Help I can only seem to dance with my Teacher

Fascination -

I am intrigued by this, a small part of an earlier post from you, which I have cut and pasted here.

Your quote included:
social dancing is a messy time you get over that and just accept it for what it is...
but it is true that the only way to get okay with that is to do more of it and get over the ego drain of trying to make it go well every time

End of quote

With all of your experience, just how tough do you feel that social dancing is, compared to dancing with a pro, with a practice partner, or in a competition or Showcase?

In other words, what is this "messy business" of social dancing, from your perspective? We only do social dancing, and not competitions or Showcases, and I will give it a go with any follower. It goes well, or OK, or not so great, but I never thought of it as a messy business.

Can you explain? You have so much more experience and so I'm curious.
So being well trained can actually be a disadvantage on the social dance floor.
I disagree wholeheartedly. It's only poor/insufficient training that manifests
as disadvantages on the social floor. Typically because of instruction geared
towards dancing in rigid ways, without understanding of how the body works
and the physics of movement and partnering. True technique applies both
for competitive/show and social dancing because it fundamentally improves
one's abilities in all circumstances. Thus the statement should be "Being
poorly trained can actually be a disadvantage..."

Of course, it's practically impossible to get the "right" training from one
or few sources, so it's a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces coming from all
over (instructors, peers, self, etc., often not even in the dance(s) of
interest or often from other activities). The self part is the biggest
factor, in being able to apply or reject what others tells one, and
being able to deduce how to cope.


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Staff member
thanks for asking...what I mean by " messy business " is in no way meant to be derogatory....but, to be more specific, it is a less controlled environment....every few minutes you may be dancing with a different person whose skill level and "box of tricks" may be completely foreign foreign to you...nevermind also throwing in unpredictable personality traits and varying physical attributes....that is a lot to adjust to on the my point is that there are going to be flubs and/or imperfections there....I just think that those of us who have been dancing for a longer time, socially and/or competitively, have learned to accept that and roll with it without letting it threaten our own sense of our skill overly much.


Well-Known Member
With all of your experience, just how tough do you feel that social dancing is, compared to dancing with a pro, with a practice partner, or in a competition or Showcase?
Just to throw in another perspective, from someone who does more social dancing than anything else: It's a different thing, so it's hard to say that one is more or less difficult than the other. Some people click with one more than the other. There are some very good competitive dancers who can social dance just fine, but they find it stressful because their brains don't work that way, and so they generally avoid it.

Going back to what Generalist said about training, you can find yourself in a difficulty in a social dance because your partner is not "accepting", not sensing or not picking up on what you're doing. That could be because your partner lacks training or skill. But it could also be that your partner has lots of training, but his/her instructor taught them something else than what your instructor taught you. Nothing in dancing is monolithic; different instructors are always going to differ in details and points of emphasis. There's a certain amount of unspoken (or occasionally spoken) negotiating in dancing with someone you haven't danced with before. Last night, I was at a social dance and there was a new lady there. I asked her for a rumba and right away I picked up on two things: (1) she was very nervous, and (2) she didn't know much rumba. So I dialed it back, matching her level of intensity and keeping the patterns pretty simple. It was a good dance. Later, I asked her for a waltz. We got in frame and I was rather surprised when she went full-on body contact. I said, "You're a silver dancer, aren't you?", she said yes, and off we went. Talking to her later, I found out that she's done a lot of Standard but not much of anything else. It was an interesting experience.

I've danced with a lot of women (and a few men). Some dances are better than others, but I seldom walk off the floor thinking "I didn't enjoy that", no matter what my partner's skill level was. And when I do, I try to look back and think about what happened before I mentally dump that partner. The lady who is now my showcase partner, the first couple of times we danced together, we didn't click. But I knew she was a good dancer because I'd seen her dance well with other partners. So I kept asking her, and figuring out a few things that I needed to do to make our connection better, and pretty soon we were dancing well enough that we were able to do some competing together.


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Staff member
love this post Cornutt....and I couldn't agree more....

I think much of what we are talking about is the same thing...I remember when I was new to social dancing and when it didn't go well, I didn't have enough information or experience to know why...and it was somewhat traumatic as I took my dancing very seriously you describe yourself in your post, I think that is what most of us who have been dancing a long while now do when we dance....that is to say that we take note of what we think is happening and make adjusments accordingly and are less inclined to look for blame or let it mean too much about our dancing....
fascination and Cornutt -

Thank you both for the clarifications.

We (spouse and I) only do social dancing so far, and for a bit over 2 years now. The Friday night franchise party dance results for me vary widely, due to who my partner is and by all the things that make my own leading good/bad/ugly on a given dance on a given night. Sometimes when it goes less than great, I know it was my fault, and other times I guess that it was my partner's issue, and then sometimes, it's both of us or just one of those dances that just didn't go right.

More and more I'm able to walk away and learn from the experience instead of walking away and obsessing and fussing about things that didn't go great.

I think it's an immense learning opportunity to dance with as many different partners as possible, dancing up and down, as often as possible. I know it's not for everyone, but I want to dance with more women than just my wife and our instructors.


Well-Known Member
I have seen many ladies that spend $5,000 on dance lessons. They think they are great dancers until they get a reality check when they go to a social dance.

I'm not sure why, but this rarely happens to men that take private lessons. Maybe the pros assume most men want to learn social dance (but I'm only guessing). I would be curious to hear from some of the pros here why this happens mostly to women.
I think this is mostly an illusion that is the consequence of leaders getting to pick the vocabulary. So if both partners don't know exactly the same vocabulary it will always be the follower who has to deal with unfamiliar things, and not the follower. A teacher will know what their student has been exposed to, and will tailor their dance to that, while a random partner at a social dance won't. And feeling out a followers vocabulary and technique in an enjoyable way is something not many leaders know how to do - it is a somewhat advanced social dance skill.
I think there are some expert social dancers in some places. They have competed, yet also choose to do social dancing too. One great example is Atomic Ballroom West Coast Swing Night. Almost every time there will be 5-10 people past and current US champions just social dancing.

On the other hand I have seen some social situations where the venue or teachers are new (or possibly where the teachers are not moving students past the beginner level), and there are very few good dancers there.

Even when it comes to standard and latin, it is not uncommon here in OC (and LA too) to see people that can dance open gold level material pretty well.

I personally like to see competitive dancers mingling with social dancers rather than the two worlds being separate. I think this is healthier for dancing as a whole.
Hello, I would definitely recommend to try group classes at the first place and then try to go to social dances or parties as much much as possible.
Also it is very important to relax. The more stressed you are the more difficult it will be for a partner to lead you. Dancing is about enjoying yourself so try to focus there and have as much fun as possible when you dance with other people. Then it will be only matter of time to improve :)


Active Member
Let me comment on the toes getting stepped on, which I'm sure most ladies will disagree with. I had an instructor who said that 90% of the time a lady gets stepped on it's her fault. If she keeps proper frame a guy shouldn't step on her even if the guy steps on the wrong foot.

My first really good dance teacher asked me upfront if I want to learn social dancing or do I want to do competitions. I chose social dancing and that is what she teaches me even to this day. It's worth considering that she is 6 time World Country Champion so she knows something about competition.

I chose social dancing because I figured I wanted to dance with as many ladies as possible -- although I really didn't understand why there would be a difference. For me I made a wise choice.

I suspect that most instructors don't ask this question. Shame on them!

The OP would be well served to take a lesson or two with somebody else and tell them you want to do social dancing only. Then compare your two teachers to see what the difference is. It wouldn't hurt to discuss this with your current pro.
I can see why you call yourself Generalist.

The lead should also maintain proper frame - why the assumption that the lead automatically maintains proper frame and the follow doesn't?

In regards to being stepped on - your instructor is incorrect. It's 50/50 leads/follows fault.

Remember - not all instructors are right about everything - especially when they make grandiose statements.

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