Smile At Your Partner

West Coast Swing Online Grab Bag

Dancing is supposed to be fun! When you smile at your partner, not only does it look like you are having a good time, but it also makes your partner feel better.

However, many people struggle with smiling when they dance because they are thinking so hard about the song, what their partner is doing, what they learned in their last private lesson, and that crazy couple in the next slot. When you are concentrating hard, your smile can disappear.

So what’s the solution? As strange as it may sound, practice smiling during a dance. You spend time practicing your footwork, your body movements, your musicality, and your partnering skills because you recognize that it’s hard to execute those body mechanics on the fly unless you have drilled those actions into your body. Well, a smile is also a body action, and it’s a body action that tends to fade under pressure. If you want to smile consistently on the dance floor, you need to be as intentional about smiling as you are about showing off your latest anchor variation.

You may fear that practicing smiling will be artificial. Won’t your smile look forced? But, ask yourself if that’s any different from your latest styling attempt. Styling options look forced and awkward at first. As a result, you don’t try your latest styling on the social floor. You spend time practicing it at home, in front of the mirror, and with a practice partner. Once you are comfortable, then you take it onto the social floor and keep refining that styling. Smiling works the same way. If it’s something you don’t do naturally, especially when you’re under pressure, then you need to practice it. And it will feel forced at first, which is why you practice on your own so you can perform confidently in a social situation.

The Drill: With a trusted practice partner, put on some music and start dancing. During this dance, focus on keeping a smile on your face. Ask your partner to prompt you if your smile fades so you can fix yourself. You’ll probably be surprised at how easily the smile can disappear when you lose your focus, so it’s important that you and your practice partner have the trust to call each other out every time your smile disappears.

After the song, switch roles so your partner practices smiling while you give feedback. Again, be consistent about speaking up whenever the smile disappears. Being strict may feel uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to make sure that you have a good smile when you leave the practice space and start dancing socially.

At first, focus on smiling consistently. Don’t worry about whether or not the smile is forced or awkward—that will improve with time. Once you can smile consistently for a full song, you can start asking your partner for feedback on whether the smile looks natural or forced, but don’t try to make the smile natural until you can remember to keep smiling. Focus on one thing at a time!

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