I hate to break it to you, but this post isn’t going to be where I give you a magic formula that works with every partner. There’s no universal ‘great dance’ formula. However, every social dancer has their own personal ‘great dance’ formula.

What’s in a Formula?

Let’s say there are a few ‘standard’ pieces that are assessed when figuring out if we connect with a partner:

  • Physical attraction (yes, there are some that value this)
  • Attitude / Personality Chemistry
  • Complexity of Moves
  • Connection
  • Aesthetics / Styling
  • Musicality
  • Creativity
  • Energy (lightness vs. heaviness)
  • Technique (the ‘true dance’)

Not every partner has all of these things in their formula, but most people’s formulas will be made up of several of these components

There are also some factors that affect dance quality that are not at all related to the partner:

  • Floor quality (can they dance well on the surface with their shoes?)
  • Musical taste (do they like what’s playing?)

How these things are combined determines each person’s formula.

A Sample: My Personal Formula

If I were to assess what I find to be a great dance, my formula would probably look like this:

“Dance Quality” =  (“FlQuality”+”MusQuality”) * 0.30 + (“Connection” + “Technique”) *0.30 + (“Attitude”) * 0.15 + (“Musicality” + “Creativity”) * 0.20 + “Complexity” *0.05

This means that 30% of my formula has nothing to do with my partner – it’s external dance conditions,
A further 30% is made up by a combination of connection and technique combined,
The next 15% is made up by my interpersonal relationship and the level of energy,
The combination of musicality and creativity takes up the next 20%, and;
A complex dance can stimulate an extra 5%.

You’ll notice that physical attractiveness and aesthetics don’t even make it into my ‘great dance’ formula.

Other Formulas

Other people will have a completely different formula. You may come across people who value complexity and aesthetics the most – especially with newer dancers. There are also some people who don’t give a crap about technique – they just want musicality, connection and creativity.

The more areas you develop in your dancing, the more likely you are to satisfy more partners.

Unbalanced Development

If you are super good in a few elements but undeveloped in others, there are probably going to be people who consider you their best dance. But, there’s also going to be a large part of the community who dislike your dancing.

  • If you dance with someone who prizes aesthetics and complexity, they may call you their best dance of the night. However, the connection-addict probably won’t enjoy you.
  • If you’re a connection junkie, there’s going to be a portion of the dance population who absolutely love just ‘being in the moment’ with you. But, people who are looking for challenge will probably find you boring.

Strive for balance. All elements of dance are important. While some elements may be developed first, you should be constantly looking for ways to develop all the areas.

Why are Some Dancers (almost) Universally Loved?

The dancers who are universally loved have an overall well-developed dance. They look and feel good, are musical, have a strong technical foundation, and can get creative. Very often, they are also people that are easy to connect with on a personal level.

The only way you can get there is through exposure, experience, and deliberate practice/learning. This takes time and commitment.

What do Most Dancers Like?

Most serious dancers will give weight to connection and technique. Advanced dancers also usually prize creativity and musicality – but only on the condition that connection and technique are present.

I see more complexity and aesthetic junkies at lower levels of dance, or among dancers who haven’t really spent time on connection or with basics. Many of these are ‘congress learners’ who never really went through a proper dance development program, and only ever get bits and pieces from different teachers.

Your Formula vs. Your Partner’s Formula

When you dance with someone and the chemistry is not quite right, you need to decide whether to adapt to their formula or hope they will adapt to yours.

Highly adaptable partners will have more partners who enjoy dancing with them. Less adaptable partners will have fewer partners who really enjoy them. Adaptability to other people’s formulas is one of the keys to being a well-loved dancer.

That doesn’t mean risking injury, but it does mean being at least a little willing to sacrifice part of your formula. See if, during that dance, you can modify your formula to account for your partner’s dancing.

  • If you have a ‘styling monster’, see if you can use that to your advantage. Can you give the follow more room to play, and also use your own body more?
  • If you have a lead with a lot of energy, can you engage your muscles and body more to mimic the intensity of the dance (while being safe, of course)? Can you find a way to enjoy the ride?

If you set your formula in stone, it is rigid and inflexible. If you use it as a baseline but are open to modification, you can get greater positive stimulation from more dances.

Adjusting to Your Partner’s Formula

Even if your strong suits aren’t what someone’s formula requires, there are ways to adjust to them and create a better dance experience. For example:

  • If you’re a complex, musical type but your partner is barely holding on, try shifting to more connection-based moves at a slower speed. You can do the same thing if you notice that all their styling has disappeared and they look terrified as you move through the next sequence.
  • If your partner appears bored and disengaged, try playing a little closer to the ‘thrilling’ edge. Try adding some variation to your tempo or movements. Try sharper, staccato movements – but be safe.
  • If you feel like your partner is either a little stronger or lighter than you, see if you can adjust to their energy instead of expecting them to adjust to yours. Of course, this must take into account safety first – do not put yourself at risk if the partner is behaving dangerously.
  • If your partner is trying to style more, give them more room to play. Try adding some of your own styling and see if you can jump on that wavelength together.

Of course, all of these things are limited by where you are in your dance journey. If it’s something beyond your current skill set, relax. This person may not be the right partner for you, but it’s possible for you to grow into a dance relationship. Or, this might just be one of those people where things are never quite right.

In Conclusion

There’s no universal dance formula – but understanding the individual forces at play will help you have better dances with more people. If you can decode the personal formula of your partner, you are in a prime position to give them an unbelievable dance!


What’s your formula? Leave your comment below, or share this article!

Image Credit: SV Photography, Vision Dance Encounter