Whether you are new to ballroom dancing (or any other genre of dancing that consists of dancing with a partner) or a seasoned dancer who is looking for a new partner, here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing your "other half" to compliment you on the dance floor. While some traits of a prospective partner maybe visible from the start, others may take a while (or at least a few trials) for realization.
Sibling, friend or stranger, as a dance couple, you need to not only act the part but also look the part as keeping your audience entertained stretches way beyond perfect steps and choreography. When dancing, you are telling a story, expressing yourself, not with words but with every part of your body and inner being.
This is the first and one of the most important traits to look for in a dance partner.
As a female dancer, one must have confidence in herself to be led on the dance floor. Dancing is one of the few instances a lady requires the ability to guess which step the man is going to take before he actually takes it. It is the female's duty to step with confidence and follow the partner with in each progressive step and in some cases like twists, turns, spins and lifts, be able to have enough faith to know that he would direct you properly and adequately and not let you down.
As a male dancer, confidence comes in the sense of being able to lead the lady on the dance floor, to convey to her (only with your body movement) what she needs to do. It is the male that decides what happens on the dance floor, where on the floor it happens and which figures and steps to dance, so having a confident male partner who has the capability to make on the spot dance decisions and maneuver the lady around other couples on the dance floor, is detrimental.
If you are a gentleman who had confidence to ask a lady to the dance floor for the first time, then you possess the pre-requisite to be a great dancer!
Just as with regular couples, physical attraction is important with dance couples to build and maintain chemistry on the dance floor. Whether your a man or a woman, having an attractive partner will put some "fizz" in to your dancing. As a ballroom dancer, if there is no connection with your partner on the dance floor, you are as good as if you were to dance alone and the spectators would be the first to conclude that you are a "mismatch".
Compatibility goes in par with the second tip and I am using the term in a much broader sense that includes (but not limited to) physical compatibility (height, weight, built), age and interests. It is much easier to dance with and relate to a partner who is of the same age and share common interests as you. Physical compatibility is important to couples who dance standard/smooth and latin/rhythm styles to maintain form and posture, for easy leading/following and to look smooth on the dance floor. It is also important to make sure that the partner you choose has the same interest and goals for dancing as you in order to avoid any miscommunication and misinterpretation of intentions later on.
Comfortable to dance with
In a great dance performance, there is no holding back. When you dance, one must be able to express and feel free to "let go", disconnect from the every day life and connect with a different realm. To achieve this, you need a partner whom you will be comfortable dancing in close proximity with and a partner who will make you want to shed away every bit of shyness and hesitation you may have.
You may not be able to address the issue of "comfort level" when dancing with a brand new partner initially, but with time, you may either be able to make a judgment on how "close" you can be without creating any awkward situations and moments or you will be able to get past whatever the discomfort you felt at the very beginning. Every thing new takes time getting used/adjusted to, so don't give up without at least a try.
This is especially applicable to individuals whose prospective partners are above/below your standard and knowledge of dancing. One must ensure that the partner has enough patience to teach you and/or practice with you (without the fighting and the disagreements) until both of you are have caught up to the same level and have mastered the techniques of each step and variation. No one is perfect and no one can get it right every time, therefore having a supportive partner with steady perseverance and diligence can make your dancing experience that much more pleasant and enjoyable.
Dedication & Commitment
To some, dancing is second in nature to walking, while others find it quite challenging to listen to and feel the music and to dance in sync to a beat, let alone a beat and a partner at the same time. In my years of dancing with many different partners (from beginners who have never taken a dance step in their life to people who feel the music in their body and have the spring in their feet) I have come to realize that no matter what your level and knowledge of dancing is, just like with every new venture in life, a little bit of dedication and hard work will make you look like you have been dancing for years. Dancing is a very competitive and challenging sport and comes with a lot of practice, sweat, falls, bruises and aching feet. But if you can find a partner who is as dedicated as you are to becoming a good dancer, you will most definitely be able to see past the pain and enjoy every moment you are on the dance floor.
Creativity and Imagination
Just like any other form of art and expression, dancing requires a great deal of imagination and creativity. Performing a few basic routines and steps that you and your partner have learned in class is one thing, but choreography that keeps an audience and yourself (as the dancer) entertained and interested is a challenge. This is especially felt by beginners whose dancing is limited to a very few basic steps. In such instances, dancing can get quite boring and monotonous but if you had a creative partner who can build upon the basic steps and routines and come up with a new variation or two, I guarantee you will want to stay on the dance floor for the next dance.
Passion for Dancing
This, in my "book of dancing" is the most important aspect to look for in a dance partner. Some people dance for exercise/fitness purposes, to some it's a place to make new friends from the opposite sex while to a very handful, dancing is a hobby and a passion. It does not matter what age, color and knowledge your prospective partner has, how attractive he/she is, what physical capabilities and compatibilities your partner possess to dance or how good they may be at keeping to rhythm, the utmost important trait to look for in a dance partner should be his/her passion for dancing. Because without the passion, there is no desire to express, to let go and to let your body, feet, arms and facial expressions tell a story.
Choose a partner who can bring out the best in you, someone who can constantly motivate you to be better than you are, someone who gives you confidence to take the next step. Don't let your (bad) choice of a partner prevent or limit you from dancing to the best of your ability.