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One Dance Per Partner

In most of Europe, the standard number of songs you dance with each partner (for Jazz/Swing/Blues social dancing) is two.

In the USA (you know, where this all began), the standard is one song minimum with each partner.

The common argument for two songs is that one spends the first song learning how to connect with the partner, and then can enjoy the second song more.

My response to this is, hogwash.

As someone who cares most about connection and whose teaching is primarily motivated by understanding and learning connection, I can say that if you are taking an entire song to learn how to connect with your partner, then you're doing it wrong. Not to mention that for most dances we are probably dancing with someone we've danced with before, yet for some reason this rule still holds.

I would argue that the two song convention is merely that - a convention that is a holdover from the conventions of other social dances each geographic area has.

I would further make the (even stronger) claim:

The two-song minimum is bad for the scene

Here are my reasons why a one-song minimum is better:
  1. You get to dance with more people
    It's simple math. If you hear 40 songs at a dance and you dance to 30 of them, then you have the choice to dance with up to 30 partners instead of 15.

  2. You have more options
    The one-song minimum doesn't mean a one-song maximum, you can still dance with someone multiple times. In fact, you can even dance second and third songs with them later in the night, when maybe your energy/connection has changed in an interesting way.

  3. It avoids the 'out-of-phase' problem
    You know the issue - the person you want to dance with is switching partners every other song from you - so now you have to sit out for one song to line up with them.. but not if it's one-song standard!

  4. You can decide if you like the song/tempo first!
    If you are set to dance with someone for multiple songs, then you only get to choose based on the first one. Not to mention if you have certain people you want to dance with for certain songs or types of songs.

  5. It's easier for beginning leads
    Beginning leads are already self-conscious about how many moves they know (for better or for worse), but now you want to give them twice as many phrases to impress their follow? Terrifying!

    But most importantly:

  6. It's easier to ask and say 'yes'!
    Dancers are more likely to say yes to dances when it's only one song. Consider the Tango scene. The Tango standard is a three-song minimum (or even four in some places). Think it's a coincidence that expert tango dancers are less likely to dance with beginners? It's all about investment of time and energy. Take it a step further - imagine that you're in a scene where the convention is a 10 song minimum. You're a pretty good dancer, and a beginner asks you to dance. You're talking about 30-45 minutes of your night dancing with this person. What are the chances you'll say no? If you're only looking at one song with each person, why not say yes? And as a beginner, dancing with higher level dancers is the best way to learn how to dance, whereas the cliqueness of expert dancers who reject dance requests is a sure way to add negative energy to a scene. (Let's also keep in mind that dancing with beginners is actually good for higher-level dancers to learn more about how to make their connection work!)

So say yes! Dance for one song, and then dance with someone else! It's a social dance for a reason.


David Ljung Madison, 2013



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