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Partnering In Teaching Dance

by Erin & Scot Byars

partner [ pahrt-ner ]
Noun: a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor, sharer, associate; a spouse, a husband or a wife.
Law: a person associated with another or others as a principal or a contributor of capital in a business or a joint venture, usually sharing its risks and profits; silent partner.
Verb (used with object): to associate as a partner or partners with; to serve as the partner of.

Every teaching partnership is unique. What matters is that you and your partner work out the relationship that works best for both of you. How do you do that? Communicate!

Communication is essential, but there are definitely proper times/places to have discussions about that partnership. On the dance floor, whether teaching or dancing, is not one of them. I know, many of you have just said, “Duh!” but over the years, I have observed many partners loudly disagreeing with each other on the floor. Avoiding this is probably the most important thing any of you will ever do – or not do.

Within most teaching couples, one half of the partnership generally takes the lead during instruction, while the other takes more of a support role. If you and your partner take turns being the lead instructor, it is a good idea to decide before the event which of you will be “on the mic” that day. Try not to assume your partner knows what you are thinking – hash out who is at the helm before you arrive.

Recently I had a conversation with a dancer friend. She and her husband have been attending numerous Zoom dance sessions, and most of those got positive reviews from her. The one negative experience? The lead instructor constantly belittled their partner, complaining about their performance in a very rude manner throughout the class.

One of the main things dancers are looking for is an escape – a way to leave their troubles and cares behind while they glide across the dance floor. Listening to leaders argue and complain is far from relaxing. My friend assures me they will never again “attend” that team’s events.

What do you do when the teaching partner says something that is just plain wrong? If I hear my partner (or any instructor) say something that is completely incorrect, I try to judge just how much it will confuse the students. If it is not too damaging, I wait and speak to the teacher during the next break. If I truly feel that the students will be thrown off by what is being said, I will raise my hand and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. I always thought that step was done this way – has there been a change I was not aware of?”

Never say the instructor is incorrect, especially not when speaking to the entire group. Remember, this is their class, and their ability to teach is tied to the trust given them by their students. Even if you take them aside, be respectful and suggest they may want to research the step you believe is not right. Someday they will attend one of your classes, and I am sure you would appreciate the same professional courtesy from them. You would never want someone in a class you are teaching to exclaim, “You are wrong!”

One of the things that makes round dancing so special is the way instructors all support and share with each other. You are all amazing people, and your students learn how to treat each other based on the way you treat your partner and your colleagues. Be the best example!

From a column in the Roundalab Spring Journal, 2021, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, November, 2021.


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