Ballroom Dancing: Positive Communication is Critical on the Dance Floor

Monday, July 13th, 2015

My guess is most dance instructors would never have imagined that they would be wearing a referee hat too. Well, we do, and sometimes it can be more challenging than teaching dance steps.

Pinky SwearLast year, for fun, I created a “Pinky Swear” for my couples to say out loud on the first night of class – a promise to keep negative comments and criticisms off the dance floor and it goes like this:
“I promise I will not critique, or chastise you on the dance floor – and thank you for being my partner”. Yes, they actually do a pinky swear and it gets a chuckle among the crowd, but respect on the dance floor is something I take seriously.

Sometimes we forget how to use the interpersonal communication skills we learned in college. In our frustration of learning something new and not grasping it right away (like learning to dance), we may begin to “deflect” our insecurities on to our dance partner. We do this by verbally criticizing them, pointing fingers (literally), or saying hurtful things. When I see this happen repeatedly between a couple I will address it quietly. It’s not easy hearing negative comments from your partner, especially in a room full of other dance students, so let’s learn how we can lift up our partners through encouragement and compliments vs. criticism.

How can you do better? Instead of telling your partner “you’re not doing it right”, strive to use terminology and phrasing such as “what I’m seeing is_____ “ OR “what I’m feeling is ____.” I make an extra effort to do this too. It puts the observation back on me as the instructor rather than coming from the partner. Another scenario might be: a Follower complains because she is having trouble moving around her partner in time to the music. I might say to him “as Leader, when you step too far to the right (left) I can see where it might be difficult for her to step around you in time to take the next step. Let’s see how we can make this better.”

So, what do you say? I say CHEERS to better communication! Let’s give more compliments and offer more words of encouragement to our dance partner. I feel certain that by working to improve these skills we will develop a more successful partnership on and off the dance floor.

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