Ballroom Dance > [social dancing] When it's okay to criticize your partner

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Dr Dance, Dec 7, 2014.

  1. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    How would you feel if I started correcting grammar and spelling in every post? At first you might thank me for my help, but I promise it would get old after a while. And what if I were correcting you incorrectly and you found out AFTER you built a bad habit from this free advice?

    It's social dancing, not a competition. It's supposed to be fun. With the exception of a very few partners I know well and even then only in certain situations, I hate getting corrected on the dance floor; it takes away all the joy of the dance. I especially hate it when I'm corrected for something I'm not doing wrong. There are people I won't dance with anymore because of this.

    And I am a teacher, and I hate it when I'm asked for feedback on the floor, except when it's my student or a friend and then I'm very gentle about it. I'm there to dance, not work. Schedule a lesson if you want feedback and I'll give it to you in spades.
  2. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    The sample criticisms in this thread are not of the "I can't understand you" variety, they are of the "I don't like how you're doing it" or "I don't think you're doing it right" variety. If I can understand you but I don't like how you phrase things, is it OK for me to critique your speech? Especially if we're not well acquainted? "I think you mean 'To whom does this belong', not 'Who does this belong to'"... "Would you mind losing that accent?"

    Being put off by criticism does not make me "resistant to a different perspective", it makes me rightfully annoyed when I know/suspect it's coming from someone who doesn't know as much as he thinks he knows. Not all feedback is equally valuable. Perhaps I just don't have adequate teflon skin, but I don't think there's something wrong with feeling at least some non-positivity when not being respected as a peer, in what is clearly a peer situation (as I mentioned earlier).

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, social dance is supposed to be a fun time. I spend enough time on lessons getting coached and critiqued. Now I want to just go out and use what I know and boogie. Unless I am causing pain/discomfort/potential injury, please let's just enjoy this dance and leave it at that.

    wooh likes this.
  3. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    I suspect that's part of the reason some of us seem to be talking at cross-purposes. In my own case, at least, I actually am talking more the first sort of thing than the latter two.
  4. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    <male version of swoon> :inlove:
  5. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I hear you. At the same my own experience only, "I don't like how you're doing it/you're not doing it right" has rarely been about someone actually being a self-important/clueless bonehead. More commonly, after some consideration I've found it to be a statement of something not feeling right or comfortable. Or suggesting two pedagogical backgrounds colliding...AKA "we're both right". Or maybe someone's newish or too in his head...which doesn't bother me at all.

    Quite agree. And at the same time...since it involves actual people and not just a warm cozy bubble of our own making...for my part, I've adopted a paradigm that helps deal with the weird idiosyncrasies that are normal when groups of people come together, so I can have a good time, regardless. That's not to say everyone needs to do the same...
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  6. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    If I were a teacher, I'd adopt the same most of the instructors have IME when I've danced with them!
  7. Riplash

    Riplash Member


    In Response to the original post. I think there is no set answer. It depends on the situation...Sometimes criticism it may be appropriate and beneficial. I have received lots of constructive feedback (and plenty of the opposite too.) Sometimes it is really beneficial, and helps me a lot, other times it is terrible. So my response to the original post is "yes and no"--It depends on the situation, the relationship, and a whole bunch of other stuff. and not enough information can be given over a DF post. So my advice is to use your best judgement. And when you are criticized, realize where it is coming from.

    Just my opinion.
    IndyLady likes this.
  8. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Giving unsolicited advice is part of that journey. Knowing what to say is helpful to avoid an argument. My favorite is "that's not what my teacher told me." Another good response comes from Daniel Trenner who teaches Argentine Tango. "When the man tells you to push on his arm [give tension], he is advertising how bad a dancer he is."

    There probably should be lessons in responding.
    IndyLady, wooh and RiseNFall like this.
  9. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    That is such an excellent and timely example, tangomaniac, because it points to what might be the most common criticism/feedback type I've come across when social dancing, and an area where there are different pedagogical backgrounds and dancing approaches: how much pressure to give.

    Not interested in debating which is "right", just pointing out that there is a camp in ballroom, latin and salsa that, in the course of dancing, might say "give me more pressure, I can't feel you," and another camp that might say "give me less tension". Either way, it's a classic "you're not doing it right" moment that might have nothing to do with actually doing something "wrong"...but it's wrong for that partner. The partner doesn't know how to participate constructively in the conversation because he's not getting the feedback he needs, one way or the other.

    One could take offense and call him a never-to-be-danced-with-again rude or clueless idiot if the simple request conflicts with one's own teaching background or preference, or just realize what camp one is in and try to adapt without making a big thing of it.
  10. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Love this post. The best thing I can say about the things leaders have said to me on the social dance floor is that they made very funny stories.

    There are very different situations all being lumped together here. If I venture into an open-to-the-public social dance and I'm dancing with a guy who I have never (or hardly ever) seen before, I really really really dislike any kind of "helpful advise". I do treat it as a social situation and respond in what I consider to be a polite appropriate manner, which means that the leaders who do this likely have no idea how I feel about it. I don't respond to the advise and thank them for the dance.

    At the other end, there are guys I dance with a lot at the studio dances. There are a couple of them that we are in "let's figure out how to make this better" mode. Even with them, however, I'm concentrating on what I can do to help the dance. The closest I come to giving them advise is articulating what I think I need to do, which does also give them some information. That's two leaders out of, oh, I don't know how many. Even with the majority of guys I dance with frequently, we treat it as a social dance and at most high five each other if it went particularly well.

    As I said in an earlier post in this thread, the leaders I dance with at the studio are taking lessons and, astoundingly, they somehow manage to get better without input from me.
    wooh likes this.
  11. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    Geez... I hope you all aren't this argumentative in an actual social dance.

    Does this thread need alcohol? :dancingbanana:
  12. Cal

    Cal Well-Known Member

    Sure, I'll try to adapt - but it's very possible that I simply don't have the skill to adapt to his request. In those instances, I'd very much appreciate it if *he* would then let it go and that *he* realize that's it's just a 3-minute dance ....
  13. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Or even better, the request could simply be not given in the first place.
  14. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Just to add, no matter how politely you give your criticism, you need to consider the audience. Regular practice/competitive partner? Berate them all you want. Friend or social-dance-regular buddy? Polite suggestions in good faith are probably ok. Someone you don't usually talk to outside of just a two minute dance? Probably not a good idea to criticize, no matter how polite.
  15. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Well-Known Member

    dbk, I think that is the final word of great advice!
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  16. Hedwaite

    Hedwaite Well-Known Member

    I think there's also a level of social responsibility for all these people saying "But it doesn't bother me!" just because you get something from the attention doesn't mean the rest of the people these "dancer critics" dance with appreciate it, and you've just enabled that person's behavior to cause crap for other people. Another thing is that sometimes people who encourage "help" like this like it only so long as it's something they want to hear. Remember the age old trap of "Does this make me look fat?"

    I wonder sometimes if people are even smart enough to realize when someone IS being a condescending jerkwad to them under the thin guise of "helping" or "teaching". Newb women are exceptionally bad about this because they see everybody as a potential helper and want to soak it all in. Guys are usually just scared they'll be noticed, and don't want to offend anyone or screw up.
    IndyLady, twnkltoz and wooh like this.
  17. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Why do you believe this to be the case?
    ocean-daughter and Bailamosdance like this.
  18. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    Daniel was referring to resistance [pushing on the arm.] What is resistance? Resistance is an opposing force. To resist is the attempt to prevent something from happening. How can a woman follow if she resists the lead? How can I lead a woman step backwards while she gives me resistance and moves in a different direction? How can a man lead well if he pushes a woman around the floor? Pushing and leading are NOT the same thing. Dancing with resistance is like driving a car with the parking brake on.

    Since dancing is communication, resistance is like a person putting their hands over their ears and their partner now has to yell to be heard.

    Especially in Argentine tango, the communication is deeper than in ballroom because of the proximity of the dancers.

    If a man tells a woman to push on his arm, he is essentially saying "I can't hear you so I want you to yell by pushing against my arm so I can feel you."

    You don't have to yell to dance Argentine Tango. In fact, it's better when the bodies whisper.

    Hope this helps.
  19. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    The words to use are "tone" and "resistance". "Tone" is used to communicate between the partners, and the lighter the better. But one man's tone is another man's resistance. A newby's tone may be an experienced dancer's resistance. I do a lot of social dancing and if necessary will give a bit of extra tone. But if it turns into arm wresting, I let 'em win -- for the rest of that song.
  20. Rhythmdancer

    Rhythmdancer Well-Known Member

    I went social dancing this weekend and I asked a few follows about whether not they appreciate people giving them tips or criticizing them. Almost everyone I asked said that it happens more often than they'd like it to and more often or not it comes from someone that is not exactly qualified to make a comment. In fact, this one lady told me that she was insulted to the core when this guy implied that she was a terrible follow and didn't know what she was doing and the problem was that he was just a god awful lead.

    Honestly, half the criticisms that get doled out during social dancing won't be fixed that dance, that night, or for a very long time. In general, people that go social dancing use it as a time to either practice what they've been doing in lessons, to have fun, or both. Learning happens in lessons and not by some holier-than-thou type trying to make corrections.

    If someone is dancing with you that you feel is absolutely terrible and is not moving and isn't doing a damn thing that you're leading just do the most basic steps. It's a minute or two out of your entire night and you're not responsible for that person's. I've danced with people people who are just like that and make the most out of the situation. Your worst social dance can be the most blissful experience for a less skilled or new dancer. Even if I don't enjoy it I'll try my best to make them feel better about themselves— a lot of people that aren't that skilled are aware that they aren't that skilled and rubbing in their face, if you are indeed more skilled, can come off as extremely insulting.

    In general don't be a dick.

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