Your partner went abroad, transferred, moved, lost interest, or had the nerve to graduate before you. Maybe you were the one to graduate or move elsewhere and begin a new life in a new place. Whatever the cause, you’re searching for a new partner because, let’s face it, ballroom can be addictive. Below are a few thoughts and strategies to guide your partner search and selection.
- Put your information on the online partner search groups. Facebook has a bevy of options from Dancesport Partner Search to Partners Wanted – Latin and Ballroom dance. With this advertisement, you want to include if you’re looking for a lead or follow, competitive level and experience, height, and location (or relocation possibilities) at the bare minimum.
- Contact local team captains. If you want to stay more within the collegiate ballroom culture, check if there are available leads/follows at your level.
- Drop in at group classes. This gives you a chance to scope out the talent (and, equally importantly, to let them see you).
- Hold an audition. Ok, so at this point you’ve found someone. Actually, ideally you’ve found several someones. This is the time to remember that a ballroom partnership is like a business partnership. Just because someone is the right height and reportedly dances at the same level does not mean that they’re a good fit for you (or actually dance at the same level). Not only do different schools have different ideas of what “advanced” means, people also have different goals and means to achieve them. Someone who wants to become world champion and practice everyday will likely eventually be frustrated by someone who is content to compete once a year. The audition process helps you weed out people who would definitely not be a good fit. The best part of an audition is that it is what you make it. You can hold it at your private practice or if you want a coach’s opinion, at a group class. It doesn’t have to be a terrifying ordeal. Some keys to a successful audition include:
- Discuss goals & means. As mentioned, it might build up some resentment in the future if you’re going for the gold and the other person is present on a less intense level. Even small discrepancies such as “I want to be a better dancer” vs “I want to place” can eventually create a wedge. As someone who simply wants to be a better dancer (given it’s more of a maniacal passion than simple desire), I would get frustrated dancing with someone who measures our success in medals. It puts a lot of pressure on the partnership and medals are really just a byproduct of becoming a better dancer. On a different note, I’m not a good partner for someone who wants to take one private lesson per week; my money has to go towards other things.
- Review practice preferences (length, frequency, structure, etc.). I’ve actually called off several partnerships because we had very different ideas of practice. I like focused practice time and use it as an opportunity to hone each figure, both in routines and separately with my actively engaged partner. Any non-related, social discussion belongs before or after that block of time.
- Be honest. Almost a year ago, I walked in to audition with a relative of the jolly green giant. Nothing against height, but at 5’2” a partner nearly 7’ tall is not my ideal match for standard. Towards the end of the audition, I let him know that it wasn’t going to work out; eventually, my significantly shorter legs were going to hold him back. Thanks to that honesty, we happily hit it up on the social floor and during lessons but have competitive partners better suited to our respective statures.
- Consider a trial period. The audition(s) went well and you found someone that you think may be a good match. However, you haven’t actually worked with the person for a long amount of time. You might not have realized yet that you have reverse schedules or different approaches to dance. You haven’t had to commute over an hour to their studio during your busy season or found out that they disappear when stressed. Or they actually might be perfect. That’s the beauty of the trial period; it’s essentially an agreement that you’ll dance together for a certain amount of time and consider continuing the partnership further if things are working well for both of you.
Remember, finding the right partner will take time and, unfortunately, isn’t always a fast, easy process. Ultimately, you want to do what’s right for you and your dance goals, whatever they may be. Good luck!
Do you have any tips or tricks for the ballroom partner search and/or selection? Share them with us in the comments below!