEAD and FOLLOW. The man and lady are working together but the concepts are very different. When the man is leading, he has to clearly let his partner know where to go and how fast to get there. He is also trying to maneuver around the dance floor without bumping into other couples or running into a wall. While he is doing that, the lady is WAITING to see where to go without trying to anticipate what step the man is going to do next. During this time in your learning, leaders should try not to "push" the follower around the dance floor and followers should not try to "help" by trying to guess where to go next. Finally...we have to realize what is going on inside our partners head. Usually men are focused on what pattern he is doing right at that moment and not what is coming next. I like to tell men to think of it like driving to a destination. You look ahead down the road for the next landmark...you don't just wait until the last second to decide to turn left on Elm Street. It's already in your head to turn. Ladies have a natural tendency to have a "helping heart" so when they feel the man is lagging or thinking about a step they want to take over and backlead. Ladies...this is very distracting to the man. Remember...he is focused on driving and "helping" is like grabbing the wheel while he's driving. You wouldn't do that...would you?
3. Your Partner Doesn't Dance Like Your Teacher: If there is one piece of advise I can give to couples who are learning to dance together it is this...Never, never, ever say to your partner "You're not doing it like the teacher"...or "It feels different/better when I do it with the teacher." Of course it will feel better and easier and smoother when you dance a pattern with your teacher. We've had years of training and practice. You have just started. Think about how that comment is going to make your partner feel. Enough said about that.
4. You Should Dance With Other People: Most dance studios encourage everyone to dance with everyone. Occasionally couples (especially when starting out) will want to stay together and not change partners. For me, that's okay and I don't make a big deal of getting people to change partners but let me explain why it's a good thing. When you attend a group class or a practice dance where partner changing is encouraged you will encounter people of different levels, different heights, etc to dance with. By dancing with these various partners it develops your leading and following skills. Ladies get to dance with a more experienced leader and can feel what it really should feel like and men get to dance with more advanced ladies and can think about what they should do...it should be easier. Then when you get back together with your partner you should be able to dance better with them. Also...dancing is a social activity and I know it is scary to be dancing with a room full of strangers that all seem to know everything while you know nothing, but believe me...once you dance with several of the other students and talk to them a bit... you will see they feel or have felt the exact same way. Dancing at a studio is a great way to make new friends by doing something in common.
5. It WILL Be Fun!: Once you get the basic concepts under your belt dancing will become fun and relaxing and a great way to connect with your partner. When I ask couples what they do for fun (before they started dancing) they usually say things like "We watch TV" or "We go to the movies". Think about it. You could watch TV or go to a movie without your partner and still get the same enjoyment out of it. If you play golf or tennis...you are usually playing against each other and someone has to lose...right? When you are dancing you are connected in a physical and emotional way. You have to communicate with each other. You are holding each other in your arms and looking into each others eyes...I've had lot's of couples tell me that learning to dance has brought them closer together...some even say it has saved their marriage. All I know is when you get into that rut of work...TV or computer...sleep repeat it separates us...dancing brings us together.
So...learning to dance has some ups and downs but in the long run it will be well worth the effort you put into it in the beginning to see the rewards at the end. Anything you learned before dancing took time and effort but now you can do it...skiing, golfing, karate, etc...Dancing is the same but when you are doing it with a partner...well that's much better!