Working Off Your Partner’s Styling

Pro dancers have a phenomenal ability to work off of what their partner is doing. Many of the magic moments we see in on-the-fly choreography come from a particularly inspired way for the partners to build on each other.

If you want to create that magic on your own, you have three options:

  • Match what your partner is doing,
  • Compliment your partner’s choice, or
  • Contrast against your partner’s choice.

Each of these options can create a beautiful moment, but some are easier than others. Generally, newer dancers think about trying to match their partner’s movement because all you have to do is mimic your partner. However, it turns out that matching is actually the most difficult of the three options, and should probably be your last choice.

Why is matching so difficult? Well, it’s easy to stumble over yourself when trying to figure out what your partner is doing. And, there’s no guarantee that you will be comfortable with the body mechanic that your partner’s movement requires. To take a simple example, boogie walks are hard to match if you aren’t familiar with the technique behind that movement.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at ways to practice all three options, as well as scenarios where each option shines.

The Drill: For the next week, pay attention to your partner’s styling during each dance. At this point, you’re not yet doing anything with this information—you are simply building your awareness. Believe it or not, that’s actually a skill in itself! Especially when you are doing complicated movements, noticing what your partner is doing is challenging, and adjusting your movement to what your partner does is a level above that! We’ll get there, but it will be much easier if you concentrate on developing your awareness first.

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