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  • Writer's pictureDawn Matthews

What Is The Best Type Of Partner Dancing?

What is the best type of partner dancing? Image shows a man and a woman in a partner dance


When you’re thinking about learning how to dance with a partner, there’s a lot to consider – not least, which is going to suit you best, as well as what classes are available in the local area. If you’re in an area where there are a lot of different partner dance styles available, then making a decision about which one to try can be tricky, but it can also be good news – you have plenty of chances to get it right!


There are lots of reasons to learn how to dance, from improving your fitness to making new friends, and there are so many other benefits too. In this post, I’m taking a look at the different styles of social partner dancing, and sharing my experiences.


Myth Busted: There Is No Such Thing As "The Best Type Of Partner Dancing"


While some people will absolutely insist that one style of partner dancing is better than another, I think really that is just their preference, and they want you to love their preferred style as much as they do. But the reality is, we’re all different, and there’s good reasons that people will prefer one style over another. I’d say there’s definitely a best type of partner dancing for each individual, but it is definitely not one size fits all.


Don’t forget that once you have given one style a go – and maybe even mastered it – you might be up for the challenge of learning another, and some styles make for a natural entry to others too. With that in mind


The Simplest Partner Dancing: Modern Jive and Ceroc


If you’re someone who feels like you don’t have any rhythm, or you’re not at all confident that you’re going to be able to dance well, then you’ll be looking for the easiest style to master – to start with, at least!


For simplicity, Ceroc has it nailed when it comes to entry level partner dancing. Ceroc is very similar to Modern Jive, but Ceroc places less emphasis on footwork (most of the time, Ceroc moves start with stepping back on the right foot) which means it is super simple, and an easy way to start. If you have a Ceroc class in your area, I’d definitely say it is worth a go. However, I have found – and also heard from other dancers – that some Ceroc classes tend to be aimed at the “young and trendy” demographic. While this absolutely should not be the case, and of course I’ve not been to every class in the country, you might want to be prepared for this.


If Ceroc isn’t available in your area, or you find that it isn’t quite right for you, then the next step I’d recommend for most would be Modern Jive classes. While footwork is important for Modern Jive, most classes I’ve attended are super friendly, with little pressure to get it right – it is simple enough for most to be able to understand, and pick up the moves relatively easily.


In most cases, Modern Jive classes, and Ceroc classes follow similar formats, in which partners (traditionally men ‘leading’, and women ‘following’, but this isn’t always the case, as some women like to lead, and some men find it useful to learn how to follow!) rotate during the class. This means you’ll speak to, and dance with, everyone over the course of the evening. Don’t be intimidated – everyone remembers their first class, and how it felt, and for the most part if you tell people you’re a beginner, you’ll be welcomed and encouraged.  


The High Energy Partner Dancing: Swing Jive


While Modern Jive and Ceroc can absolutely be high energy and burn plenty of calories, Swing Jive and Rock n Roll styles definitely require more energy. Swing Jive has an extra step in each move, which means your legs get a serious work out! I’ve only done a few Swing Jive classes, and I’d love to do more – except for the fact that I don’t have enough evenings in my week to get there!


The Most Structured Partner Dancing: Ballroom Dancing


Now, bearing in mind I took the easy route into partner dancing – I didn’t even think about dipping my toe into other styles outside of Modern Jive or Ceroc for around 13 years, and so I might be biased here. But I do think that ballroom is probably one of the harder styles of partner dancing to learn. It is very regimented, and if you don’t get the footwork right, then your partner is likely to end up with painful toes! However, if you think you’d prefer to know EXACTLY where to step, and a more formal style of dancing, then ballroom could be right for you – it just takes some dedication. Don’t expect to be able to dance the Waltz, the Foxtrot, and the Tango in a matter of weeks, it can take months and years to master each dance, depending on the number of times a week you attend classes, and the way the classes are taught.


Many ballroom classes also incorporate Latin styles such as the Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, and Samba. These dances are higher energy – particularly the Cha-Cha-Cha and Samba – which you might want to bear in mind, if this could be an issue for you or your partner.


Another note – a lot of ballroom classes require you to have a partner to dance with, so this might also influence whether you decide to go or not.


The Sexiest Partner Dancing: Salsa, Bachata, Argentine Tango, Zouk


If you’re looking for something a bit slinkier and sexier, then the Latin styles are for you. Across the UK, this is most likely to mean Salsa, since it is more widely available, but Argentine Tango classes and Bachata are quickly becoming more popular too. These dances are danced much closer than some of the other styles, and so you need to be comfortable with your body being that close to other people. I've only small amounts of experience of these styles - mostly at Ceroc Weekenders, so I can't speak for the formats of the classes you'll find. If you're interested, it is well worth getting in touch with your local venues or checking their websites to decide if they are right for you.


How To Choose The Best Type Of Partner Dancing For You


While the amount of energy and the structure of the different types of partner dancing might have already made your mind up about what you want to try, here are a few more tips to help you decide.  


Check what is available locally


While you might already have an idea of what you’d like to try, I’d say the best place to start is by looking at what is available close to where you live. I’d love to try Zouk, but there simply aren’t any classes near me at the moment, and I’m not driving to London for a class night each week. Websites like AreYouDancing list a lot of nights, especially for smaller class nights that don’t have their own website, but you might find classes through Facebook, and through the websites for local halls and community centres.


Watch some videos


If you want to make a more informed decision about whether a style is right for you or not, then head to YouTube to get a good idea of the moves. Don’t be intimidated – some moves look insanely complicated, but when the class instructor breaks them down, many are simpler than they seem at first glance.

I’d also say, if you’re planning to learn to partner dance with your romantic partner/husband/wife, then it is worth going to a class rather than trying to get the basics from YouTube videos. There are some outstanding instructional videos, but there’s nothing quite like learning alongside others, and it is a much more social way to learn, and you’ll be getting pointers from dancers that have been doing it for years, so you’re more likely to be successful. The structure of the classes might also help you avoid any bickering!


Understand the type of music


If you consider yourself a bit of a music connoisseur, or there is a type of music that you absolutely cannot stand, then you might want to check that the type of music that goes with the partner dancing you want to try. If you don’t like Latin music, you’re probably not going to love Salsa dancing, and if you don’t love rock and roll, Swing Jive might not be your thing either. You can get a feel for the types of music played by searching Spotify for playlists, but many venues – particularly Modern Jive and Ceroc venues, at least – play a wide variety of genres, so even if you don’t like trance music, for example, you might only get one or two tracks a night, and you can just sit those ones out.


Final Thoughts


While there’s definitely no “best” type of partner dancing, there are definitely better styles for each person. I absolutely adore Modern Jive, and for someone that never thought she’d ever be a dancer, it was certainly the best way into partner dancing for me, and it has led to me being much more confident in trying other styles, such as ballroom.


Whichever style you decide on, remember that for most people, you're unlikely to be amazing within a week or two. I’d recommend trying a style for six to eight weeks at least, (especially if you’ve never danced at all) before you make a decision about whether you want to stop, or to try something else. But whatever you try, remember being a beginner is hard, but practice will get you to the point that you can hold your own on the dancefloor, and that is when the fun truly begins. Happy dancing!

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