Problems as couple learning dance

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Jongleur9418, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. DanceRhythm

    DanceRhythm New Member

    I think when you set out to do anything as a couple, you need to not only set a goal and your priorities, but also re-evaluate them at intervals. I have been in a similar situation before, and learned the hard way. If your priority is to dance as a couple, then you need to figure out a way for the more advanced partner to hold their horses, as the other one catches up. The suggestion to learn opposite roles is great. I would also suggest that whoever is having more trouble takes some private lessons separately to help out.

    But in a situation where one of the partners begins to feel they want something more from their dancing, other approaches may be best. Many people named Pro-Am dancing, which is great. In my case, I actually began to dance professionally, as my then-boyfriend quit completely. This wasn't as bad as it sounds. We talked, and he realized he wasn't interested in dancing any more. So we enjoyed other activities together, and left the dancing to me. If you still want to dance together, however, you have to be clear that you will expect more advanced stuff from your instructor/new partner/etc., and will not look bored or give a hard time to your original partner when you dance together. Just look at it as two separate experiences - one is to advance your dancing and push yourself, and the other is to relax and have a good time with someone you love.
    SwayWithMe and Jongleur9418 like this.
  2. dancelvr

    dancelvr Well-Known Member


    This a gross generalization.
    frotes, RiseNFall and debmc like this.
  3. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I have grown weary of Generalist's many posts insisting that ProAm doesn't teach lead/follow. In my lessons I am not allowed to do a thing unless it is being led. Even if it is a routine, I still have to wait until it is led before I can respond, and often what ever pattern I'm expecting gets switched up.
    danceronice and RiseNFall like this.
  4. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Active Member

    Based on my experience, the ladies at my studio that dance pro-am AND also social dance are the best followers.
    debmc likes this.
  5. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    Deb, you're very lucky, but that situation is NOT the norm. This whole thread is exactly what I keep trying to put into words that people swear up and down doesn't exist, but does and it discourages a LOT of couples from being partnerships. As teachers, we handle our teaching of couples/partnerships the same as we would handle unpartnered people: We teach them as well as we can the way to lead and follow and adapt. It's all we can do, and it's how we learned. It might be boring, it might take longer, and (gasp) practice, but the mechanics and technique of connection is one thing- learning how to actually use and interpret it is another, and it's something we've learned more about in a teaching capacity than even as students, I sometimes think. You can see a LOT from both perspectives, but sometimes it's so different.
    IndyLady, Dr Dance and Jongleur9418 like this.
  6. Jongleur9418

    Jongleur9418 Member

    This is a good tip! We have made progress since the original post written six months ago, and we still dance together. But the issue is still there as couple learning dance. We recently decided that I, the wife, take separate lessons to advance my dancing, potentially for pro-am. My question is this: should I work on different dances for my own interests or improve whatever we are learning together?
  7. Jongleur9418

    Jongleur9418 Member

    This worries me a great deal. The last thing I want to do is to discourage my husband from being my partner.
  8. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    It just depends on what you want to do. Do you want to compete (let's be honest, do you have an inner showboat? It's okay to admit it- why else would we be dancing if we didn't, with so many other less TADA! options available for entertainment), or has someone suggested that you do so and you're going along with it? Is dancing with your S.O. more important? To dance with your partner, you need a teacher who can teach to two people in a partnership during the same private lesson, instead of focusing on just one and assuming the other's following along.

    It doesn't do any good if you advance and he doesn't- you'll still have the same connection/communication problems. Yes, professionals can draw other pros out of a hat and dance with them beautifully- but to really dance well (and to dance choreo), look at new partnerships at the top level- they take at least two years for everything to settle in and for them to find their niches together- some don't last long enough for that to happen. Why would it be easier for two average joes off the street? What you choose to work on with your S.O., make SURE you work with them on it with your teacher. Otherwise, he'll be left standing around feeling dumb or frustrated, and you'll be having a great time and look back, feeling guilty (or not- those types exist, too)...

    Also, why can't you compete as an amateur partnership, if that's what you want to do? Teachers shouldn't try to divide you to get double (or triple) the lesson hours/money. If they can't teach you two as a couple, find someone who can. They do exist.
    Loki and Jongleur9418 like this.
  9. DanceRhythm

    DanceRhythm New Member

    I think it depends on how you feel. If you improve on what you and your husband are learning together, will it bother you when you dance with him that he is not as advanced as you'd like him to be? If the honest answer is yes, I'd say go with something else on you individual lessons.
    Jongleur9418 likes this.
  10. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Active Member

    With good teachers, the couples that I have seen make the most progress BOTH take some individual private lessons and then take some lessons together.
  11. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Active Member

    My professional instructor has taken on her husband, a NON DANCER, as her dance partner. Talk about pressure! That's a LOT for the poor guy to live up to!!

    But the guy has been splendid. She has been extraordinarily patient. In three years, he has become quite the decent dancer. She helps him by NOT coaching him. All dance issues are solved through their coach. When practicing with him, she allows him to "work out the kinks" without trying to rush him along.

    +Jong and Fish...I am impressed by how much effort that you both are expending to make your partnership work. And thank you for making one of my very FAVORITE THREADS that I've ever read here.
    Jongleur9418 likes this.
  12. Jongleur9418

    Jongleur9418 Member

    Thank you, Dr Dance, for the story! I do back lead unconsciously and, as a result, I do not respond well. When the teacher order me to close my eyes, I feel his lead! I realized that I often didn't give him (as well as myself) the chance for a good partnership!

    This seems to link to another issue: the disadvantage of learning together as a couple. Because we learned all the patterns together, I danced with him out of the fixed sequences from the lessons instead of feeling his lead. I watched other couples who learned ballroom dance together, and found more or less the same tendency.

    Some suggested that changing partners in social dance would improve the lead/follow for us. But it seems that people don't change partners in most social dance occasions, at least to our experience.

    We both read "Ballroom Dancing is not for Sissies," and they are truly not kidding!
  13. Jongleur9418

    Jongleur9418 Member

    Very valuable points! Thank you!

    I do have the inner showboat (since I was a child), and as well as a perfectionist personality. I feel uneasy when the unpartnered students got advanced passing us. But my goal is to dance with my husband. We have had good time dancing together, and really enjoyed each other. Last time on a cruise, people often recognized us when we walked around, and told us how much they enjoyed watching us dancing.

    I don't know clearly what to do at this point. I am sure I would feel guilty if I make my husband more frustrated by my dancing with pros. But it is to the point that attitude itself is not enough to ease the day to day problems. I feel bored from time to time, and worst of all, we started arguing and even fighting. To have separate lessons or dances for myself, I actually try to ease the tension, or more precisely to make myself more patient.
  14. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    People always seem to have problems defining "advanced" dancing. To me, an "advanced" dancer doesn't have to make the excuse of being "so advanced I've forgotten basic stuff". If you're advanced, you can adapt, and fill your role reasonably flexibly with whomever you're dancing, unless they're an absolute nightmare, and those are honestly pretty rare insofar as actual learning dance goes (there are a lot of other factors that would make someone a nightmare, and most of them aren't related so much to dancing).

    I wouldn't think of Bryan Watson as an absolutely awesome world-class dancer nearly as quickly if I saw him immediately after winning Blackpool, and he couldn't start a basic cha-cha off with a person who'd only had maybe a month of cha-cha. An advanced dancer doesn't take a beginner and try to lead pivots to twists right into progressive links with an open finish straight into chases, because they have the courtesy to know they probably can't get that far, but their basics would be pretty awesome.

    In the beginning of one's dance journey, they're wow-ed by ALL of it- every single couple who has the brass to get up on the floor and plug through something is a great dancer. Then, you start to think "What's wrong with so-and-so? They seem to be..." and then you finally realize that the REALLY good dancers are the ones who stayed consistently fun to watch from the beginning, all the way to wherever you wind up yourself. On the other hand, there are people who will always be blinded by the sparkle. They think someone with a beach condo, an Audi, and a closet full of Versace is "rich", when they might not be rich, they might just be a shopaholic in debt up past their aftermarket nose. Learn to spot quality and go for it.

    Sometimes being the good dancer isn't being shown off in front of your friends, it's not letting yourself get jerked around and ran over by someone by keeping your own frame and space and being careful on a slick floor.

    But as this relates to you two- if you want to dance together, then work on it together. If you're having marriage troubles, why would you go hang around someone else's spouse? If you're having car trouble, you work on your car, not your neighbor's. In the beginning, one person generally learns more quickly than the other, and it's usually the follower. If you can hang on for just a couple of years with good instruction, then you'll plateau and be on more equal footing. Then, each of you will have "ahead or behind" days.

    Again, it just depends on what you want to do, though, and I'm just glad you're another couple smart enough to see what's going on and to not "drink the kool-aid" so readily. Whatever you do, THINK and ask questions, and get several different answers. Just because someone's always done it a certain way doesn't mean it's right. You might find something odd and give it a shot, and find out it works. I'm so glad I did with my own dancing.
    Jongleur9418 and Dr Dance like this.
  15. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Learn to lead. I say this as a woman that learned to dance with her husband. You'll have a whole new respect for your husband. You'll be able to dance every dance at a social because there's no shortage of followers. And you'll get better at following when you find out how annoying backleading/poor connection/stubborness really is.
  16. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Active Member

    Unfortunately, there is almost always a BETTER SKILLED partner among the two. Seldom does it happen that skill sets are nearly equal. And in the rare case where skills are close, often one partner pushes to excel more to end up more skilled than the other anyway.

    It's only natural that fluctuating moods can cause anomalous arguments. That is a good time to simply break it off, walk away, and return to practice another day. If there is a dance issue that you are not able to reconcile at the time, agree to "put it aside" for now to be discussed with your coach later. Both of you would be shrewd not to blame the other partner. Keep your focus on what YOU would do to solve the given dance issue (even if the other seems to be blatantly wrong).

    I can see how Fish would be uncomfortable if you decided to dance with a pro. Here is my possible alternative: What if BOTH of you together decided to dance with pros? How would you feel about HIM dancing with a pro to better his game? This would definitely improve his skills. However, he would have to be willing to do this first. (Fish may not want to.)
    Jongleur9418 likes this.
  17. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    why resurrect this?...to bash pro am?
  18. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    let me offer an alternative perspective .....I think the effect of one person or both taking lessons pro/am can have varying impacts over time on the dancer and their spouse in terms of their dance experience together....initially, it can eleviate the frustration of being new and having to navigate both one's own frustrations and the frustrations over the other person's struggles...eventually a disparity can cause a stress between the couple due to a skill gapor a lack of charity....but that is really only temporary because at a certain point one or both people advance to the point that they can in fact dance with anyone at any time and not be frustrated ...or defensive....

    as much as people with their own biases would like to justify their own paths...there are, in fact, many successful paths...
  19. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    It might help you improve and it might not - there are a lot of variables involved. Many social dances have at least one "mixer" per night where couples are encouraged (not forced) to dance with other people. Again, your experiences will vary - some people love mixers and others avoid them like a vending machine tuna salad sandwich.
  20. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    And then some...

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