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Don't make new couples change partners
Posted by RL
11/5/2016  12:34:00 PM
If you're a dance instructor and you want to expand your group classes, you REALLY want to make your class a friendly place for couples.

I know, I know. There are a hundred reasons why it's better for learning to change partners. You being a good little teacher are trying to create good habits right off the bat. However, most of the couples who come in are looking for a date night and are not concerned, at least initially, about becoming a great dancer. They just want to be in each other's arms. If you force them to change partners or make them feel awkward about staying together, they're not going to come back.

In my younger days, I taught ballroom at a very successful studio that had at least as many couples in it as singles, which was so unusual for that area, that other studio owners would often come to the lady who owned our studio and ask how she was able to maintain so many couples. The secret was simple: #1) the female teachers dressed modestly, #2) THEY DID NOT FORCE COUPLES TO CHANGE PARTNERS.

You may think that this would create a beast, but it did quite the opposite. Couples tended to stay with their significant other for the first year (give or take), and as they became more comfortable, and saw the benefits of changing partners, they did. We also always had plenty of singles at the parties so no one ever felt left out. I do remember a few nights when the couples greatly outnumbered the singles, but those students always reported that those nights were their favorites because they got to dance with the teachers multiple times in the night.

It's quite simple. All you have to do when you ask your class to change partners all you have to do is tag on this statement: "It's not required that you change partners; however, you will become a better dancer if you dance with more than one person, so we recommend that you do change partners." Then you leave the choice to your students.

I have known so many couples who have told me that they tried going to a dance class and quit because the teacher made them change partners. Just recently, a couple told me about an experience they had at a Tango group class that they had gone to for a date night, but they didn't get to dance together at all, so they vowed never to go back. That makes me outrageously angry. Dancing is so good for people on so many levels that it makes my blood boil that some teachers (and other students) make it uncomfortable / undesirable for couples to come and learn. I've even heard students say that they PURPOSELY make couples feel uncomfortable because they don't want them to come if they're not going to change partners. I don't even know how to respond to such snobbery. It must come from a deep place of insecurity. I would encourage that person to take a deep look within themselves and ask why it bothers them so much.

Anyways, I hope this is helpful to teachers who want to make the want to make the world of dance as open and friendly as possible (and who may not have considered the benefits of making couples feel more comfortable staying together).
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