Many single people who start Salsa lessons assume that it’s all so much easier if you have a partner. A real life dance partner who you can call upon to practice with any time of day or night – at 8am in the morning when the kettle is boiling, or after one too many on a Friday night.
Someone you can strut your stuff with at weddings and on holiday.
Yet as someone who teaches many couples, I know it often doesn’t work like this.
Learning to dance with your significant other can be a dream, but it can also be fraught with problems and turn into a nightmare.
So what is it that goes wrong, and how can it be avoided?
This isn’t an easy question – a lot depends on the nature of the relationship and how each individual copes when they are confronted with challenges.
Sometimes, the underlying relationship dynamics spill into the lesson studio and this can cause tension.
These are the typical scenarios which are most likely to cause difficulties:
- One partner is more advanced than the other
- One partner is more interested than the other
- One partner is more dominant in the relationship
Of these three scenarios, number two is the least likely to work, as if someone doesn’t have the internal drive to learn for themselves and their own pleasure, they are unlikely to stick at it for very long. Good as I am, I can’t compensate for missing motivation, or make people get excited about something they really aren’t that bothered about.
However I can manage the other two scenarios in a way that gives the couple the best possible chance of succeeding.
My job is to ensure both partners enjoy the process of learning Salsa with just the right amount of challenge.
This means that when there is an imbalance in dance skill or experience, I need to keep a close eye on things and find ways of keeping the more advanced partner engaged whilst removing the potential for the other partner to feel inferior, picked on, not good enough, or rushed through their own learning process.
Sometimes one partner will try and correct the other’s mistakes. Often their comments come from a place of desperately wanting the other to learn and improve quickly, but will often sound like nagging, bossing, or blame.
This has to be nipped in the bud quickly.
Learning to dance is difficult enough, without piling on more pressure.
Framing corrections, delivering them equally to both partners, and balancing them with plenty of positive feedback is an important teaching skill, and one of the reasons why just being a good dancer doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good teacher.
Progress is rarely linear and both partners have to feel comfortable enough to mess up, make mistakes, experiment and generally “have a go” without needing it to be perfect, or even good the first time.
Everyone needs space to navigate the learning process at a speed that’s right for them, and have the material presented in a way that resonates with their particular learning style.
“I’ll Do The Counting, You Do The Choosing”
Many women take up the slack in a relationship when they feel the guy is a bit too laid back, and will struggle with the idea of letting him lead.
This was the case with a young professional couple I taught recently, and as they got their heads around how to make the lead and follow relationship work between them, the female partner had an idea:
“I’ll do the counting and you do the choosing,” she said, clearly unable to hand over all responsibility to him.
Having worked with many couples now, I know exactly how to create a positive and collaborative energy in the studio, and with my guidance, direction and carefully structured lessons they are amazed at how much they accomplish in each session.
I find it immensely rewarding to help them explore their new dance movement skills together, and see how it deepens their connection visibly, week by week.