Dance instruction and training most often focuses on the physical movement and technical skills involved in dancing, irrespective of style. In our salsa class – especially during the Foundations hour – we concentrate on the basic step, and moving to the music, and achieving great connection and frame, and not falling down while turning, and how to shift weight smoothly through the step, and travelling turn technique, and one or two stylish, sexy, moves to add sabor to your style. What we often don’t explicitly consider is, are we credible as a dance partner?
Which raises the question, what does it mean to be credible as a partner? For that matter, what does it mean to be credible at all?
In the course I’m teaching at Guelph-Humber this semester, we explore this construct of credibility. The model we’re using suggests that there are primary and secondary dimensions that contribute to credibility. The primary factors include expertise, trustworthiness, and goodwill. The secondary elements are dynamism (or extroversion), sociability (or likeability), and composure.
Clearly, great training and technique satisfy the first element, that of expertise. A skilled dance partner is potentially a credible dance partner. But great skill isn’t enough, according to the model. Being trustworthy is another important aspect—the idea that your partner can trust you to keep them safe, to help them look good, to make them feel competent themselves, all part of building your own credibility as a partner. If you believe you are a trustworthy lead or follow, consider whether partners allow you latitude during dances with them, or do they hold back? Do they feel free with their movements, or are they restricted in the dance they create with you, especially when you observe them with other partners? Goodwill is another important primary aspect of credibility: Does your partner want the best for you in a particular dance? Are they interested in creating a great dance experience together with you, or are they simply intending to look good for themselves? The combination of expertise, trustworthiness, and goodwill go a long way in creating a great dance relationship with lots of credibility on behalf of both partners.
The secondary elements tend to be situation-specific and might tend more to be assessed before you actually experience the other person as a partner. Dancers who you observe to be outgoing and energetic (dynamism), and friendly and welcoming (sociable) would likely tend to suggest they would also be credible partners. Finally, a dancer who seems to “have their stuff together” when dancing with a variety of partners rather than appearing frenzied and frenetic would likely make for a credible dance connection.
I’m sure we’ve all seen dancers on the social dance floor who are extremely skilled and amazing to watch. But there is more to being credible as a partner than skill (expertise) alone might suggest. Bringing together the other elements will enable almost anyone to be credible as a great partner, both on the dance floor and off.
See you on the dance floor!