Swing dancing is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Before beginning a class for the first time or going out, you may think you need to bring your own partner or risk experiencing a lonely, dance-less night. Not so! Rotating or changing partners is an important part of learning to dance and the most enriching and fun way to experience social dancing outside of class.
Sometimes changing partners can be a little confusing for someone who hasn’t taken a class before. We’ll go over some of the reasons why we think rotating partners is great for learning and also just some plain old fashioned fun.
The Social Experience
Swing dancing is a social activity and swing dance class is really no different. Part of the fun of a class is making new friends and starting to feel comfortable with some of the many people you’ll get to dance with. Before your first class, you probably didn’t have much of an occasion to hold a stranger’s hand or put your hand on their back or shoulder. And that might take a little bit of an adjustment. Fortunately, I can confidently say swing dancing has allowed me to meet the most interesting and engaging people I could hope to find, and it all started in classes.
It feels great to be part of a group of people who are learning something with you. You build a sense of team and community by working together on something. You may start class as perfect strangers, but you’ll find that after just a few sessions together you’ll have your own inside jokes, traditions, rituals – and you’ll be expecting to see each other “in the wild” of the social dance floor and it will make you feel ten times better about going out to dance. And in class when something clicks, it’s all the more rewarding when you have your friends to celebrate with.
So if you’re nervous to take class because you don’t know anyone there – don’t be. Soon you’ll be in a room full of your best buds.
Different Skills, Different Thrills
Even in a beginners class everyone will come in the door with a different set of skills and abilities. Whether it’s your first time dancing ever or you’re the office Holiday Party dance contest champion, there’s something for you to learn. Working with someone of a different skill can be a challenge for both members of the partnership.
Rotating in class allows different skill levels and experiences to mingle together. Dancing with more experienced dancers can be daunting but it is critical to getting a better understanding of how dance works. And if you’re the more experienced member of the partnership – there is so much to learn about leading or following with beginners or with those still putting their dance together. Rotating in class is the easy way to get this experience.
Getting It Wrong Together
Part of the charm of dancing with someone new is messing things up. There are so many opportunities during a social dance for things to go absolutely haywire. But the truth is that mistakes enrich our dancing and we may even find that we’ve created something new and beautiful by totally dropping the ball on what we’ve been working on. By rotating partners we inject some of that chaos that can help make something really interesting happen.
Getting things wrong with a partner is as valuable as getting things right with a partner. All of your best plans for a dance will probably go out the window as soon as the music starts, so learn to make smarter mistakes with your partner. Rotating partners gets you out of the comfort of nailing every move with a familiar face. And if something goes horribly, terribly wrong with your new friend – and no one got hurt – that’s ok. Laugh it off and learn from it.
Practice Like You Play
The goal in class is to get to work on something that you’ll use on the social dance floor. And that means more than fancy turns or your newest variation. It means practicing the experience of rotating partners. So when you’re asked to rotate, pretend like you’re at any other social dance. Smile at your partner, introduce yourself, and ask for a dance. Practice your Ps and Qs so that you have them at the ready for social dance time.
If You’ve Already Got A Dance Partner
All that said, starting a dance class with a partner can be just as rewarding. It’s fun to start something new with someone you know and trust! Or maybe you’ve been dancing for years, have a partner you’re familiar with, and just want a refresher or you think you can take that next step together (pun intended).
Even if you come to class with a partner, you will be encouraged to rotate in with everyone else. If you brought a partner and expected to stick with them for the whole class, this can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable. Rather than lamenting your lost partner, focus on learning with your new partners and then greet your old buddy with a smile and tell them all about your adventures rotating around the room when you’re back with them in the rotation.
On To The Social Dancing
Social dancing is only as social as you make it. It can be tempting to dance with your best friends all night. Of course there’s no mandate to rotate all night and there are certainly times when you’re just at a dance to see and dance with your good friends. But I promise you that you’re more likely to have a ton more fun when you dance with plenty of people.
Dancing with a new partner can sometimes spark a new friendship. I’m still close with many of the people I met in my first lindy hop class and firmly believe that those relationships were the most valuable thing I got out of my first few sessions. If you’re nervous about coming to class alone you can rest assured that you won’t be the only one showing up without a partner. And after a while you’ll find that you have dance partners and friends everywhere.